Legend has it that during the lumber-boom days, a boy was cutting down a tree in what is now Pennsylvania’s Ricketts Glen State Park when it fell and killed him. A sapling grew from the ground where he died and has never produced a single leaf to this day, and people report hearing voices in the wind all over the park.
OK, so you may not spot a ghost here, but it is guaranteed you’ll see some of the most incredible waterfalls on the East Coast. The hike’s nothing to get spooked about, either: The 7-mile loop is accessible to any level of hiker during the summer.
What is it?
Ricketts Glen is named after U.S. Army Colonel Robert Bruce Ricketts, who owned 80,000 acres of land in Pennsylvania in the mid-1800s. (He eventually led Battery F in the Battle of Gettysburg.) Later, his heirs sold 48,000 acres to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and in 1930 the area was approved as a national park.
World War II came along and plans fell through, but eventually the park was turned over to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a state park area. That park is now a beautiful destination for hikers interested in old-growth timber forest, abundant wildlife, turquoise pools and more than 20 waterfalls reaching as high as 94 feet.
Where is it?
There are a few different parking lots, but plug this into your GPS to get there: 695 S. R. 487, Benton, PA 17814.
Leashed dogs allowed. No entrance fee. Camping is available. Elevation gain for Fall Trail loop: 1,000 feet.
How to get there
Hike the trail from Route 118, which you’ll take from Dallas (Pennsylvania, of course) until you spot signs for the park. The first entrance is to your right, where you’ll find a paved parking lot with primitive bathrooms and park information. Park a little farther down the street on the left for a picnic area.
What to do
Take Fall Trail toward the waterfalls; there are clearly marked signs at each intersection on the trail. Snap a picture of the wooden trail map toward the beginning of your hike; you’ll encounter quite a few waterfalls along the walk, where there will probably be a gathering of people taking pictures.
There are some steep areas and a few bridges, and be cautious in areas where the ground is wet. This is an incredible winter hike, as there are massive ice formations, but it’s also extremely dangerous and only experienced hikers and ice climbers are allowed in the park then.
What to bring
Light hiking boots, water and a camera. During colder months, all hikers must be equipped with crampons and other gear. Check with the park offices to get details on requirements.
Hike early and bring a tripod if you own a DSLR camera. Low light conditions and steady flowing waterfalls will make for amazing, milky water photos if you set a slow shutter speed.
Visit the park during a holiday or busy weekend if you can help it. Slow hikers, children and dogs clog up narrow walkways and some pretty long lines start forming at bottlenecks. Plus, you’ll probably be pissed if you catch a noob carving his name into the rocks.