Last weekend, J and I were lucky enough to be in the Wilkes-Barre area for a wedding and got to do one of my bucket list hikes: Ricketts Glen. This incredible hike features over 20 waterfalls, with the tallest plunging nearly 100ft. In just under 5 miles, this loop will stun you at each turn with gorgeous views. Be prepared for some serious inclines though! The waterfalls definitely make it worth it! This is a great hike to pack a lunch and have a picnic at the midpoint. After you’re done basking in nature’s glory, head over to Back Mountain Brewing for a refreshing draft in a cozy local taproom. Sounds like an autumn dream to me!
THE HIKE: Ricketts Glen Waterfall Loop
Length: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 873 ft
Time: 2.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot at trailhead – fills up quickly
Ricketts Glen is one of 124 state parks managed by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. It covers over 13,000 acres in Northeastern PA, including sections in Luzerne, Columbia, and Sullivan counties. This area was originally the tribal lands of the Susquehannock and Lenape peoples. The area’s namesake Colonel R. Bruce Ricketts bought land in this area for logging. While the land was being clear cut for logging, the cascading waterfalls along the creeks were discovered. Colonel Ricketts left some preserved areas around the Glen and even built trails so people could admire the natural beauty of the area. Eventually in the 1920s, Ricketts’ heirs sold the land to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and plans were put in place to create a new national park. World War II put a halt to that and eventually the park opened in the 1940’s as a state park. Many of the named waterfalls in the park pay homage to the Native Americans that once lived on the land
This Falls Trail Loop is by far the highlight of the Ricketts Glen State Park, which not only means that it is gorgeous but also that it is very popular. If you go on a weekend, expect to share the trail with many visitors. The parking lot can also fill up, and the rangers will direct you to overflow parking at the Lake Jean Beach, which will add a few tenths of a mile to your journey. Thankfully, we were able to squeeze into the main lot on a sunny Saturday morning. These trails are very clearly marked as it follows along the creek but I was surprised that the loop wasn’t one-way. I’m been seeing a lot more popular hiking areas designating a specific flow of traffic in their parks but not here! We ended up going counterclockwise (keeping to the right) which meant that we saw waterfalls right away but had to turn around to see them. It often felt like we were fighting the flow of traffic, although people were walking both ways. The path is mostly rocky steps which can be slippery and narrow at times, so you’ll find yourself waiting a lot for others to pass before you can have a turn. Were I to go back, I would rather start out going clockwise so that the hike ends with the last big ascent to some of the waterfalls. However, the nature of the split creek along the trails means that no matter which way you start, you have to go down and then up!
I found this to be a moderately challenging hike but it would be difficult for some. There are a lot of steps that could be tough on the knees. A lot of older hikers had poles to help steady themselves on some of the more treacherous parts. This hike was also very popular for people with dogs, which I was a bit iffy on. I love dogs, but I get frustrated with people who aren’t used to taking their dog for hikes and it isn’t well trained enough for a busy path. Overall, I would just plan for some extra time on this hike because you won’t be moving very fast, plus you’ll want to stop at every corner to take pictures!
THE BEER: Back Mountain Brewery
Address: 1174 Twin Stacks Dr, Dallas, PA 18612
Distance from Trail Head: 23 miles, 30 mins
Food?: Snacks & Food truck
Details: Outdoor seating, dog friendly outside
H&H Rating: 4/5
After leaving the park, head along PA-118 towards Wilkes-Barre. This brewery is a bit further from the trailhead than I usually do, but the drive is so gorgeous, definitely worth it! We were treated to a beautiful display of fall foliage along the winding highway! Back Mountain Brewing Company is nestled in an old mill turned commercial property. The microbrewery offers up around 8 different brews at a time as well as pub snacks. There’s also usually a food truck on the weekends! The taproom space is very eclectic, with a mashup of old industrial and patriotic vibes. The owners traveled the world when co-founder Clay Cadwalader was enlisted in the army. After retirement, Clay undertook a brewing and distilling apprenticeship and brought his knowledge back to his hometown in Dallas, PA to start a brewery. Back Mountain officially opened their doors in August 2021 and has quickly become a friendly, local spot for the community to come together. They offer a lot of events throughout the week, including a hopping trivia night!
Unfortunately we couldn’t stay too long at Back Mountain since we had to get back to wedding shenanigans, but this was a perfect place to come and relax. We wish them all the best in their second year of business!
- Dumbest Hazy – NEIPA – 7.6%
- Ol’ 76 Stout – American Stout – 6%
SUM UP: Ricketts Glen is a popular state park in Northeastern PA, well known for its unique waterfalls. Along a 4.5 mile loop, you can see 22 named waterfalls, as well as a number of smaller water features. The trail is moderately difficult and does involve a lot of steps and potentially slippery surfaces. This is popular hike so the main lot may fill up on the weekends. After the hike, take the scenic PA-118 to go to Back Mountain Brewing, a newer nanobrewery that focuses on quality beers in a cozy taproom. Head out asap for peak fall foliage!