I always forget how rigorous hiking can be. In my head, it’s a simple walk along a forested trail. Years of Boy Scouts trained me to take even simple outings seriously, though, so I always bring extra water and wear serious shoes (and socks) on what I expect to be a routine adventure. This was a routine adventure; don’t let me get your hopes up, but it was also more physically demanding than we’d expected.
The Falls Trail (in Ricketts Glen State Park) follows Kitchen Creek through the three glens it’s carved into the Pocono Mountains, cascading in twenty-four places to form waterfalls named by Mr. Rickett himself. The glens form a Y shape, with Water’s Meet at the crux, where the two branches of the creek come together. Our campsite was right by Lake Jean, which is connected by a little stream to Lake Rose, out of which flows Kitchen Creek. Well, half of it: the lefthand branch (on a map) north of Waters Meet. The other branch begins at Lake Leigh.
There are three glens, as I mentioned: one for each branch of Kitchen Creek and one downstream from Waters Meet: Ricketts Glen itself. We hiked down Ganoga Glen, the one with a trailhead at the Lake Rose Parking Lot. It was not my favorite thing to hike down then turn around and walk back up, but as we walked from our campsite (which was ideal), it wasn’t much of a pain. In the neck, that is. We happened to choose one of the most strenuous hikes in the park, and it certainly lived up to that assertion. To be clear, it wasn’t dangerous, so long as we behaved acceptably around precipices and set our feet deliberately on wet rocks. The point of the Falls Trail is to see as many waterfalls as possible, and as a result, serious portions of the trail are long sets of stone steps. They’re not exactly fun, but the trail is not treacherous and has plenty of opportunity to stand aside and rest—still surrounded by waterfalls and old growth forest.
The advantage to doing this hike the way we did is that it only has to be as hard as you make it. I highly recommend getting as far as Ganoga Falls, as it is the largest waterfall in the park. The pool carved into the rock sits almost a hundred feet below the stream at the top, and coming from upstream, there is almost no inclination that it’s coming. Instead, as you mosey on down the trail, it curves to the right as the creek disappears. As you approach, you first get an idea of the edge, then that it cascades down in steps, then the full scope of the drop comes into focus. It’s a long way down.
Each waterfall on the trail is distinct and was named by Mr. Rickett himself, who donated the land to the state of Pennsylvania once he was done with it. Next time I’m at Ricketts Glen, I’m going to try to do a four(ish) mile hike that’ll show me all the major waterfalls—and only require minimal backtracking. I’ll start at the top of one branch, hike to Waters Meet, then go the half mile to the bottom-most waterfall that’s always visible, Murray Reynolds. I’ll cheerily backtrack, seeing two other falls below Waters Meet from another angle (both bigger than Murray Reynolds) before returning to the fork. I’ll then take the other fork, thus seeing most of the falls in a single outing. There are a couple more downstream from Murray Reynolds, but they can be hard to see, or are not spectacular enough to walk an extra mile.
I cannot wait to go back to Ricketts Glen. A single weekend was not enough (and I’m sure I wasn’t in good enough shape) to fully enjoy what the park has to offer. I’m actually rather disappointed I didn’t get to see all the waterfalls, so you can bet your boots I’ll be back. First, however, I have another place I’ll be returning.