Hike to Maple Run Falls-Ricketts Glen State Park


Maple Run Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

Ricketts Glen has more waterfalls than what it is on its famous Falls Trail.  There are one or two falls on Shingle Cabin Brook, and I suspect there are falls on Maple Spring Run.  However, there is also a falls hiding in plain sight, just below PA 487- Maple Run Falls.


This is a beautiful falls and one of my favorite in the park.  About 15 feet tall, it is a falls the features a spout into a deep pool.  It reminds me of a taller Cottonwood Falls, located at Worlds End State Park. In high water, it probably creates a fan of cascading water.  Above the falls is a grotto with cascades and slides under hemlocks.  Maple Run Falls is located at about 41.311159, -76.294302.


The easiest way to the falls is to park at  trailhead for the Grand View Trail (41.314650, -76.300104) and walk the east side berm down PA 487 until you see this falls.  While the berm is fairly wide, this way isn’t advisable.  The off trail route (the one I took) is to  park at the trailhead, cross PA 487, descend to Maple Run, and follow Maple Run downstream to the falls.  Along the way, enjoy some cascades and the grotto above Maple Run Falls.  The best views is to descend to the falls on the left (east) side of the creek.  You can also use the Old Beaver Dam Road Trail, hike the loop to the right, hike for 2/3rds of a mile, and then descend off trail to your right down the falls.  Hopefully, the park will construct a spur trail to the falls off of the Old Beaver Dam Road Trail.


As crowds surround the park’s other waterfalls, you can have this gem all to yourself.

More photos.


Ricketts Glen State Park Vistas


View from Ricketts Glen State Park, from above Phillips Creek.

Ricketts Glen is famous for its Falls Trail.  While the crowds descend on this beautiful trail, know that this large park has lots to explore, if you’re adventurous.  One such place is an impressive vista on the eastern side of the park.  Unfortunately, no trail leads to this vista.


Begin at the Lake Jean parking area and follow the trail down past the breach dam of Lake Leigh.  Follow the Mountain Springs or Old Bulldozer Road Trails.  Then follow the Old Bulldozer Road Trail.  You will hike through hemlock forests.  When the trail reached thick mountain laurel, stop.  Turn left (east) and go off trail keeping the laurel thickets on your right.  There was one way through the laurel that I found (it is very thick), but your goal is the eastern state park boundary line.  Reach the boundary line and head south.  The forest opens up.  Reach the ridge above a gorge; head east along game trails through the laurel.  Reach some rock outcrops that culminate into large cliffs with impressive views of Phillips Creek, a small lake, and views of distant ridges and lowlands.  You can see for 20-30 miles.  Be careful, as these are real cliffs and a fall would be fatal.


The view looks over the gorges of Phillips Creek and its tributaries.  The entire setting is quite beautiful, easily rivaling the views in other state parks.  People don’t think of Ricketts Glen as having views, but it does.  The vistas are located at approximately 41.322378, -76.238570.


I made the steep descent into the gorge of an unnamed tributary south of the vista.  There are a series of beautiful waterfalls, but it turned out they are on private land; I did not realize I entered private land as I saw no signs or boundary markers.  Regardless this glen was very scenic with big trees, small cascades, and old grades that made the hiking easy.   The eastern section of this popular park offered great isolation.


Hopefully Ricketts Glen will expand its somewhat limited trail system, similar to what Worlds End is doing.  Ricketts Glen has so much to offer, but people only know it for the Falls Trail.  By offering other quality trails, the intense pressure on the Falls Trail can be alleviated.  This vista can surely become one of the park’s highlights.

More photos.



Waterfalls of Sullivan Branch-SGL 13


One of many waterfalls on Sullivan Branch, SGL 13.

Sullivan Branch in SGL 13 is a stream known for its incredible beauty, carving a deep gorge with waterfalls, cascades, and deep pools.  This area is commonly known as the Waterfall Wonderland.  I returned to scout a route for the proposed Endless Mountains Trail; I wanted a route that would offer views of the waterfalls, but avoid the creek itself since such a route would infeasible due to the terrain and floods.


