Posted by: davepidgeon | November 5, 2009

Fall for Ricketts Glen

The Harrison Wright Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park

Go ahead. I dare you. I dare you to try and find another single-day experience in the wilderness than can match a trip to the Glens Natural Area in Ricketts Glen State Park, Pa.

Oh sure, you might mention the majesty of the Grand Canyon or the other-worldliness of Yellowstone, but you just can’t find another place where you see 22 substantial waterfalls and 100-foot tall trees (some as old as 500 years) in a place virtually unaltered since creation – all in one day hike.

Tuscarora Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park, Pa.

The hike isn’t terribly difficult, and the Pennsylvania State Park System has done an excellent job of keeping the trails well-maintained. You gain about 1,000 feet during the 7.1-mile lollipop loop, but you will have so much to look at you won’t even notice the physical exertion. Go carefully, though, as the rocks are slippery, there are no handrails and the trail skirts the cascades REAL close.

This area, despite its natural setting, can seem like an amusement park during hot summer months. I recommend seeing Ricketts Glen in May before Memorial Day or in the autumn after Labor Day. Even then, go mid-week if you can. You probably will share the entire 13,000-acre park with only a nature photographer or two.

The U.S. government designated Ricketts Glen a National Natural Landmark in 1969, three decades after it was slated to become a national park (until World War II got in the way). No hunting is permitted, and you’ll see hemlocks, pines and oaks as well as deer, blue jays and maybe a black bear or two.

But make no mistake. The stars of the show are the 22 cascades, which ornament the nape of Red Rock Mountain like a necklace of watery jewels. The largest, Ganoga Falls pictured below, is 94 feet high.

Ganoga Falls, the largest in Ricketts Glen at 94-feet.Directions: Take exit 164 off I-81 to PA 24 North. Take PA 24 North for 10.9 miles and turn left onto PA 118 West. The parking area is located on either side of PA 118 after 9.6 miles.

Hike There: Starting from the trail head along Route 118, head in a northerly direction along the unmarked trail, which zig zags across Kitchen Creek for about 1.3 miles. Arrive at the first of a trio of waterfalls. The trail then takes you to Waters Meet, an impressive confluence of Kitchen Creek’s twin branches, and from the bridge you can look up into both gorges – Ganoga Glen to the left and Glen Leigh to the right. Go right up Glen Leigh, where over the next 1.2 miles you pass one memorable waterfall after another as you ascend the mountain. Turn left onto the Highland Trail, which takes you past the rock formation called the Midway Crevasse. After about one mile, you arrive at the juncture with the 1.3-mile Ganoga Glen Trail, which takes you down the Ganoga Glen and to more cascades. The glen includes the 94-foot high Ganoga Falls and the equally impressive Tuscarora Falls. Arrive back at Waters Meet and return to the first trail you followed into the Glen, which will take you back to your car.



  1. […] Aside from the typical beauty of changing foliage and abundant wildlife in this state park 25 miles west of Wilkes-Barre, PA, you’ll be awe-struck by over 25 waterfalls ranging from just a few feet to the 94-foot tall Ganoga Falls. The most popular fall hike is the Glens Natural Area Hike, a 7.4 mile loop that goes uphill roughly 1,250 feet before leveling off and descending equally back to the trailhead. Tip: Rapidly becoming one of PA’s top fall hikes means it can get pretty crowded, especially on weekends. Try a Tuesday or Wednesday if you want to experience the trail without too much human distraction.  Click here for more information on hiking Rickett’s Glen. […]

  2. I think the place is world famous for its beauty, and you’ve certainly captured it well.

    But to take you up on your challenge, I would suggest (1) anywhere in Glacier National Park, (2) Cascade Pass, or possibly (3) the Columbia River Gorge. Of course #3 is a prickly mix of gorgeous natural splendor, and the interstate ( I-84 ), but once you disappear into the cliff and hike behind one of the myriad falls, you forget all about man’s encroachment on nature.

  3. I have a notion that I ought to get to the Pacific Northwest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: