One of my favorite types of hike is one that includes water views – creeks, ponds, lakes and best of all, waterfalls. So when close friends of mine started discussing a possible trip to Ricketts Glen State Park last summer, I immediately jumped at the chance to go!
What hiker wouldn’t want to explore the National Natural Landmark known best for its old growth timber and 22 wild, free-flowing waterfalls, including the 94-foot Ganoga Falls, along Kitchen Creek which flows down the Allegheny Front escarpment from the Allegheny Plateau to the Ridge and Valley Appalachians? Yes, Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the most scenic areas in Pennsylvania, a breathtaking park comprised of 13,050 acres in Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia counties.
Before grabbing your gear, packing up and heading out to Ricketts Glen, you should first reserve a campsite as far in advance as possible if you are planning to stay in the park. Both tent and trailer sites are available plus cabins with the waterfront locations along the 245-acre Lake Jean the first to go. The park also offers all the necessary amenities needed for your home away from home – such as fire pits, picnic tables, warm showers, rest rooms, and wash tubs to clean your dishes – all including in your nightly cost. Please be aware that Ricketts Glen has limited cell phone coverage which actually can be an added plus!
Now that you are there, venture out to explore 26 miles of trails, from fairly level to very steep. My favorite is the 7.2 mile Falls Trail which takes you by 22 beautiful waterfalls ranging in heights from 11 feet to 94 feet. While the terrain is rocky and can be slippery as you descend and ascend the winding path, the scenery is well worth the endeavor! Be certain to wear proper footwear and bring your hydration pack.Other hiking trails include the Beach Trail, Cherry Run Trail, Evergreen Trail, Ganoga View Trail, Grand View Trail, Highland Trail, Mountain Springs Trail, Old Beaver Dam Road Trail, Old Bulldozer Road Trail, and the Bear Walk Trail.
After hiking, you can relax on the 600-foot beach on Lake Jean or take a swim. Pack a bite to eat or grab a snack from the food and refreshment concession. Rent a canoe, kayak, row boat, and paddle boat at the beach if you didn’t bring your own. Fishing is allowed with panfish, trout and bass ready to be caught. There is also a 12.5-mile equine trail for those who bring their horse.
What is especially nice are the nights at Ricketts Glen. All who have traveled together join together to grill a scrumptious meal as they gather around the fire pit and give a toast to the enjoyable day!
Getting out into the woods and being close to nature is a wonderful experience. Turning off your cell while camping under the stars, gliding on a lake, and hiking by breathtaking waterfalls is rejuvenating. If the opportunity arises, I recommend taking action for a fit and fun getaway.
Accommodations:There are 120 tent and trailer campsites, some available year-round – all inexpensive. The campground features hot showers, flush toilets, shaded sites, gravel parking spurs and a sanitary dump station if you are planning to pitch a tent. Six campsites are ADA accessible. Pets are permitted on several designated sites. Book early to get a pet site or waterfront with lake access!
Onsite Activities: Camping, hiking, kayaking/canoeing, boating (electric motors only), beach access, swimming, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and park activities such as scavenger hunts plus presentations and shows in the onsite amphitheatre.
Nearby Activities: SUMMER – Adventure courses, air tours, boating, ATVs, bird watching, canoeing, casino, concerts, cycling, fairs and festivals, fishing, golf, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, kayaking, miniature golf, mountain biking, museums, paintball, race car experience, racetracks, river rafting, rock climbing, sailing, shooting range, shopping, skydiving, spas, tennis, train tours, trolley tours, tubing, water parks, waterskiing, wildlife viewing, winery tours and zip-lining. WINTER – Casino, concerts, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, downhill skiing, horse drawn sleigh rides, horseback riding, ice climbing, ice fishing, ice skating, museums, shopping, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, snow tubing, and spas.
Getting There:Your best bet is driving. The park is 30 miles north of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania on PA 487 in Benton; a three hour drive from Philadelphia or New York City and a four hour drive from Pittsburgh. Flying in from across the country? Car rentals are readily available at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International and Williamsport Regional Airports, each an hour from the park, and Lehigh Valley International and University Park Airports, both a two hour drive away.
Special Note: A must place to eat breakfast is the Red Rooster Pancake House and Family Restaurant, only a short drive from the park. With a homey atmosphere, everything on the menu is very reasonably priced, service is great, and the menu is extensive. Try the pumpkin nut pancakes. They are out of this world!
Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.