Tell Us About the World's Most Incredible Tunnels

If you’re like me, sometimes you just want to go underground and find a tunnel to hide in. But not like, in a depressing way. Tunnels are awesome! Whether you’re talking about an old railway passage, a network of haunting catacombs, or a natural tubular cave, tunnels provide a sense of mystery and can represent an incredible moment of passage. Luckily for our community of explorers, the world is filled with amazing tunnels for you to experience. But there’s no way that we can know them all, so let’s share about the greatest tunnels we’ve ever discovered and that we love going back to.

(Image: Daniel Jerez/Public Domain)

In the comments below, tell us about the most unforgettable tunnels you’ve ever encountered, where they are, how you discovered them, what you love about them, and all the good stories. And if you have any images of the tunnel, post those as well! Your submission may be included in an upcoming roundup on Atlas Obscura. Sure, they might be dark and sometimes frightening, but the best tunnels can be wonders unto themselves.

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The abandoned tunnel on the PA Turnpike. Now a bike trail.


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This is a pretty simple one, but I just love the tunnel you pass through on the 101/1 when driving between San Francisco and Marin County. It’s the same as any old tunnel, save for the rainbows that are painted over the archway on the SF side. Such a minor thing, but it always makes me so happy to see.



Side note: the tunnel was named the Robin Williams Tunnel after his death in 2014, which makes it all the better.

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The Wilkes Tunnel in Old Town Alexandria.

Article from this website:
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(Wilkes Street Tunnel East End. Source: Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014.)

The Wilkes Street Tunnel was built in the 1850s and serves as a reminder of Alexandria’s early years as a railroad terminus. Once a critical part of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, the tunnel is now a popular spot for residents who enjoy the tunnel’s lighted walkway which forms a part of the city’s walking and bike path.

The Wilkes Street Tunnel first went into operation on May 1851, shortly after the Commonwealth of Virginia authorized a train line running from Gordonsville to Alexandria. The tunnel connected the Orange & Alexandria Railroad with the busy waterfront warehouses and wharves located on the banks of the Potomac.

The Wilkes Street Tunnel is a classic example of cut-and-cover tunnel construction, which is a method of shallow tunnel construction where a trench is dug and roofed over with an overhead support system. This support system must be strong enough to hold whatever is built above the tunnel. The sides of the Wilkes Street Tunnel are made of stones and bricks, and its arch is a traditional barrel vault.

As the Civil War developed, the railroad systems became coveted assets for both the Union and the Confederation. Consequently, shortly after the Union Army occupied Alexandria, the Orange & Alexandria Railroad was seized and incorporated into the U.S. Military Railroads. Thanks to the Wilkes Street Tunnel, the Union had easy access to the waterfront wharves, which they took advantage in order to ship military supplies south of Aquia Creek.

The Wilkes Street Tunnel was deepened shortly after World War I to allow the passing through of higher boxcar.

The tracks in the Wilkes Street Tunnel continued in operation until 1975, afterwards, they were removed and the site was redone as a public pedestrian and bike path, which Alexandrians still enjoy today.

Sources:
Pamela Cressey, “Wilkes Street tunnel is important piece of past,” Alexandria Gazette-Packer, October 19, 1995.


Another interesting article which includes a ghost story can be found here and includes the photo below.

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I went through the Vielha Tunnel before they built the new tunnel. There were several streams coming from the ceiling. It was looong!

Vielha Tunnel - Wikipedia

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“Glow Worm” tunnel in Helensburgh, Australia
(the abandoned railroad tunnel filled with bioluminescent bugs)

London Tube tunnel

Illuminated Brockville Tunnel in Canada

The Giant Sequoia tunnel in the California Sierra
(it unfortunately toppled during storm in 2017)

Wisteria tunnel in Japan

San Boldo Pass tunnels in Italy

Stockholm subway tunnel

Secret Tunnels under London

Tunnel of Love in Klevan, Ukraine

World’s Largest Man-Made Ice Tunnel in Langjokull Glacier, Iceland

Lærdalstunnelen - Worlds longest road tunnel in Norway (over 15 miles)

The Dark Hedges tree tunnel in Northern Ireland

The decommissioned City Hall Subway Station tunnel in NYC

Guoliang Tunnel in China

Sterling Hill Mines Rainbow Tunnel in New Jersey
(naturally fluorescent mineral deposits, aided by UV light)

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Because we love history, my husband & I once visited Corregidor Island in the Philippines and went exploring in Malinta Tunnel, a veritable warren of holes that was used in World War II. Here’s some pictures and info from this website.

The Malinta Tunnel is a tunnel complex built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers on the island of Corregidor. It was initially used as a bomb-proof storage and personnel bunker, but was later equipped as a 1,000-bed hospital. The main tunnel, running east to west, is 831 feet (253 m) long, 24 feet (7.3 m) wide and 18 feet (5.5 m) high. Branching off from this main shaft are 13 lateral tunnels on the north side and 11 lateral tunnels on the south side. Each lateral averaged 160 feet (49 m) in length and 15 feet (4.6 m) in width.

300px-Malinta_tunnel_diagram

Malinta_macarthur%2C_sutherland_USAFFE_HQ_March_1942
Generals MacArthur and Sutherland in the tunnel headquarters.

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As ever, @Asta, an embarrassment of riches!

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These ones. Hopefully soon added to Atlas Obscura. Horror-filled joy is the best way to describe what it feels like to drive through them.

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Tunnel Hill in Dalton, Georgia, houses an old railroad tunnel built by Irish navvies (starting in 1848) and used until 1928, when rail cars became too large for it. Its tracks saw the Great Locomotive Chase in 1862, and today it offers a tour with related buildings: https://www.civilwarrailroadtunnel.com/

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I love the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel! First you’re on bridges above the water, then the road takes you under the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, then you come back above theBay, then back under again… and midway —- there’s an old fashioned diner and tourist shop AND a great pier where you can do some fishing! It’s all so much fun to some, convenience to others as a way to get across the Bay — but others get freaked out by it. There’s a special mobile crew onsite — to rescue drivers who become panicked.

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It was on a railroad line up in the hills near Waynesboro PA. We were walking the track when we came to a tunnel and decided to enter. Not far in we heard the sure sound of an oncoming train and had to run several hundred yards to find a spot to jump off the track. It was like being in a cartoon. Sadly, photos are lost!

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Two tunnels in London - the first is very well known. Brunel’s tunnel, one of the first under the Thames, is at Rotherhithe. It is currently used by the London Underground East London Line. But a few times a year, the Brunel Museum arrange for trips through it and to offer the chance to see the giant entrance halls designed for horse-drawn carriages to descend. The trips are still on the tube but the driver goes slow and the maintenance lights are switched on in the tunnel so you can see the alcoves on either side where the shops used to be and the promenades where society men and ladies and then in later life dubious nightlife walked. As it was a popular assignment area (dry, secluded and proper) Brunel museum often do a Valentine’s tour. The other is the under Cannon Street station on the North Bank of the River. Just an underpass but the floor is lit with a map of London, you can hear the sound of the river, speakers pipe out industrial nose from times past and you are on the site of the ancient Steelyard - a trading base ran by merchants from the Hanseatic League. https://images.app.goo.gl/p5hnwXQkwFJBK63j8

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Lava Beds National Monument!

https://www.nps.gov/npgallery/GetAsset/C2EACE2E-155D-4519-3E874C92664DD741/proxy/hires?

This is way up in the far north of California, and the “Lava Tubes” are created by fast-moving lava cooling on the outside faster than the inside. The park has over 700 of these natural tunnels!

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Sorry to let you know the restaurant closed a year or so ago. It was always a good break spot to catch a breather and take it easy on longer drives. This is on the bridge tunnel into Virginia Beach. If you were meaning the Maryland Bridge Tunnel as far as I know everything is the same.

I was with a choir from the Crofton, Maryland area that composed of about 6 different churches and we were getting ready to fly back to America, but the Italian air traffic controllers had a strike and upset our flight back. So we were stuck there in Venice for another 5 or 6 days at our own expense or to travel to Switzerland and fly out of there. So, our travel company set us up with a bus to Berne, Switzerland to the airport there. Well, the trip was across the top part of Italy and we ended up in the Simplon Tunnel, at 20 - mile long tunnel that went into the Italian - Swiss Alps. It seemed like it went on forever and we even passed two tunnels that turned off to other Swiss cities while in the tunnel! We were later told that the tunnel was the longest in the world and was built back in 1898! What a trip that was!

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Oh NO! I AM sorry to hear that! Here’s the website homepage that confirms your news: http://www.cbbt.com/ I haven’t driven that route since just a few years ago, when it was still open. Many times on the way South, I’ve enjoyed taking the Garden State PArkway (NJ) to Cape May, NJ — to the Ferry to Lewes, Delaware, then staying at Chicoteague Island, Va. ---- and, continuing South — leaving Chincoteague in time for breakfast at the diner, and a stroll on the pier. I will still enjoy the 17 mile ride over and under, and over and under the water ----- but hoping that the diner and pier re-open! Thanks for letting us all know. LOL – in the meantime, I’ll have to find another interesting breakfast place along the way…

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There is a tunnel in the woods in northeastern PA. Not far behind the track and field of the Lackawanna Trail HS. Its history is interesting. Factoryville Tunnel

I lived for several years in the highlands of Peru. Just a couple hours from my house is the highest tunnel in the world, at 15,525 feet above sea level. Once you get a little ways from either end, the view eastward and westward is spectacular.

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The Mosier Twin Tunnels are part of the historic highway that travels through the Columbia Gorge in Oregon. They were part of the original highway and are now opened up for hikers and bicycles.

The third photograph is of the “graffiti” described on the page I linked. It’s the names of people that were trapped in the tunnel by a snowstorm in 1921.

(This was meant to be a reply to the thread. Sorry!)

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