Are you looking for a new hiking trail to explore? A waterfall chaser? The Ricketts Glen waterfall trail hike is a great way to get some exercise and explore the beautiful scenery at the same time. This waterfall trail takes hikers through some of the most scenic surroundings of Pennsylvania.
The Ricketts Glen Falls Trail is located in Ricketts Glen State Park, about 45 minutes to 1 hour of driving from Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton, Pennsylvania. It features 21 of the 22 falls within the park, ranging from 11 feet to nearly 100 feet high.
Hiking is a great form of exercise, especially when combined with a little adventure. You are sure to forget that you’re hiking these miles with all of these stunning water formations to see around every turn. The Ricketts Glen Falls Trail is certainly one of the top spots in Pennsylvania for waterfall lovers to explore.
***Please Note: The Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen is currently not able to be hiked as a loop due to closure between F.L. Ricketts Falls to Ozone Falls on the Glen Leigh Side. The rocky terrain on the trail became damaged and unstable. Until trail repairs can be completed, you can still view 20 of the park’s 22 waterfalls.
Ricketts Glen State Park Hours and Seasons
Ricketts Glen is open year-round, from sunrise to sunset in the day-use areas. This includes the waterfall trail area and most of the other areas in the park.
There are restrictions on the types of visits during parts of the year. During the winter months, the trail is only open to those with special permits and equipment.
You’ll need to check in at the park office and register for winter hiking, then check out when you leave. The minimum equipment includes full crampons, an ice ax, and a rope required during this time.
The falls trail typically begins to close sometime in November, and it is able to be opened up during the month of April on average. Check with the park office or on Ricketts Glen’s social media channels, where they typically post updates.
You’ll want to stop by the park office before your hike so that you can grab a park map and learn a little about the area. The park map can help you identify each of the waterfalls, even though there are signs on the rock wall near many of them.
How long is the Waterfall Trail at Ricketts Glen?
The Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen is noted to be 7.2 miles in length, but there are both shorter and longer routes you can take, depending on your ability and time constraints.
On the 7.2-mile route, which begins on Route 118 at the Glens Lot Trailhead, you’ll have to walk the furthest initially to see your first waterfall.
However, beginning at the Lake Rose Trailhead, the hike on the waterfall trails can be as short as 3.2 miles.
Difficulty of the Rickets Glen Falls Trail
The trail is classified as “most difficult” according to the park. While it is certainly not the “most difficult” trail that we have hiked, this is not a beginner trail. There are narrow, uneven steps on the sides of the gorge. If you are unsure about your balance, footing, etc. this may not be the trail for you.
The length of the trail in addition to the number of stairs does pose a concern for those with mobility limitations. There are no railings or protective barriers. If you have any questions in your mind, certainly taking trekking poles along will give you a little more stability.
While there are concerns, this is a beautiful trail to explore. If you are comfortable with hiking and are in reasonable shape, the falls trail is certainly one you can enjoy.
How Long Does it Take to Hike the Falls Trail?
Although the trail can be as short as just over 3 miles, we’ve easily spent 3.5 hours on these sections. You’ll want to allow plenty of time to stop and take photographs, or just to take in the scenes.
If you’re planning to start from the lower spots at the Evergreen and Glens Lots, you’ll probably want to allow 4-5 hours to explore the area.
You could certainly power through this trail, and complete it in 2-3 hours, but we wouldn’t recommend this strategy unless you’ve hiked here many times.
The trail is always changing, though, under the power of the water. There will always be something different to see!
What You’ll Find on the Ricketts Glen Waterfall Trail
The Falls trail system explores the entire area known as the Glens Natural Area. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1969 and in 1993 a State Park Natural Area, these classifications ensure that the area is protected and kept in its natural state for years to come.
Glen Leigh, the eastern branch of Kitchen Creek, is home to 8 of the 22 Ricketts Glen State Park waterfalls.
Hiking clockwise on the trails, you’ll come upon them in this order.
- Wyandot Falls (15 feet)
- B. Reynolds Falls (40 feet)
- R.B. Ricketts Falls (36 feet)
- Ozone Falls (60 feet)
- Huron Falls (41 feet)
- Shawnee Falls (30 feet)
- F.L. Ricketts Falls (38 feet)
- Onondaga Falls (15 feet)
You can get right up close and personal with B. Reynolds Falls, with a staircase landing right next to the upper part of the falls. The 60-foot tall Ozone Falls is the second tallest in the park, but it is a little more difficult to photograph, due to the flow and narrow nature of the water.
