Ricketts Glen State Park is a 13,193-acre nature preserve and park located in northeast Pennsylvania, near the town of Benton. You have probably heard of it, but is Ricketts Glen worth visiting?
Ricketts Glen State Park is definitely worth visiting. You can hike to the beautiful waterfalls, fish in Lake Jean, and see rare birds. So whether you’re looking for a family-friendly park to visit with the kids or planning a long backpacking trip, Ricketts Glen State Park has something to offer you.
So what kind of wildlife can you spot at Ricketts Glen? Can you camp there? Is it dog-friendly? Is it hard to get to the waterfalls? Read on to learn more about this wonderful state park.
Ricketts Glen State Park
Located deep in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania, Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the crown jewels of Pennsylvania’s state park system. Indeed, this enormous park boasts some of the most awe-inspiring and photogenic scenery in the state, such as lush and vibrant old-growth forests, beautiful lakes, and gorgeous waterfalls. In addition, the park is well-known for having good hiking trails and is a very popular birdwatching spot.
As a Pennsylvania State Park, Ricketts Glen is free to enter. However, people who need ADA accommodations should contact the park ahead of time so Rangers can make the appropriate arrangements. You can phone the park at 570-477-5675 to make any inquiries.
Dogs are allowed, but they must be leashed and cleaned up after, and owners should be aware that not all trail sections or activities are dog-friendly. The Falls Trail, in particular, can be slick and has sections that some dogs may struggle with.
Bird Watching & Wildlife
One of the most popular activities at Ricketts Glen is bird watching. Many species of birds live at Ricketts Glen, so birdwatchers might see anything from a bald eagle to one of 23 different warblers. Birdwatchers will also be delighted to learn that Ricketts Glen is home to breeding habitats for three rare birds: the Northern Goshawk, the Green-Winged Teal, and the Swainson’s Thrush.
Other exciting birds found at the park include hummingbirds, osprey, hawks, four species of owls, kingfishers, and woodpeckers. In fact, Ricketts Glen State Park is considered an “Important Bird Area” because of the huge diversity of species found in the park. This diversity comes from the fact that the area is very remote and wild and that there are so many different kinds of habitats within the confines of the park.
Birds aren’t the only creatures at Ricketts Glen. You might see a fox, a deer, or even a beaver while out in the park. Your kids will love watching the adorable chipmunks and squirrels, and sharp-eyed nature watchers might even get to see something as cool as a bobcat!
The park is also in bear territory, so take appropriate precautions. If you’re camping or hiking, keep food secure. Make noise while walking to avoid catching a bear by surprise, and never approach or interact with a bear cub, no matter how cute they are.
Hiking at Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen State Park offers 26 miles of hiking trails, which are a very popular attraction for visitors. Many of the trails are easy and approachable. Some of the friendliest trails at the park include:
- Bear Walk Trail. This one-mile in-and-out trail features picnic tables, water fountains, benches, and easy terrain.
- Evergreen Trail. This one-mile loop trail starts near the Evergreen Parking Area and leads to Adams Falls. This trail is excellent for families with smaller children.
- Laurel View Trail. This trail runs just shy of two miles and follows the Fire Tower road to the top of Red Rock Mountain, which offers splendid views.
If you’re up for some more challenging trails, Ricketts Glen has some great challenge trails. These include:
- Cherry Run Trail. This 4.6-mile out-and-back trail is relatively primitive and passes along old logging roads and through groves of cherry trees. The best access to this trail is from Beach Lot #2.
- Mountain Springs Trail. This trail runs 4 miles in total and takes hikers past the Lake Leigh Dam toward Mountain Springs Lake.
- Old Beaver Dam Trail. Another four-mile trail, this path crosses streams and ventures through the forest. It is very popular with cross-country skiers and hiking enthusiasts.
- Falls Trail. This trail is popular to see the waterfalls, which is discussed in detail later.
