Hiking Ricketts Glen in Pennsylvania’s Prettiest State Park

Last Updated on 10/27/20 by Rose Palmer

If you love waterfalls like I do, then Pennsylvania’s Ricketts Glen State Park should be at the top of your hiking list. With 21 named waterfalls along Kitchen Creek, you won’t find a more gratifying hike in the state, especially in the fall when the leaves start changing color. Hiking Ricketts Glen is my choice for the best state park in PA experience.

Experience the Best State Park in PA

Not one of the 21 named waterfalls-just one of the many small cascades along Kitchen creek

Ricketts Glen State Park is located in east-central PA, about one hour to the west of the town of Scranton. Covering 13,000 acres, it is also one of the state’s larger parks. At one time there were plans to make this land a national park, and the National Park Service ran a Civilian Conservation Corps camp here in the 1930’s. But this plan ended due to budget issues and the onset of WWII.  The state of Pennsylvania purchased the land and opened Ricketts Glen State Park in 1944. The area is also a dedicated National Natural Landmark since 1969.

Murray Reynolds Fall
The first named waterfall on the hike is the 16 foot Murray Reynolds fall

The park is named after R. Bruce Ricketts who owned 80,000 acres in the area and built a hotel in the late 1800’s to attract visitors to the falls. Ricketts clear cut most of his land for lumber, except for about 2000 acres in the glens through which the Kitchen Creek runs.  It is estimated that some of the old growth trees in the virgin forest of the glens are over 500 years old and are over 100 feet high.

27 foot high Harrison Wright falls is an example of a bridal veil waterfall
27 foot high Harrison Wright falls is an example of a bridal veil waterfall

Hiking Ricketts Glen

My husband and I chose to go on a weekend in mid Oct. to try and catch the fall color change and planned to spend the day at the park, seeing as much as we could, but not expecting to be able to get it all in (especially since I knew I would be stopping at every waterfall to take photos).

Falls Trail Hike area map

From the lower parking area on Rt. 118, the loop hike is about 7 miles total, with an elevation gain of about 1250 feet. The trail follows the Kitchen creek and passes three waterfalls before reaching Waters Meet, where the two branches of the Kitchen creek come together.

27 foot high Harrison Wright falls is an example of a bridal veil waterfall
27 foot high Harrison Wright falls is an example of a bridal veil waterfall and is the third waterfall on the trail before the trail splits a t Waters Meet

Here the trail also splits. The left branch follows the creek up through Glen Ganoga and passes ten waterfalls, including the 94 foot Ganoga Falls which are the tallest in the park. The right branch follows the creek through Glen Leigh and passes 8 waterfalls. The two trails are connected at the top by the Highland Trail. Besides the 21 large named waterfalls, the trails pass many smaller cascades that are equally pretty.

The Falls Trail hike is rated as difficult. As the trails climb through the glens, they get rocky and wet, which makes them slippery. And, as is typical in Pennsylvania, the trails have lots of exposed tree roots, so you need to keep your eye on the ground you are traversing. Good hiking shoes are definitely necessary.

The hike is also very popular, especially on autumn weekends when the crowds add to the challenge on some of the steeper sections of the trails that are only one person wide. By the way, hiking etiquette states that the hikers going uphill have the right of way

It was a tough choice but I took the left hand route through Glen Ganoga to the top and I was not disappointed by my choice.

The rocky trail climbs up alongside the 47 foot Erie waterfall, which is an example of a wedding cake waterfall
Close up of Erie Falls
Tuscarora Falls
Mahican Falls
Looking upriver toward Delaware Falls
Beautiful Delaware Falls
Young Pennsylvania Dutch hikers along Seneca Falls
Close up of Seneca Falls

The centerpiece of the hike is the 94 foot Ganoga Falls.  The name for these falls is of Native American origin, but the meaning is not quite clear. It’s only when you see someone standing right by this large waterfall that you can appreciate its full height.

A couple poses for a selfie in front of Ganoga Falls
Close up of Ganoga Falls

While it may be tempting to turn around at this point, there are still three more waterfalls before you reach the top. Cayuga Falls which was the waterfall right after Ganoga Falls and at only 11 feet high is the smallest waterfall in the park, was actually my favorite because it let me be most creative photographically.

Cayuga Falls
Another view of Cayuga Falls

We chose to backtrack down through Ganoga Glen again rather than taking the Highland Trail to the Glen Leigh trail because it was a little shorter and quicker. But if you want to see all the waterfalls, then be sure to allow plenty of time to do the full loop trail.

Besides the beautiful Falls Trail hike, Ricketts Glen State Park also has other attractions. There is swimming, fishing and boating on the 245 acre Lake Jean. Rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats can be rented during the summer months. The park has 10 cabins that can be rented year round, 120 individual campsites and a 240 person group campsite. For hikers, there are a total of 26 miles of hiking trails, including the Falls Trail. Some of the trails are open to equestrians, and in winter to cross country skiing and snowmobiling.

Artsy black and white photo of Cayuga Falls

The cabins in the park book up quickly, especially during peak fall season. There aren’t many hotel options close by – the closest tradition hotels are in Willkes-Barre which is about 30 miles away. However, we were able to find a nearby cabin on Air BnB which was adequate for our two night weekend stay.

So, if you are in the area, I highly recommend visiting Ricketts Glen State Park and giving the Falls Trail hike a try. Let me know if you agree that it is the prettiest park in a state with many worthy state parks.

You can find other things to do in PA on my Pennsylvania things to do page.

Thanks for visiting.



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Discover the 21 waterfalls in Rickets Glen State Park in Pennsylvania - especially in the fall

A fall getaway to experience 21 waterfalls in Rickets Glen State Park in Pennsylvania Discover the best state park in PA with its 21 waterfalls at Rickets Glen State Park in Pennsylvania