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Ricketts Glen state park is one of the most beautiful places in Pennsylvania. If you enjoy hiking and seeing waterfalls, it’s got 22 total, with the highest reaching 94 feet.
The area around the waterfalls is called the Glens Natural Area, and it’s actually a National Natural Landmark, established in 1968. The park itself was named after Colonel Robert Bruce Ricketts, who owned thousands of acres of land in the area. You can read more about the history of the park on the state park’s website.
Best Time to Visit
If I could only pick one time of year to visit, it would have to be in the fall. Seeing the waterfalls with the beautiful colored leaves is breathtaking! The foliage peaks at different times each year, and it’s been my experience that the foliage in the glen peaks a bit behind that of the surrounding areas. Maybe it’s a little warmer near the waterfalls?
Visiting in the summer is great time too. Just be wary if it’s too hot-although you can always stick your feet in the water to cool off. You’ll find people taking a dip in some of the deeper pools around some of the falls.
In the winter the Falls trail is closed unless you check in at the rangers office with proper gear. It’s very dangerous, and you need to have crampons, a helmet, ice axe, along with other equipment. Thankfully, if you’re not experienced and you want to see frozen waterfalls in the water, Valley to Summit is a great company that provides guided ice hikes on the Falls trail! I went with them in 2022 for the full day hike, and highly recommend going if you’re able!
What the Trail is like
You need to be in somewhat decent shape to hike the falls trail. There are some areas that are easy and pretty flat, but a big portion of it goes up and downhill, along a rocky gorge. Be prepared to climb lots and lots of stairs! These stairs are made out of rock, there are no hand rails, and can be slippery if wet or there are leaves around.
There are also many wooden bridges that crisscross the gorge. There are places here and there where you can sit down and take a break, even a couple of benches(one at Waters Meet and another near Midway Crevasse).
The waterfalls are the main attraction of course, but walking through the forest here is just beautiful too! Some of the trees are very old and you can tell. You can visit my full picture gallery to see many pictures of not only the waterfalls but the trail too, at different times of the year.
As far as how long it can take, doing the full hike starting from route 118 takes me between 4-5 hours. That’s with stopping to take lots of photos, and a break for lunch. So give yourself a good half day at least to enjoy it.
Bring a day pack with plenty of water and snacks. Trekking poles can help, especially if you have weaker knees or ankles.
Lastly, if you go, know that in the summer and fall it can get very busy on the weekends. I highly recommend you visit on a weekday!
Where to Start Hiking
Full Hike: Route 118 Trailhead – about 8 miles round trip
I almost always park and start at the Route 118 Trailhead. They paved and enlarged the parking lot here a few years ago, and there’s also restrooms and some picnic tables to sit at.
Another bonus to parking on 118 is that across the street from the trailhead is Adams Falls, which you’ll want to see too if you’re planning to visit ALL the waterfalls! 🙂
Starting here you’ll walk north almost 2 miles on mostly flat ground, following Kitchen Creek. You’ll encounter 3 waterfalls, starting with Murray Reynolds, before you get to the point where the trail splits called Waters Meet. From there you can go on the loop trail in either direction. The highest waterfall, Ganoga, will be on the left hand split. Whichever way you choose to go, you can find a nice halfway lunch spot on the Highland Trail at Midway Crevasse where there are some nice big rock formations.
*Note: on Google it shows the walking distance as 6 miles. My GPS logged 8 miles on the hike, so assume it’s somewhere in between for the total length starting from 118. Also allow at least 4-5hrs if you want to enjoy it and take your time.
Smaller Hikes: Lake Rose Trailhead – about a 3.5 mile loop
The Lake Rose Trailhead is another optional place to park if you want to do shorter mileage and still see the majority of the falls.
If you just want to see a few of the falls, or want the shortest route to the falls, then start this trail going counter clockwise, south on the Falls Trail. The northern section, called the Highland Trail, does not have any waterfalls. I recommend going down to at least Ganoga Falls, which is the highest waterfall in the park. It’s the fourth waterfall on the trail in this direction.
Another alternative for a short hike while still seeing a few waterfalls is to park at Route 118, and do the 2 mile hike up Kitchen Creek until you get to Water’s Meet. You’ll see 3 waterfalls, and not have to do too many stairs. Most of this section is pretty flat through a beautiful forest, with a few bridge crossings. So you still get a nice feeling of the trail.
The Waterfalls of Ricketts Glen
R.B. (Robert Bruce) Ricketts named these waterfalls after Native American tribes, or family and friends of his. Murray, Sheldon, and B.(Benjamin) Reynolds were all brothers of Elizabeth Reynolds Ricketts, who was the wife of R.B. Ricketts. F.L. Ricketts was named after Frank, R.B Ricketts’ brother.
Adam’s Falls was named after Adam Kale who was a watchman on Kitchen Creek.
Waterfalls along Kitchen Creek
Starting from the south, coming up from route 118:
- Murray Reynolds, 16ft (1.8m)
- Sheldon Reynolds, 36ft (10.9m)
- Harrison Wright, 27ft (8.2m)
Waterfalls on the Ganoga Glen side
Walking clockwise, heading north, from Waters Meet:
- Erie, 47ft (14.3m)
- Tuscarora, 47ft (14.3m)
- Conestoga, 17ft (5.1m)
- Mohican, 39ft (11.8m)
- Delaware, 37ft (11.2)
- Seneca, 12ft (3.6m)
- Ganoga, 94ft (28.6m)
- Cayuga, 11ft (3.3m)
- Oneida, 13ft (3.9m)
- Mohawk, 37ft (11.2m)
Waterfalls on the Glen Leigh side
- Onondaga, 15ft (4.5m)
- F.L. Ricketts, 38ft (11.5m)
- Shawnee, 30ft (9.1m)
- Huron, 41ft (12.5m)
- Ozone, 60ft (8.2m)
- R.B. Ricketts, 36ft (11m)
- B.Reynolds, 40ft (12.1m)
- Wyandot, 15ft (4.5m)
See more pictures of the falls and trail in my gallery.