Visitors who plan to hike the more challenging trails should be in good shape and bring adequate equipment. You should bring:
- Sturdy hiking boots
- Appropriate dress for the season
- Food and water
- A paper map and compass
- First aid kit
Hikers should be sure to let friends or family know where they are going and when they will return. It’s also important to remain on the trail and take no shortcuts. Follow the mantra of “take only pictures, leave only footprints.”
Keystone Answers Fun Fact: The tallest waterfall in Ricketts Glen State Park is Ganoga Falls, which measures 94 feet from top to bottom!
Ricketts Glen State Park is a top-rated destination for camping. The park features 120 campsites for tents or trailers and offers campers easy access to flush toilets and warm showers. The sites are shaded and spacious, and there is even a dump station.
If you don’t like to rough it, check out the cabins. Ricketts Glen offers ten furnished cabins and five deluxe cabins. The furnished cabins are basic but comfortable, and guests must bring their own linens and dishes. The deluxe cottages feature better kitchens and a smattering of other upgrades.
Both cabin styles book far in advance, so be sure to plan ahead if you want to stay in the cabins.
Hunting is a common pastime in Pennsylvania, and hunters love heading out into the 10,000 or so acres of this park that are open to the sport. The park follows the established hunting seasons. People often hunt for deer, grouse, and pheasants in the park. Turkeys are also popular game, and adventurous hunters will even shoot the odd coyote.
Hunters should be aware that many people visit the park during hunting season. Therefore, always follow the cardinal rules of hunting safety.
Water activities are a perennial favorite at Ricketts Glen. At the center of the park sits Lake Jean, a 245-acre lake used for swimming, paddling, fishing, and picnicking. There is a concession that rents canoes and kayaks, but gas-powered boats are prohibited on the lake.
Anglers will find the lake to be great for fishing. You can even go ice fishing on the lake during the winter months. People commonly catch bass, trout, and panfish.
The lake also features a 600-foot-long swimming beach, but be aware there are no lifeguards. After a long day of swimming and boating, you can picnic using one of the charcoal grills provided at the park’s picnic areas.
How Many Waterfalls Are in Ricketts Glen State Park?
Ricketts Glen State Park features 22 named waterfalls. The best way to see them is to take the Falls Trail, a loop trail that takes hikers past 18 of the 22 falls. The trail’s total length is 7.2 miles, but a smaller loop of 3.2 miles can also be taken.
The Falls Trail is somewhat rugged, with many steep and wet sections. It does require sturdy shoes as parts of the trail are slick and rough, so bring proper footwear. Flip-flops or sandals will be inadequate. You may want to bring trekking poles and some basic supplies like water and snacks with you as well. That said, the trail is doable for most people.
There are three main parking areas to access the Falls Trail. The first is the Lake Rose Trailhead, which (as the name suggests) is located adjacent to Lake Rose. This trailhead is the closest to the trail, requiring only about a 5- to 10-minute walk to get to the Falls Trail. However, it is also convenient to the campground and tends to fill up fast, so plan to get to this trailhead early.
The next-best place to access the Falls Trail is from Beach Parking Lot #2. The parking lot is located just south of Lake Jean and is about a 15- to 20-minute walk from the trailhead. Head down the trail adjacent to Cabin Colony Road and then take a right onto the Highland Trail just before the Lake Leigh Dam. The Highland Trail feeds into the Falls Trail.
The other way to access the trail is to head to the parking lot on PA-118. This location is about a mile and a half from the waterfalls, but they offer a pleasant hike among towering old-growth trees, which is a fun experience in and of itself.
Ricketts Glen: A Must-See Pennsylvania State Park
Rickett’s Glen State Park is one of the best parks in Pennsylvania. The unparalleled natural splendor of the old-growth forests and the peaceful beauty of the lakes and streams make for relaxing and fun family trips.
Adventurous hikers can explore the Falls Trail and see some of Pennsylvania’s prettiest waterfalls, and people who like fishing, swimming, paddling, and even hunting will find something to love at Ricketts Glen. This fabulous Pennsylvania State Park is a must-see for every resident of (or visitor to) the Keystone State.