Discover 21 Beautiful Waterfalls At This Eastern US State Park

Since the beginning of time, waterfalls have long captivated nature lovers, artists, and explorers. Thanks to an abundance of unspoiled woodlands and lush mountain ranges, the East Coast is home to some of the most awe-inspiring cascades in the U.S. At Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania, you can see over 20 beautiful waterfalls by hiking just one trail.

Ricketts Glen State Park encompasses 13,193 acres of protected land, stretching across Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia counties. As its moniker suggests, Ricketts Glen is filled with narrow valleys and rock clefts nestled between forested mountains. The park is blanketed by towering pines, hemlocks, and oaks, some of which are over 300 years old and over 100 feet tall. The park is teeming with natural beauty, but the ultimate gem of the park is the 22 waterfalls. The waterfalls range in size from the 11-foot tall Cayuga Falls to the 94-foot tall Ganoga Falls. Though the park is massive, most of the waterfalls are clustered together in the Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark.

Park visitors can enjoy taking a dip at Lake Jean, camping, and various winter sports. However, hiking to the unique cascades is by far one of the most popular activities. There are 26 miles of trails that weave through the Glens Natural Area's woodlands, leading to the various waterfalls.

The Falls Trail

The Falls Trail is the quintessential hike at Ricketts Glen State Park. This route is a 7.2-mile loop that offers breathtaking views of 21 of the 22 natural flowing waterfalls in the state park — with the exception of Adams Falls. The trailhead can be easily accessed from the PA Route 118 Parking Area. Divided into upper and lower sections, this strenuous path provides breathtaking views of the various cascades. As you begin your trek, you'll pass through scenic old-growth forests and over rocky terrain. The lower portion of the route is around 1.5 miles long, and you'll spot just three of the waterfalls upstream. Once you reach the upper portion of the path, you'll find that most of the cascades are within a short distance from each other. Here, you'll discover picturesque views of the harrowingly beautiful Ganoga Falls. Several spots along the trail require climbing rocky staircases parallel to the waterfalls.

It's important to note that the Falls Trail is not for beginners or the faint of heart: The rough, steep terrain and slippery conditions make this hike suitable for experienced backpackers only. Before traveling to Ricketts Glen, check for any trail closures; icy and rainy weather can sometimes make this route dangerous. Though the paths and waterfalls are well-marked, carrying a copy of the Ricketts Glen State Park Trail Guide can keep you from getting lost.

Other trails at Ricketts Glen

Even those who are not tried and true trekkers can enjoy the beauty of Ricketts Glen. For a shorter, easier hike, travelers can combine portions of the Falls Trail with the park's Highland Trail. Though this moderate loop is only 3.2 miles long, it still showcases 18 of the park's waterfalls. If you're traveling with children and seeking a more family-friendly expedition, make your way to Adams Falls instead via the Evergreen Trail. From the Evergreen Parking Lot off of PA Route 118, you'll cross a small bridge over Kitchen Creek and walk about 1 mile before reaching this magnificent 36-foot-tall waterfall, which consists of three tiers that plunge into a deep pool. There is a lower observation point and a higher outlook where you can take in the views and snap a photo.

During your visit to Ricketts Glen, don't forget to explore even more trails that lead to other natural landmarks in the park. The mile-long Little Cherry Run Trail will guide you through ancient rock formations that are unique to the park. Nature lovers can't pass up a trip up the Old Bulldozer Road Trail, a 2.9-mile out-and-back hike leading to the Valley View Vista. From atop the ridge, visitors can take in the wild, mountainous landscape up to 40 miles away on some days. For the ultimate waterfall hiking experience, Ricketts Glen State Park is a must-visit destination.