Ricketts Glen State Park Waterfall cover
Pennsylvania State Parks

Trip Report: Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania

on
September 5, 2020
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If you like waterfalls and rock scrambles, Ricketts Glen State Park’s Falls Trail will easily be your favorite hike in Pennsylvania! 

History & Location

Ricketts Glen State Park is located in northeast Pennsylvania near Wilkes-Barre. It’s about a four-hour drive from Pittsburgh and a two-and-a-half hour drive from Philadelphia.  

The park is named for Robert Bruce Ricketts, a Civil War Colonel who once owned the property. He built trails to the many waterfalls and named each fall after a friend, family member, or Indian tribe.  His family eventually sold it to the state, and it was approved as a National Park site.

But then World War II broke out, and those plans were scrapped. More of the park’s land changed hands to make it what it is today- and when it opened to the public in 1944.

Ricketts Glen still did manage to attain ‘national’ status when it became a National Natural Landmark in 1969, and finally became a State Park Natural area in 1993.

The park not only boasts the beautiful Falls Trail with its 21 waterfalls, it also includes Lake Jean for fishing and kayaking, a campground with tent sites and cabins, and a sandy beach for lounging and swimming. 

Campground

Ricketts Glen State Park Campground is partially closed and under construction, so please check the website before you visit to see what’s open and available. 

While they would typically have 120 tent sites, 10 modern cabins, and 5 deluxe cabins, only one loop of the campground was fully open when we visited, shown here: 

ricketts glen state park campground map

You can see a complete campground map here.

The Big Loop did not have electric service at the campsites, and the sites were NOT pet-friendly. Since we don’t have a generator in our RV and would be taking the dogs along, we opted to stay in a modern cabin. 

The five modern cabins in the Big Loop are situated along Beach Trail with a nice view of Lake Jean. Our cabin was called Seneca. 

ricketts glen state park seneca cabin
ricketts glen state park lake jean storm

Important side note: a “modern” cabin may not be what you think! 

The cabin has two rooms: a kitchen and a bedroom. The kitchen is equipped with a refrigerator, ceiling fan, dining table, cook top, and microwave…but no sink! In the bedroom are two sets of bunk beds, a ceiling fan, and an end table. The outside porch has a picnic table and fire ring. 

So while “modern” does equal electricity, it does not equal running water! A water pump is right across the road, so you are able to fill up containers easily, but we definitely expected to have a sink inside the cabin! 

The cabins use the bathroom and shower house located between sites #15 and #17.

I wish I had good things to say about it, but…

The bathrooms were not clean and the showers weren’t working well when we visited.

As if the timer buttons *UGH!* didn’t make the shower awful enough, the water was quite cold despite the dial appearing to have a hot water option. 

While we found the bathroom and shower house disappointing, our cabin itself was quite clean. In addition, its location along Beach Trail is convenient to the main attraction, Falls Trail. 

 

Trails and Wildlife

Ricketts Glen State Park has 28 miles of trails, but most people come to the park to see the 21 waterfalls along Falls Trail. 

You can hike 7.2 miles along Falls Trail to cover all 21 waterfalls, but you can also cut part out to do 3.2 miles and still see 18 of them.

On the day we hiked, a torrential downpour happened for a few hours in the morning – lucky for us (and our reactive dog, Franklin), that meant less hikers in the park and on the trails! 

We began our day on Beach Trail, which was right outside our cabin door. The wildlife sightings started almost immediately when I spotted this guy right off the lake shore: 

ricketts glen state park water snake

Ironically, I had been reading Secrets of Snakes, and knew he was a non-venomous water snake! 

Walking along Beach Trail, we also saw signs of wildlife – our first bear poop sighting of the year!  

ricketts glen state park bear poop

At the end of Beach Trail, we arrived at (surprise!) the beach – which was completely empty after the morning downpour – and Beach Lot #2 Trailhead.

ricketts glen state park empty beach

Once you’re at Beach Lot #2 Trailhead, you’ll see plenty of signs directing you to Falls Trail. 

More guide signs on the trail show you the hiking options, waterfall heights, and waterfall names. 

ricketts glen state park falls trail map sign

We decided to do the “V” to see 18 of the 21 waterfalls and end in Lake Rose Trailhead Parking. 

What an adventure! The earlier downpour made this one of the most precarious trails we’ve ever tackled – especially with two dogs! 

BUT WE LOVED IT! What an amazing network of stone stair cases, rock scrambles, and places to let the dogs take a dip. 

AND THE WATERFALLS! They ranged in height from 11 to 94 feet tall and looked straight out of storybooks.

ricketts glen state park waterfall 1
ricketts glen state park waterfall 2
ricketts glen state park dog dip

There were some really steep ascents and descents, as well as some biiiggggg rock steps, so be prepared to keep your dogs on a tight leash if they’re along for the hike. 

ricketts glen state park trail dog
ricketts glen state park trail dog 2

By the end of our hike, the crowds were beginning to pick up.

If you have reactive dogs or would like a less busy hike, we’d suggest visiting during the week rather than on the weekend. Franklin was losing his cool by the end of the day. We were glad to get off the busy trail.

On the walk back to the cabin,  we saw more wildlife, although really small wildlife. A bunch of red efts were crossing the trail and the road. 

ricketts glen state park red eft

PIT STOP! The Sawhorse Cafe

If you are heading westbound home, you can stop for a quick snack & cup of joe at The Sawhorse Cafe in Williamsport.

Just 45 minutes from Ricketts Glen State Park, they have a nice selection of coffees, teas, pastries, and sandwiches to break up your drive – plus they source their selections from locals farms!

We highly recommend the half-caff cofee and cranberry-blueberry bars.

sawhorse cafe

Side Trip: Ravensburg State Park

ravensburg state park

If you are still headed westbound after the cafe, you can stop for a quick hike about an hour away at Ravensburg State Park. 

ravensburg state park creek

This smaller park encompasses just over 75 acres, and you can take a pleasant creek-side hike on Raven Trail to break up your driving.  It also has a small, rustic tent campground. 

ravensburg state park map board

Franklin had a little dust-up with an unleashed canine camper, so we cut this visit a short. If you’d like to share about the other trails at Ravensburg State Park, please leave a comment below!

Rained Out Side Trip: Swatara State Park

On the way to Ricketts Glen State Park, we tried to make a brief stop at Swatara State Park to see the fossil field.

We only got a few pics in before the heavens opened up and washed out our side trip: 

swatara state park fossils
swatara state park close up fossil field

We hope to visit again in more favorable fossil-finding weather!

rainy day window

The Last Word

While we discovered we weren’t “modern” cabin type travelers and really missed our RV on this trip, the scenery and hiking made up for it!

Ricketts Glen State Park is definitely worth a visit if you love waterfalls and steep-step hiking!

roadtrip tails ricketts glen state park
Have you met Hazel? She’s the newest addition to Road Trip Tails. 
Traveling through north-central PA & need an interesting place to get out & stretch? Try Austin Dam. 
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