If you take the shortcut connector trail just after F.L. Ricketts Falls, you’ll sell yourself short and miss one! The connector doesn’t save you much distance, but it does cut off seeing the 15-foot-tall Onondaga Falls.
Each waterfall has its own characteristics and variety. You won’t want to miss even one of them!
There are 10 waterfalls calling Ganoga Glen home, including the tallest one in the park.
- Mohawk Falls (37 feet)
- Oneida Falls (13 feet)
- Cayuga Falls (11 feet)
- Ganoga Falls (94 feet)
- Seneca Falls (12 feet)
- Deleware Falls (37 feet)
- Mohican Falls (39 feet)
- Conestoga Falls (17 feet)
- Tuscarora Falls (47 feet)
- Erie Falls (47 feet)
There are plenty of narrow, uneven rock stairs on this side of the trail. Some are much more steep and uneven than others, and they do require some careful maneuvering and balance.
Although Ganoga Falls is the tallest in the park, it’s hard to capture the beauty in a photograph. It’s tucked into a bend in the trail, which doesn’t make it the easiest of the 22 waterfalls to see.
Even some of the smaller ones, including Seneca Falls and Cayuga Falls, have such interesting water flow patterns that you might find yourself spending more time at them.
While it is difficult to choose just one most beautiful spot on this trail along the waterfalls, this might just be it! Waters Meet is where the two branches of Kitchen Creek come back together.
There are a couple of benches here where you can sit and rest, enjoy a snack, and refuel. You’re also able to view the waterfalls going up Glen Leigh, including Wyandot.
I wish I could have lunch at Waters Meet every day!
There is also a marker here that designates the Glens Natural Area as a National Natural Landmark.
The area of trail between Waters Meet and Route 118 is actually Ricketts Glen. There are 3 waterfalls in this section of the trail, all closer to Waters Meet than the trailhead.
They’re not the largest waterfalls along the trail, but they’re still beautiful! They include:
- Harrison Wright Falls (27 feet)
- Sheldon Reynold Falls (36 feet)
- Murray Reynolds Falls (16 feet)
The glen is also home to old-growth trees, some up to 4 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall. You won’t find trees like those everywhere, so don’t miss those as you are experiencing the wonder of the waterfalls.
Best Spots for Parking
Because Ricketts Glen State Park has so much to see, the area is quite popular for day and weekend visits. During the late spring, summer, and fall, you will not find solitude on this trail. There are multiple spots to park, depending on your itinerary for the day.
These four parking options are closest to the access points. Park in the lot based on what you are planning to do during your visit.
Lake Rose Trailhead Parking
The Lake Rose area is quite popular because it is the easiest access from the campground, just a short drive across the main road through the park.
It’s also the access point where you can get to see what you came to see, the star waterfalls, most quickly! With that being said, it also fills up quickly on the weekends and holidays especially. Try visiting earlier or later in the day, or during the middle of the week, if you’d prefer to park in this lot.
Head down the Highland Trail, taking the first right towards Ganoga Glen, which quickly leads to the 37 feet tall Mohawk Falls.
Continue on past the waterfalls of Ganoga Glen, down to Waters Meet. If you want to see all of the 22 waterfalls, you’ll need to hike down towards the other lots just a short distance along Kitchen Creek, totaling less than 0.5 miles out and back to catch the last three.
Then you can return to see the 8 waterfalls of Glen Leigh. Don’t take the shortcut path back to the Highland Trail after the F.L. Ricketts waterfall, or you’ll miss seeing Onondaga.
Then, you can return along the Highland Trail, through the Midway Crevasse rock formations. Although this rocky attraction is smaller than some in other parts of the state, it’s still a fun little spot you shouldn’t skip on your hike along the waterfall trail.
Evergreen Trail Parking
If you want to see all 22 waterfalls of Ricketts Glen State Park while parking in one spot all day, this is the easiest parking lot to do so. Since it’s on the smaller side, it might be difficult to find a spot, again, arriving early gives you a better chance.
If you really want to begin your day with a waterfall quickly, head down the Evergreen Trail to the 36 feet tall Adams Falls. We’d recommend saving this for the end of the visit, though, and finishing off the day with an easy stroll around the 1-mile Evergreen Trail loop. It’s a nice walk through an old-growth forest with some educational signs along the way.
You’ll need to cross Route 118 on the painted pedestrian walkway to access the Falls Trail. This is where you will get the 7.2-mile hike to see all of the falls. You’ll have to hike around 1.5 miles to reach the first waterfall this way, which will be Murray Reynolds Falls at 16 feet tall.
If you’re up for hiking 8+ miles, this is a great spot to begin your Ricketts Glen adventures.
