Ricketts Glen harbors Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark. Take the Falls Trail and explore the Glens, which boasts a series of wild, free-flowing waterfalls, each cascading through rock-strewn clefts in this ancient hillside. The 94-foot Ganoga Falls is the highest of 22 named waterfalls. Old growth timber and diverse wildlife add to the scenic area. Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the most scenic areas in Pennsylvania. This large park is comprised of 13,050 acres in Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia counties.
Picnic facilities are located in the Lake Jean area and in the lower area off PA 118. A limited number of charcoal grills and hot charcoal disposals are located in the picnic areas. Two picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved pavilions are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The 600-foot beach is open from late-May to mid-September, 8 a.m. to sunset. Swim at your own risk. Please follow posted rules and regulations. A food and refreshment concession, boat rental and picnic facilities are nearby.
Swimming is permitted inside of the designated area only.
Food and Refreshment Concession:
The snackbar is in the park's Beach Area. The concession can be accessed by Parking Lot 1 or Parking Lot 2 off of Main Park Road off of PA 487, 3.7-miles north of the town of Red Rock. The concession serves a variety of hot sandwiches along with cold and hot beverages and ice cream. Other items include candy, snack food, and ice. The concession is open (weather permitting) from Memorial Day through Labor day, 7-days per week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Boating: electric motors only
The 245-acre Lake Jean has dry mooring and two boat launches. A boat rental concession operates during the summer season and offers rowboats, paddleboats, kayaks and canoes.
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission..
The 245-acre Lake Jean has warm-water game fish, panfish and trout. Please follow all Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission rules and regulations. Fishing is prohibited in the Glens Natural Area.
Hiking: 26 miles of trails
Trails vary from fairly level to very steep hills. The 26 miles of trails are a prime attraction of the park.
CAUTION: Hikers on the Falls Trail should be in good physical condition, wear sturdy boots, and use caution due to slippery/wet conditions and steep trail sections.
The Falls Trail is closed in the winter except for properly equipped ice climbers and hikers.
Beach Trail: 0.8-mile, easiest hiking
Campers in both camping areas can access the Lake Jean day-use and swimming areas without having to travel on a road.
Cherry Run Trail: 4.6 miles, more difficult hiking
Near the Lake Leigh dam is access to Cherry Run Trail, where hikers will pass through groves of cherry trees and view evidence of the old logging railroads that passed through this area over 100 years ago. Hikers can connect to Mountain Springs Trail by walking 3.5-miles on Mountain Springs Road.
Evergreen Trail: 1 mile, easiest hiking
Self-guiding tours take visitors into old growth forest, one of the few stands remaining in all of Pennsylvania. Hikers can see a hemlock that stood on this continent before Columbus. This is an easy, 1 mile hike into the past.
Ganoga View Trail: 2.8 miles, more difficult hiking
Named after the park’s highest waterfall, this trail allows hikers to walk up to the side of Ganoga Falls without having to hike the Falls Trail. Although the trail is easy to moderate hiking, use caution where it meets Falls Trail due to the switchbacks and drop-offs. Ganoga View along with the Old Beaver Dam Road Trail makes an excellent loop trail for hikers and cross-country skiers.
Grand View Trail: 1.9-miles, more difficult hiking
This trail takes hikers to the highest point on Red Rock Mountain (elevation 2,449 ft). In mid-June, the beautiful mountain laurel is in bloom. The best view is during the limited time that the fire tower is open (fire season in the spring and fall). In mid-July, the high bush blueberries bear fruit, and in the fall, there are awe inspiring views of the fall foliage encompassing the surrounding hillsides, making this trail a pleasant hike at any time of the year.
Highland Trail: 1.2-miles, more difficult hiking
The trail cuts across the top of the Falls Trail and crosses through Midway Crevasse, a narrow passageway between large blocks of Pocono sandstone conglomerates that were deposited throughout this area by glacial movements. At least three times in the last one million years, continental glaciers buried this land under hundreds of feet of ice. This trail makes an excellent area for geological study groups.
