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Day-tripping Ricketts Glen: How to get to and explore this hiker’s paradise (bonus: waterfalls)

Sometimes you just have to get away — but not that far away. Philadelphia is a three-hour drive or train ride from so many places. You can go, spend a day and come back that night. No hotel required. This summer Billy Penn will highlight the best places to go for these “Day Trips” every Friday.

Sometimes you just need to get out of the city and take a full day trip to one of the most scenic places in Pennsylvania. Ricketts Glen State Park, a 13,000-acre park northwest of Wilkes-Barre, features 26 miles of hiking and more than 20 waterfalls, including one that’s more than 90-feet tall.

So grab a friend, pack a lunch and make a plan to get away from the concrete jungle.

How to Get There

Driving to Ricketts Glen is really going to be your best bet. It’s going to take roughly three hours to get there, and you’ll be taking 476 most of the way. Here’s directions:

Costs/ tickets

There’s not much you’ll have to pay for at Ricketts Glen because it’s a state park. The only thing you’d have to drop cash on is if you’re camping out, but considering this is a *day* trip guide, we’ll assume you’re not doing that. There’s also a snack bar in the Beach Area. The stand can be accessed by Parking Lot 1 or Parking Lot 2 off of Main Park Road. The concession serves hot sandwiches along with beverages and ice cream.

Hiking guide

With more than 26 miles of hiking trails that vary in difficulty and length, you’ll be able to find something for everyone.

If you don’t have kids with you and are in relatively good shape, I’d recommend taking the Falls Trail. It’s 7.2 miles long and hikes both the upper and lower sections of the Glen, and you’ll see the 21 waterfalls that really make Ricketts Glen something special. The hike culminates with an area that’s deep enough that thrill-seekers jump off the cliff above and into the water. (Note: This is probably not allowed. You didn’t hear it from me.)

A few tips from the experts at Ricketts Glen:

  • Always wear sturdy boots. Wearing sneakers, sandals, “water shoes” and “street shoes” can lead to serious accidents.
  • Be prepared. Have proper clothing and equipment (i.e. compass, map, matches, water, food, flashlight, etc.) available in case of an emergency. This is especially important when traveling remote trails or when hiking during non-summer seasons.
  • Give yourself plenty of time for your hike. The weather changes quickly in the park. Plan to be off the trails well before dark.
  • Let someone know where you are hiking and when you should return.
  • Stay on the trails. Leaving the trail causes damage to unique natural resources, promotes erosion and can be dangerous.
  • Don’t take shortcuts from one trail section to another. Taking shortcuts down switchbacks is dangerous and causes trail damage.
  • Double blazes indicate a change in the trail’s direction.

There are a number of other trails that vary in difficulty. Find them here. 

What to do other than hiking

Have a picnic: Picnic facilities are located in the Lake Jean area and in the lower area off PA 118. A limited number of charcoal grills and hot charcoal disposals are located in the picnic areas.

Go swimming: The 600-foot beach is open from late-May to mid-September, 8 a.m. to sunset.

Go fishing: The 245-acre Lake Jean has warm-water game fish, panfish and trout. (Fishing is prohibited in the Glens Natural Area.) Complete information on fishing rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.

Top restaurants

There are a few small restaurants and diners near Ricketts Glen, but the state park is kind of in the middle of nowhere. Your best bet if you want choices is to head to Wilkes-Barre on your way back to Philly and grub there.

The best restaurants in the area:

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