Hiking the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park
Elevation Profile of Trail
|Trailhead:||N 41° 19.80'
W 76° 17.44'
|Trail Length:||3.2 miles|
|Hike Time:||2 hours|
|Near:||Ricketts Glen State Park|
|* Note regarding hike time and elevation traversed.|
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Trip Report and PhotosRicketts Glen State Park is named for Robert Bruce Ricketts and his family. The park is over 13,000 acres in size and contains a 245 acre lake, Lake Jean. But what Ricketts Glen is most known for is the 22 named waterfalls found in the glens south of Lake Jean, with the largest of these waterfalls standing 94 feet tall.
I have lived in Pennsylvania all my life and I can't recall ever visiting Ricketts Glen. It was a suggestion of a fellow hiker from Maryland that I visit the park that I decided to make sure a hike on the Falls Trail was in my future.
The Falls Trail is a 3.5 mile loop that showcases 18 of the 22 named falls. The trail has a reputation for being a rough and dangerous trail. I feel that it has received this reputation because people have attempted to hike in unprepared. It is not a trail that you can leisurely walk on with flip-flops or sandals. The trail follows the banks of two streams on which these majestic water falls are found. Trails near waterfalls usually mean two things: steep and wet. You'll find the hiking the trail rather easy if you come prepared. Hiking boots are strongly recommended. Attempts have been made to make hiking the trail easier by building stone steps and walkways, but there are areas that can be slippery. Take your time, watch your step, and you'll be fine. Anyway, you're here to view the falls, so time is not of the essence. Slow and easy will make this a most enjoyable hike.
The trailhead for this hike of the Falls Trail at the Lake Rose Trailhead. Ricketts Glen State Park is located about 30 miles north of Bloomsburg on route PA487. The section of route PA487 from the town of Red Rock to the Lake Jean area of the park is a very steep road. Slow moving trucks are common on this section of the road. Once you reach the entrance to the park, you will drive 0.4 miles on the park road, crossing over the breast of the dam that forms Lake Jean. At 0.4 miles you will come to an intersection at which you want to turn right. This road quickly turns to dirt, and after another 0.4 miles you will find yourself at the parking area of the Lake Rose Trailhead.
At the trailhead you will find many warnings about the dangers of the Falls Trail. I recommend reading these warnings before starting on your hike. You will also see posted a number of local newspaper articles detailing the mishaps that other unfortunate falls visitors have suffered. As I stated earlier, be prepared for this hike by wearing hiking boots and being extra cautious on the steeper and wetter sections of the trail.
From the trailhead we hiked along a well groomed path through a stand of hemlocks. Shari and I were having a discussion that this trail was nice enough that you could bring a wheel chair bound relative on this trail. We were starting to wonder what all of the warning were about. After 0.2 miles the trail branched, with a section continuing straight and also heading off to our right. We turned to our right and began our descent towards the first of the falls.
It wasn't more than 100 feet from where we turned right that the trail became steep and narrower. It became evident that a wheel chair would not be able to make it much further on this trail. At 0.35 miles into the hike the trail crossed a small stream and we could hear the first of the falls. The Ricketts Glen area is renowned for it's diversity of bird life. However, during the hike we had trouble hearing birds because of the constant roar of the water falls. The sound, either loud or soft, if everywhere in Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh.
From the viewing of our first falls, to our last, we came across waterfalls at regular intervals all along this trail. It didn't seem much like a hike as I can't really recall the physical hiking aspect of the trail. I do recall the waterfalls and they are everywhere. Even with us spending minutes at each waterfall on the trail, the hike seemed to speed past.
Over the next mile we passed 10 waterfalls. At 1.35 miles into the hike we came to Waters Meet. This is where the two stream from Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh meet to form Kitchen Creek. There is a bridge here that we crossed to start our ascent of Glen Leigh.
The hike up Glen Leigh was a little shorter, only being 0.9 miles in length. Within this glen there were 8 named waterfalls. Since we were climbing on this section of the hike, Shari and I stopped more frequently so that we could rest. The trail in this glen was a little rougher than the trail in Ganoga Glen. There was a section, probably about 0.2 miles in length, that showed evidence of being washed out not too long ago. The Park had done a good job of putting the trail back, but it wasn't nearly as well groomed as other sections of the trail.
Once we reached the top of Glen Leigh, we followed the Highland Trail back to the trailhead. Along this trail you do pass by an interesting rock formation called the Midway Crevasse. I have seen many of these rock formations while hiking the Mid State Trail in the Tioga region, and I think this one could have been even more appealing if they would have taken the trail through the rock formation instead of walking around it.
I strongly recommend a visit to Ricketts Glen to view the falls. If you are looking for a more strenuous hikes, there are many other trails to explore in the park. MidAtlanticHikes.com has details on longer hikes within the park (you can read more about these hikes on MidAtlanticHikes.com). Pennsylvania DCNR has also done a fine job with their website highlighting Rickets Glenn State Park. You can view a state park map (PDF) on their website that shows all that the park has to offer. I have shown some of the pictures that I took on this hike but I just don't have the room to show them all. Also, these pictures don't do the falls justice. Do a Google search for images of Ricketts Glen and you'll see even better photos of the falls from all seasons; spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
When you visit Ricketts Glen, remember to take your time and enjoy the falls. This is not a difficult hike, but care should be given on the steep and wet sections of the trails. Wear your hiking boots and take your time. Enjoy the falls and all that nature has to offer in this beautiful place. And don't forget your camera.