Ricketts Glen State Park: The Complete Guide

Waterfall at Rickets Glen State Park, PA


Shawn Grenninger / 500px / Getty Images

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Ricketts Glen State Park

Address
695 PA-487, Benton, PA 17814, USA
Phone +1 570-477-5675

Ricketts Glen State Park is located in northeastern Pennsylvania and stretches across three rural and scenic counties, including Luzerne, Columbia, and Sullivan. This park is about a three-hour-drive from Philadelphia (and the Delaware Valley) and located approximately 30 miles north of the town of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.

With more than 13,000 expansive wooded acres, Ricketts Glen is nestled in a mountainous region and home to the Glens Natural Area, which is a popular national natural landmark. This park is widely known for its abundance of beautiful waterfalls scattered throughout the gorges, rocky cliffs, and lush woodlands. Fortunately for visitors, this park has a number of hiking trails that provide a variety of routes to admire these dramatic and beautiful natural sites.  

Open every day of the year, Ricketts Glen State Park offers plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages to enjoy. Camping and the beach areas have specific seasons, so it’s best to visit the website in advance of your visit and to make any necessary reservations if you wish to visit for more than a day.

History

The original land at Ricketts Glen State Park was purchased by Colonel R. Bruce Ricketts in the late 1800s for the purpose of using it for timber. He built a network of trails and named many of the area’s waterfalls after local Native American Tribes. Later, his descendants purchased more parcels of land and eventually the park opened as a recreational destination in 1944. Many improvements and enhancements were made over the years.

Wooden bridge at Ricketts Glen State Park


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The Best Things to Do

Ricketts Glen State Park is home to a wide array of outdoor activities for the entire family all year round. It also offers an abundance of camping areas with accommodations of varying sizes. Some of these special highlights include:

Hike to Waterfalls

Considered one of the prettiest hiking experiences in the state of Pennsylvania, Ricketts Glen State Park includes over 26 miles of hiking trails and more than 20 waterfalls. There are several trails that lead hikers to waterfalls, and these trails range from short (about 1 mile) and easy to extremely difficult. A few of the easier trails include the Beach Trail, Evergreen Trail, and the Bear Walk Trail, as each one is less than a mile on relatively flat ground. The 7.2-mile Falls Trail is considered one of the most difficult, although most hikers say it’s worth it, as this trail twists and turns past 21 waterfalls, including the park’s highest, the famous Ganoga Falls, which reaches over 90 feet tall. 

Swimming

In summer, it’s fun to visit Ricketts Glen’s Lake Jean and the park’s 600-foot-long beach, which is open for swimming during the warmer months. It’s a popular area, and attracts locals as well as visitors, who enjoy playing in this beautiful mountain lake, which warms up a bit in July and August. It’s a comfortable place for a day trip, and it’s easy to spend a few hours at this destination. There are plenty of amenities here, including convenient concession stands for food and snacks, as well as showers and restrooms.

Boating

At Ricketts Glen, the expansive and picturesque Lake Jean is a stunning place to spend the day. This 245-acre lake is open to power and non-power boats, and all of these vessels must display an up-to-date official registration. It’s a popular spot for boating during the warmer months, so if you prefer to rent a personal watercraft while there, you are in luck! Lake Jean features a “boat concession” where you can rent canoes, paddleboards, kayaks, rowboats, and paddleboats.

Wildlife Spotting

Ricketts Glen State Park is known far and wide for its variety of wildlife, especially for its diverse species of birds, which attracts bird watchers from across the globe. In fact, the park is featured in the official Audubon Susquehanna River Birding and Wildlife trail. While visiting, you may see bald eagles, many migrating birds—and more than 23 species of warblers. This extensive trail network brings together many of Pennsylvania’s optimal viewing sites. Besides birds, you can expect deer, raccoons, snakes, squirrels, skunks, and waterfowl, among others. Not surprisingly, this park is home to many Black Bears—so be sure to educate yourself about bear safety before hiking or camping here. Hunting is also permitted here, depending on the season, so check the park’s websites for details.

Fishing

Fishing enthusiasts will be thrilled to learn that you can fish here all year round. Although fishing is not permitted in the specific “Natural Glens area,” in the summer and spring on Lake Jean, you can fish for warm water game fish and panfish.

In winter, ice fishing is allowed at Lake Jean. However, you are responsible for testing the ice’s thickness with a special tool (called an “augur”) before venturing onto the frozen ice. There is a 4-inch thickness required for a single person and 7-inches required for a group -- although keep in mind that the thickness of the ice is not monitored. There are a number of safety regulations listed on the park’s website.

Picnicking

Ricketts Glen State Park is a great place to have a picnic, as there are so many idyllic areas to relax and enjoy the scenery. This park’s picnic areas and pavilions are located near Lake Jean as well as in the area near PA Route 118. If you wish to barbecue, there are a number of grills available for rent as well (and charcoal disposals are situated in the picnic areas).

Be sure to reserve a picnic area and grill in advance of your visit on the Rickett’s Glen website.

Camping and Lodging

 It’s easy to stay the night (or two) at Ricketts Glen State Park, as this rustic destination has a vast number of diverse camping sites and configurations, ideal for guests of all ages. (They range from basic to modern and are ADA compliant). Situated in scenic locations around the park, these styles of lodging options are:  

  • Deluxe cottages: Open from April until October, there are five two-room Deluxe Cottages at the park that feature electrical power and include many amenities, such as a refrigerator, microwave oven, electric cooking range, heat, a table and chairs, kitchen counters, bunk beds and more. Outside, you’ll find your own picnic table and fire pit. (Showers and restrooms are nearby).
  • Modern cabins: The park includes ten furnished modern cabins with a number living rooms, full bathrooms and two or three bedrooms.
  • Campsites: This park features a number of basic campsites with picnic tables. The specific locations are identified on the website and can be selected individually. There are restrooms and showers close by.

Tips for Visitors

  •  Just like most national and state parks, it’s highly encouraged to plan your trip in advance. The summer months draw the most crowds and the lodging may be booked well in advance.
  • It’s easy to visit the park for a day trip if you plan accordingly, but if you’re interested in reserving a picnic area, campsite, or cabin, be sure to check availability and book your stay before arriving.
  • Be sure to get familiar with the park’s layout, trail closures, and safety regulations (especially when it comes to wildlife) prior to your visit. The park’s website lists items that are (and are not) available at the campsites, so you may need to bring supplies.
  •  If you’re considering a visit to the beautiful Ricketts Glen State Park, you might want to check out their unique virtual events calendar on their website. These activities offer visitors a chance to explore the area from home.
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Ricketts Glen State Park: The Complete Guide