Mountain Springs Trail: 4 miles, more difficult hiking
Heading off of the beaten path, this trail takes hikers on a 4-mile hike passed the old Lake Leigh Dam, the forgotten falls, and down the south branch of Bowmans Creek to the serene Mountain Springs Lake area. Hikers can connect to Cherry Run Trail by walking 3.5-miles on Mountain Springs Road.
Old Beaver Dam Road Trail: 1.2-miles, more difficult hiking
Named for the old beaver dam that can be seen just off the trail, this trail makes an excellent loop trail for hikers and cross-country skiers. Access is from a small pull-off of PA 487, or from the Lake Rose parking lot.
Old Bulldozer Road Trail: 2.9 miles, most difficult hiking
With its unique name (once used by a bulldozer to get to the top of the mountain to build the park), comes quite an elevation change. Accessed from the parking lot on PA 118, this trail is used by hikers and snowmobilers to access Mountain Springs Trail. Although most of the trail is easy to moderate hiking, a short section just up from the bottom is very steep.
The Bear Walk Trail: 1 mile, easiest hiking
Walk the trail of the bears - this short trail accesses other trails for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and hiking. It runs from the entrance of the cabin area to Lake Rose.
Horseback Riding: 12.5-mile loop
Horse riders may enjoy taking a 12.5-mile loop by riding the Cherry Run Trail, Fish Commission Road, and Mountain Springs Trail. Sights to see include: old railroad grades, Mountain Springs Lake (formerly used to make ice), and an old concrete dam once used to hold back Lake Leigh (now a dry lake). Riders must bring their own mounts. Horses cannot be rented.
Stay the Night
Camping: flush toilets, warm showers
There are 120 tent and trailer campsites, some available year-round. The campground features hot showers, flush toilets, shaded sites, gravel parking spurs and a sanitary dump station. Six campsites are ADA accessible. Pets are permitted on designated sites.
Free Camping for Campground Hosts: one host position
The modern campground host site has amenities that include 200-amp electric service and water hookup (septic is not on site, but a dump station is available). A long-term stay from April through October is preferred, but not required. The host is required to assist park personnel inspect buildings, light cleanup, greet people, litter pick-up, light maintenance and fire ring cleaning. Contact the park office for additional information and availability.
Ten modern rental cabins are available year-round. Cabins are furnished and have a living area, kitchen/dining area, toilet/shower room and two or three bedrooms. Cabin F is ADA accessible. Linens and dishes are not provided.
Organized Group Tenting:
Qualified adult and youth groups may use this 240-person capacity area that is equipped with picnic tables, water and flush toilets. The area is open from the third Monday in April to the third Monday in October. Advance reservations are recommended.
Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.
Hiking trails may be skiied when snow cover permits.
Many trails allow snowmobiles after the end of deer hunting when conditions permit.
Lake Jean offers ice fishing. Ice thickness is not monitored. Be sure the ice is at least four inches thick and carry safety equipment.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Natural wetlands, old growth forests and majestic geological formations, which helped produce 22 beautiful waterfalls, make Ricketts Glen an excellent choice for outdoor studies. From March to November, the environmental education specialist conducts hands-on activities, guided walks and presentations on the natural and historical resources for school groups, scouts, civic organizations and the general public. Call in advance to set up a program that will enhance your classroom or group studies. Campers and visitors may check the bulletin boards and at the park office for listings of weekend programs and nature hikes.
How to Access the Waterfalls
Twenty-one waterfalls are along the Falls Trail within the Glens Natural Area, while one (Adams) is only a few hundred feet from the Evergreen Parking Lot off PA 118.
There are three parking lots that provide access to the Falls Trail. Lake Rose is at the end of the dirt road across from the campground and provides the closest access (5-10 minutes), but fills up quickly during peak times. An alternative is to park in Beach Parking Lot #2, leave the lot and walk down the Cabin Road (first road just outside of the lot), past a park gate, and onto a section of trail to the first intersection where you go right (15-20 minute access). The parking lots on PA 118 are 1.5 miles from the first waterfall upstream on the Falls Trail, but allow a good view of old growth trees.
