Ricketts Glen State Park

by madcanoe on August 25, 2008

One of my favorite places to spend a day in the Pennsylvania outdoors is at Ricketts Glen State Park located near Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. The park is approximately 13,000 acres, and in my opinion, ranks as one of the most scenic state parks in Pennsylvania. At this park you really can get a great dose of nature.

I discovered Ricketts Glen a few years ago while visiting the park, but visiting only because the local kayak dealer was having a boat demonstration on the lake. While I could enjoy visiting any state park, it was during this visit, only for the boat demo, that I discovered Ricketts Glen had more to offer than just the 245 acre Lake Jean. The highlight of the park is actually a series of 22 natural flowing waterfalls ranging up to 94 feet in height, located within an old growth forest natural area. 

I’ve hiked this natural area in the spring, summer, autumn and winter months, each season offering very unique and memorable experiences. If you really want to capture a sense of the size and glory of the waterfalls you’ll need to visit during the early spring or right after very hard rains. It’s during these high water periods you might become enamored with the incredible presence of nature, but you also might develop the sense of how delicate it all is. And while thinking of this delicate balance of nature I occasionally found myself anchoring my footing from the powerful current clearly capable of sweeping me to my demise.

Hiking the trail during the summer months is actually my least favorite time of year because the water flow is diminished and all I really got out of it was a good workout with the many other visitors I encountered on the narrow, steep trail. 

And of course the fall season delivers a colorful hike through an old growth forest highlighted with waterfalls and colorful reflections that you just can’t experience anywhere that I know of in Pennsylvania. 

But my favorite hike was a few days after a snow storm on a late afternoon in January. The sound and sight of cascading waterfalls added to the sense of seclusion that is often experienced in nature during the late winter months. I hiked a portion of the trail through about 10 inches of snow, and I know for sure that I was the only person who dared to go down there in the past several days because I was breaking the trail for the first time since the snowfall. It was getting closer to dark when I decided to turn back which added to the intense feeling of vulnerability. I wouldn’t do it again by myself but it was one of my most notable outdoor experiences. Standing at the foot of a 90 foot waterfall on an icy cold evening, sliding on rocks unable to gain footing to ascend the trail, temporary out of reach from anything familiar, warding off the slight distant feeling of panic. Only howling coyotes could have intensified the experience.   

Some state parks are great for outdoor recreation, some are great for history and education, and others offer a great nature experience, and if you’re like me and you don’t mind travelling a few hours for a great nature experience then you really must visit Ricketts Glen. It offers the typical state park activities like cabin rental, tent camping, fishing, swimming, flatwater canoeing and kayaking, and hiking trails. But I really believe the natural area at Ricketts Glen offers us a realistic sense of what Pennsylvania might have been like before civilization encroached throughout the forests. 

If you want to learn more about Ricketts Glen I found a great blog post from Marcia Bonta. Visit Ricketts Glen State Park because it’s a great place where a family can share a great weekend in Pennsylvania’s outdoors.

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