I parked at Sullivan Falls and enjoyed the view of this impressive falls as it tumbles into a large amphitheater of the rock and a deep pool.  I then followed the current trail on an old grade up Sullivan Branch.  While this is a nice trail, it avoids the waterfalls on Sullivan Branch.  I stopped at Pigeon Run and enjoyed its many waterfalls.  I continued up the old grade, passing an unnamed creek with its own grotto and waterfalls.  I soon reached Ore Run (there’s another falls up that creek as well) and took a break as Sullivan Branch tumbled over boulders and ledges.


I then hiked along the east bank above Sullivan Branch as the waterfalls soon appeared, as well as a long mini-gorge and slide.  I re-crossed the previous unnamed stream and found a great route for a trail on reasonable terrain.  The waterfalls continued, including one nearly 50 feet tall.  The scenery was impressive as I looked down the gorge to the crashing water below.  Such a beautiful place.


I’d seen these falls before and it was great to see them from a different perspective.  I reached Pigeon Run and its own glen of waterfalls.  I then returned to the pervious grade I had hiked in on and returned to my car.


As I walked to my car, I noticed a ridge on my left (east) that had some impressive rock outcrops.  Naturally, I had to check it out.  It was a tough climb under dying hemlocks, but I reached the top and explored unique ledges and giant angled, slanted boulders.  A very cool place.


I made the steep descent, being careful not to break my ankles, and returned to my car.

More photos.



Pennsylvania’s Best Backpacking Trails


View from the West Rim Trail

Pennsylvania has the most extensive system of backpacking trails in the east, in fact, it’s trail system exceeds many western states.  These are the best of Pennsylvania’s many overnight trails.

Eastern Pennsylvania

Yellow and orange

Old Loggers Path.  This 28 mile loop has become very popular in the last few years, and for good reason.  It’s isolated, has two shelters, vistas, waterfalls, swimming holes, big rocks, and great camping.  Rock Run is a stream of exceptional beauty and Sharp Top has a beautiful view.  The OLP generally has moderate, gradual terrain.


Loyalsock Trail.  This 60 mile route was first established in the 1950s, making it one of the older backpacking trails in the nation.  The LT is famous for its diverse and beautiful terrain with gorges, waterfalls, vistas, big rocks, isolation, pond, whitewater rapids, and swimming holes.  There are many scenic streams and campsites, not to mention hemlock forests along its eastern half.

Loyalsock-Link Loop.  A great 14 mile loop for an overnight, beginning at Worlds End State Park, or from US 220 and include the Haystack Rapids.

Pinchot Trail.  A great easier trail for beginner or younger backpackers.  The south loop has been re-routed to include Choke Creek, Choke Creek Falls, meadows, wetlands, spruce forests, and cascades-dramatically increasing the scenic beauty of that section.


Appalachian Trail (Michaux State Forest).  Widely considered the best section of the AT in PA, enjoy historical remnants, great views, several shelters, rock outcrops, ponds, two state parks, and not to mention the Appalachian Trail Museum.

Evening mist

Appalachian Trail- Port Clinton to Wind Gap.  Yes, this section is known for its rocks.  But with rocks, comes views and this section of the AT has some excellent ones, such as the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock.  The scrambling climb up the Lehigh Gap is a highlight as are the deep water gaps, shelters, and rock formations.  The section of the AT through the famed Lehigh Gap will be rerouted to offer more views and open ridgetop hiking.


Central Pennsylvania

Black Forest Trail.  One of PA’s premier trails, the famous 42 mile BFT is rugged and beautiful with stunning views of the Pine Creek Gorge, waterfalls, streams, meadows, and beautiful campsites.  This trail has some of the best views in the state.

West Rim Trail.  A popular 32 mile route on the west rim of the Pine Creek Gorge with several great views, scenic forests, small streams, and great camping.  There are also several off trail waterfalls.