The full loop of the Falls Trail is 7.2 miles if hiking both the upper and lower sections. To see most of the waterfalls, a 3.2-mile loop can be taken by going on Highland Trail and the Glen Leigh and Ganoga Glen sides of the trail.
Ricketts Glen is famous for its exceptional diversity of bird life, from 23 varieties of warblers to bald eagles, which is to why the park has been included in the official Audubon Susquehanna River Birding and Wildlife Trail across Pennsylvania. This series of trails connects some of Pennsylvania’s finest birding and wildlife viewing sites, as well as important historical and natural areas.
The Bear Truths
Many Pennsylvania state parks are habitat for black bears. Although they appear cute and cuddly like a teddy bear, black bears are wild animals. A black bear can scramble up a tree like a raccoon and sprint as fast as a race horse. Bears use their claws to tear apart rotting logs to find food, and those claws also work well to open garbage cans and coolers. The size and strength of a black bear are astonishing.
Black bears have poor eyesight and fair hearing, but an excellent sense of smell. Aromatic scents coming from your personal items can attract a curious and hungry bear from a great distance. Bears are attracted to the smell of toothpaste, deodorants, air fresheners, food and even the clothes worn while cooking.
Store all items inside a vehicle. At primitive, walk-in campsites, suspend food between two trees, ten feet in the air and three feet from either tree.
Black bears normally avoid people, but bears dependent on eating human food can become aggressive when people get between them and food.
If you come in contact with a black bear, try chasing it away by making loud noises like yelling, honking a car horn or banging a pot. Notify a park employee if you have difficulties with bears.
Never approach a bear and be especially wary of mother bears and cubs.
Hiker's Guide to the Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of Ricketts Glen State Park, by George P. Chamuris, Ph. D., Bloomsburg University. departments.bloomu.edu/biology/ricketts/
History of Ricketts Glen
At the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, Robert Bruce Ricketts enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army. Fighting for the Grand Army of the Potomac, Ricketts led Battery F during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Ricketts swiftly moved up in the ranks and when the war ended, was discharged a colonel.
Colonel Ricketts at one time owned outright or controlled over 80,000 acres of land in this area.
His heirs, through the Central Penn Lumber Company, sold 48,000 acres to the Pennsylvania Game Commission from 1920-24. This left them with over 12,000 acres surrounding the Ganoga Lake, Lake Jean and Glens area.
Although the area was approved as a national park site in the 1930s, World War II brought an end to this plan for development. In 1942 the heirs sold 1,261 acres, the Falls and Glens area, to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a state park.
Additional purchases from Colonel Ricketts’ son, William Ricketts, in 1943 and 1949, resulted in a park nucleus of approximately 10,000 acres of former Ricketts holdings. Additional purchases from other individuals have brought the park to its present size.
Recreational facilities first opened in 1944. In 1950, the former Department of Forests and Waters replaced Lake Jean Dam with a larger, earthen dam, which combined Lake Jean with Mud Pond, creating the current 245-acre lake.
Other facility improvements and constructions have been done over the years, like the beach house, restrooms and cabins.
History of the Glens Natural Area
In 1868, Colonel R. Bruce Ricketts bought land in northeast Pennsylvania to timber it. Fishermen exploring the lower reaches of Kitchen Creek discovered waterfalls. Explorations revealed that two branches of Kitchen Creek cut through deep gorges in a series of waterfalls then united at Waters Meet and flowed through a glen among giant pines, hemlocks and oaks. Col. Ricketts built trails to the area of the waterfalls, which came to be known as the Glens Natural Area.
A member of the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, Col. Ricketts named many of the waterfalls after American Indian tribes. He also named waterfalls for his friends and family.
The lower glen came to be called Ricketts Glen. Many of the magnificent trees in this area are over 300 years old. Diameters of almost four feet are common and many trees tower to 100 feet in height. The area is the meeting ground of the southern and northern hardwood types, creating an extensive variety of trees.
The Glens became a registered National Natural Landmark in 1969, and in 1993 became a State Park Natural Area and will be protected and maintained in a natural state.
695 State Route 487, Benton, PA 17814More Info