Disclaimer: Caution must be used at all times as natural hazards exist in the wilderness. Please play wisely and follow the applicable state guidance for travel and safety considerations.
Ricketts Glen closes trails in the winter due to the conditions. Check the park website for more details.
Ricketts Glen is a State Park with over 13,000 acres located within three counties in northern Pennsylvania. Ricketts Glen is most famous for their waterfall loop trail, where you can see over 20 waterfalls.
The waterfall loop trail is between four to five miles, depending on the exact route that you take and if you go off the loop slightly to see an additional three waterfalls. We walked the shortest part of the loop and estimate the hike to be about 4.5 miles. It’s an action packed hike between the waterfalls, bridges, and beautiful scenery. The hike seemed to go fast, even with a 4 year old and 8 year old in tow.
Planning Your Hike
Ricketts Glen can be a very popular destination on the weekends, so we chose to go on a weekday and arrive very early. We pulled into the Lake Rose parking lot at 8:30 AM. There were only a few car in the spacious parking lot. Keep in mind that once we left around noon, the lot was full and was blocked for entry. We did notice upon driving by again later in the afternoon that the parking lot reopened, so we’re assuming it is monitored for available space.
Lake Rose Trailhead Parking
Upon arriving at the Lake Rose parking lot, there is a shelter area and two restrooms. If the lot is mostly empty, park on the far side of the lot near the map of the trails, which is the trail head.
The trail begins with a few steps down into the forest and continues on an easy forest path for about a quarter to a half mile. Then a decision needs to be made. At the fork in the trail, if you go right, you’ll come across the first waterfall after about a quarter mile. If you go left, you’ll hike over a mile until you see the first waterfall. Since the trails intersect into a loop, you can go either way.
We decided to hike the flat, non-waterfall portion at the end of our hike, when the kids would most likely be tired. So, we choose to go right and head directly for the more difficult hike first, and immediate waterfall views. The first waterfall we encountered was Mohawk falls and for the next part of the trail it seemed like there was one waterfall right after another, for a total of ten waterfalls on this leg of the trail.
At the next intersection of the trails, in an area called “Waters Meet”, we could choose to hike for a bit off of the loop trail to see three more waterfalls. Since we didn’t know if the kids could handle the additional mileage, we decided to stay on the loop trail. There was still seven more waterfalls to see on the loop trail, plus the mile of flat hiking to get back to the Lake Rose trail head parking lot.
In the next area of the loop, there are a few bridges over the creek, and the trail becomes an ascent instead of a descent like the first part of the waterfall trail. In most places, there are very good rock stairs to help with the climb. Some of the areas can be steep and narrow, so we helped the kids to ensure they had good footing and were safe.
Once we completed the waterfall portion of the loop, the trail was an easy and flat hike back to the parking lot. One stop along the flat portion of the hike is the Midway Crevasse. It’s a rock grouping that has a narrow passage between them. People seemed to be stopping for a break in this area to admire the rocks. The kids were tired, so we pushed on and made it back to the car.
For a reward after the amazing, but long hike, we took the kids to the Lake at Ricketts Glen. The lake includes a 600-foot sandy beach for relaxing and swimming. To get to the beach, we had to move the car from the Lake Rose Trail head to the beach parking lot.
In the beach area, there are picnic tables, restrooms, changing rooms, and a nice wide beach. The beach is great for the kids to play and splash in the water. The restroom buildings look to be fairly new and well taken care of. We relaxed under the trees and had a picnic lunch. Then, spent our last hour at Ricketts Glen cooling off in the lake.
Things to Remember:
- Consider going on a weekday and arrive early. The shortest path to the waterfalls from the Lake Rose parking area fills very quickly on weekends.
- Wear sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. It’s mostly possible to just admire the waterfalls, but there are a few places it can be muddy or slippery.
- Be prepared to climb steep, natural stairs. Waters Meet is a good place to stop and rest, and it’s about halfway around the loop.
- It’s a long hike, so pack water and snacks.
Looking for More State Parks?
Check out – Swatara State Park, Ohiopyle State Park, and Rocks State Park