Susquehannock Trail.  At 85 miles, the longest single-trail loop in the eastern US.  The STS offers deep woods immersion with isolation, streams, meadows, some views, and great camping.  There are now two shelters and one hut.  The highlight is the Hammersley Wild Area and its famous swimming hole.


Hammersley Wild Area.  PA’s largest and most isolated roadless area, the Hammersley is a gem.  A great loop is via the Susquehannock and Twin Sisters Trail with stunning views from the Hammersley meadows. (Hint: to return to the STS, hike off trail down the ridge from the north side of the meadows, it is an exposed ridge with several great views of the canyon).  More trails are planned in the wild area.  Hammersley Fork is a stream of great beauty.

Quehanna Wild Area.  PA’s largest wild area, the Quehanna is a hiking gem with many trails that feature open meadows, spruce and pine forests, gorges, vistas, huge rocks, pond, streams, and great camping.  Jungles of rhododendron and laurel fill the gorges.  One of my favorite areas.  What trails should you hike?  Check out the Quehanna, Bridge, Bellefonte Posse, Kunes Camp, Lincoln, Crawford Vista, David Lewis, Teaberry, East Cross Connector, Sevinsky, Meeker, and Big Spring Trails.

Mosquito Creek

Allegheny Front Trail.  A 42 mile loop west of State College offers superb streamside hiking, boardwalks, views, diverse forests, and rhododendron jungles.  There are some excellent campsites.  Trails offer a cross-connector and the eastern side of the loop is generally considered the more scenic.


Standing Stone Trail.  Nearly abandoned in the 1990s, the SST has evolved into one of PA’s finest trails.  Over 80 miles long and connecting the Mid State to the Tuscarora Trails.  It is a part of the Great Eastern Trail.  At times rocky and rugged, this trail has awesome views, old growth forests, rock formations, sinkholes, wildflowers, 1000 Steps, historical remnants, and one shelter.

Sausser's Stonepile vista

Mid State Trail-Little Juniata Water Gap to PA 45
The heart of the MST in the Seven Mountains, PA’s longest trail, features rugged ridgelines with excellent views, old growth forests, natural areas, several state parks, a tunnel, gorges, good isolation and campsites.

Mid State Trail-Woolrich to SR 2016 near Arnot
An excellent, rugged hike through the Pine Creek Gorge region that features superb vistas, waterfalls, gorges, rock formations, isolation, historical ruins, big rocks, and incredible swimming holes.

Western Pennsylvania

North Country Trail-PA 346 to Red Bridge Campground.  This trail explores the vast, beautiful Allegheny Reservoir with views over the water and great campsites.  Enjoy hemlock shaded glens, scenic streams, giant boulders, and wetlands.

North Country Trail – Guitonville Road to Highland Drive.  This section explore the stunning Cook Forest State Park and the Clarion River.  The towering old growth trees are beautiful, as is the serene Clarion River with its pristine water in a forested gorge with jungles of rhododendron.  Hikers love Maple Creek north of Cook Forest, and the waterfall on Henrys Run just south of the state park.

Morrison Trail.  An 11 mile loop with a cross connector.  Enjoy house sized boulders, streams, cascades, and views of the Allegheny Reservoir.  Be sure to include the cross connector, the most scenic part of the trail.

Minister Creek Trail.  A popular 7 mile loop is great for an overnight.  There are huge boulders, chasms, a views, streams, and great camping.

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.  The most popular trail in western PA, the LHHT is well known for its numerous shelters, big rocks, views, scenic forests, and streams.  Hike south to enjoy Ohiopyle at the end.

Quebec Run Wild Area.  A best kept secret, Quebec Run has a network of trails along streams filled with hemlock and rhododendron, making it feel like a jungle.  This is a diverse place, with off trail caves, and huge rocks and cliffs north of Tebolt Run, also off trail.

Oil Creek State Park  (Gerard Hiking Trail).  A 36 mile loop with cross connectors that meanders around Oil Creek State Park.  There are shelters, views, glens with waterfalls, and remnants of the oil industry, which began there.

Backpacking Pennsylvania for more trail info.