A guest post by Marc Andre of Loaded Landscapes
If you like to combine challenging hikes, beautiful scenery, and amazing photo opportunities, you will love the trails of Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania. Although it is not as well known as many other parks and destinations in the United States, it is a definite highlight for anyone who enjoys waterfalls.
Within a few hours of driving time from my home there are several epic waterfall hikes (especially in Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia), and many of them provide views of multiple waterfalls. But none can match the 21 waterfalls that are on the loop trail at Ricketts Glen.
The loop hike at Ricketts Glen is actually a combination of a few different trails (and one short stretch is actually an out-and-back extension of the loop). To see the 21 waterfalls you will hike about 5 miles. It is listed as a difficult hike because there is a lot of elevation change, but the good news is you will probably be stopping every few hundred yards to look at a waterfall. With all the waterfalls on the trail you’ll get plenty of rest, so it’s not as challenging as if you would be hiking continuously.
The best starting point for the hike is the Lake Rose Trailhead parking lot, which is at these GPS coordinates: 41.330195, -76.292250. I’d recommend checking out the official trail map here.
From the parking lot, take the falls trail and continue straight towards Ganoga Glen when the Highland Trail turns off to the left (you’ll be coming back this way at the end of the loop). By hiking down Ganoga Glen you will walk right by 10 different waterfalls ranging from 11 feet to 94 feet high. In most places the trail is right next to the creek and the waterfalls. You can walk out onto the rocks in many places, especially if the water level is low. Getting a nice view for a photo is easy at most of the waterfalls.
Some of the highlights here include Ganoga Falls, which is the highest of all the waterfalls in the park.
Tuscarora Falls is a 47 foot (14 meter) waterfall that is one of my favorites in the park.
After the tenth waterfall you will come to Waters Meet, where the loop trail will cross a bridge and head up Glen Leigh.
But before you do that, continue on the trail a short distance and there are three more waterfalls. The most picturesque of these three is Harrison Wright Falls.
After you’ve seen the three waterfalls on this stretch, turn around and head back to Waters Meet. Now you can cross the bridge and take the trail up Glen Leigh past several other waterfalls.
The first one you’ll come to is Wyandot Falls. At only 15 feet (4.5 meters) it is one of the shorter falls in the park, but I really like it as far as photography is concerned.
Another highlight on this section of the trail is Ozone Falls. At 60 feet (18 meters) it is the highest fall in Glen Leigh, but even aside from the height it is a beautiful waterfall.
In this section of the trail there are a lot of stairs on the trail because you will be gaining elevation pretty quickly. After passing several other falls you will come to Onondoga Falls, which is the last one.
Then you will take the Highland Trail and head back to the parking lot.
Tips for Hiking the Falls Trail:
- Start Early – It will take several hours to hike the 5 mile loop. On my most recent trip it took me 4 hours, which includes plenty of time to stop and photograph. This is a popular trail, so if you want to avoid getting people in your photos start as early in the day as possible. The park and trails open at sunrise. By mid-morning more people will be on the trail.
- Take a Map – The trail is very well marked and not difficult to navigate, but I like having a copy of the official trail map with me so I know which waterfalls are coming up.
- Take Some Water and a Snack – Since you’ll be on the trail for a few hours be sure you are prepared with some food and water.
- Wear Good Hiking Shoes or Boots – Most of the trail is right next to the creek and waterfalls. The rocks can be wet and very slippery. Wear shoes with good grip, and be careful. There are some places where a slip and fall could be quite dangerous.
- Visit in Spring or Fall – The best times of year for the hike are Spring and Fall. In Spring the water level tends to be higher, and fall, of course, comes with beautiful autumn colors and falling leaves. Summer is the busiest season, and this is a popular park and trail, so it can get crowded. I wouldn’t attempt this trail in the winter when there may be snow and ice on the trail.
- Visit Adams Falls if Possible – The one noteworthy waterfall in the park that is not on this trail is Adams Falls. Fortunately, Adams Falls is very easy to see. There is a parking lot that is basically right next to the waterfall. The GPS coordinates for this parking lot are: 41.299377, -76.274661.
Enjoy your hike at Ricketts Glen. Be sure to take your camera and extra batteries!
Marc Andre’s author bio:
Marc is a landscape photographer living in Pennsylvania. He is the editor of Loaded Landscapes and he enjoys visiting local parks and finding new places to photograph.
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