Glens Lot Trailhead Parking
Another large parking area for accessing the falls trail, the Glens Lot area is also located on Route 118. You can find it on the opposite side of the road from the Evergreen Trail parking area.
If you want to hike the entire waterfall trail without having to cross the road, this is the lot you should park in.
Alternatively, if the Evergreen Lot is full, you could park in this Glens Lot and cross Route 118 to see Adams Falls and the Evergreen Trail. The options are varied, so choose your own adventure!
Beach Lot #2 Trailhead Parking
Parking at the Beach Lot #2 is the backup option if the Lake Rose parking area is full. It’s also located near the camping areas. If you’re planning a swim to cool off after the waterfall hikes, this would be a great place to park and secure your spot for the day.
Hiking the Falls Trail system clockwise will result in a long hike to reach the first waterfall. You’ll have to take the 1-mile Bear Walk Trail to the Lake Rose Trailhead. You could return to the Beach Lot on the Cherry Run Trail, but you’d miss the Midway Crevasse.
Alternatively, you can take the Cherry Run Trail about 0.5 miles past the Cabin Road access to find the Glen Leigh waterfalls. Although you’d hike the waterfalls in a counterclockwise direction, you’d still get to wander through the Midway Crevasse.
If you’re looking for a long day hike, combining lots of trails, there are lots of combinations from this trailhead.
Tips for Hiking the Ricketts Glen Falls Trail
In preparing for a visit to Ricketts Glen, you’ll see plenty of recommendations regarding footwear. Footwear is certainly important on this hike! You’ll want something that is sturdy and has plenty of traction. Hiking boots or trail runners are perfect.
If the weather is warm, I wouldn’t hesitate to hike this trail in my Chaco’s, but I’d wear them 100% of the time in the summer if I could. That’s just my opinion, though, so wear what you are comfortable hiking in. Flip flops or other sandals that are not secure are NOT APPROPRIATE for this trail and could be very dangerous. Trekking poles may be helpful on the stairs and the narrow passageways. If you want a little extra help with balance, take them along.
I also recommend hiking this trail in a clockwise fashion. If you’re hiking from the Lake Rose Trailhead, you’ll find the first waterfall very quickly. The elevation changes seem more drastic on the Ganoga Glen side, resulting in more stairs.
We’d much rather go down than up a bunch of stairs, but if you prefer the opposite, then hike counterclockwise.
Lastly, don’t be afraid of less than ideal summer weather! Although the trail conditions do become much more muddy and slippery when wet, the crowds hiking will not be as big. As a bonus, photography conditions on cloudy or even rainy days can be more fitting for waterfall photography than the bright sun!
Can You Swim in the Ricketts Glen Waterfalls?
No! The rocks and swift-moving currents in much of the waters of Ricketts Glen make the area dangerous to swim in. One slip and fall could have catastrophic, life-threatening even, consequences.
During the summer months, park rangers and staff do monitor the trail and will not tolerate swimming or wading in the waters. They’ve seen what can happen, as numerous rescues have to be performed in the park every year from the falls trail. They don’t want you to be another statistic. Just plan to head over to the park’s beach on Lake Jean if you’d like to go for a swim after your hike.
Camping at Ricketts Glen State Park
While there are a couple of lodges and private campgrounds in the areas surrounding the park, the closest place to stay is at one of the two camping loops at the state park campground.
The Small Loop offers more modern sites, some with full hookups including water, sewer, and electricity. Some of the sites in this loop are also much better suited for large RVs.
The Big Loop has campsites that are situated much closer to the edge of Lake Jean. The ones on the outermost edge of the loop offers beautiful views of Lake Jean, including some sunset access. These sites are all primitive with one centrally located bathhouse for all sites.
Reservations can be made ahead of time through ReserveAmerica. Any unreserved sites can be booked at the park office during open hours. Open sites after hours will be left on a board outside of the park office.
Sites do fill up during the summer, especially on the weekends. You’ll want to have a reservation if you are set on staying in Ricketts Glen.
Final Thoughts: Hiking the Ricketts Glen Waterfall Trail
Ricketts Glen State Park is a beautiful place to visit at all times of the year, but especially during fall when the leaves change colors. The beautiful waterfalls coupled with the colorful foliage are a sight to see! The park and the waterfall trail are beautiful at any time of year.
If you’re looking for a waterfall adventure with a lot of bang for your buck, then Ricketts Glen is it. There are plenty more to explore on the nearby state game lands and other state parks.
Some of our favorite spots to hike and explore within Pennsylvania for waterfalls and natural wonders include:
Where are your favorite Pennsylvania waterfalls?