Shingle Cabin Branch Falls-Ricketts Glen State Park


Red are off trail routes.

Ricketts Glen is a very popular state park, known for its famous Falls Trail. But there is so much more to this large park. There are off trail vistas, secret gorges, and hidden waterfalls. Hopefully, the park will expand its system of hiking trails just as Worlds End has done.

On this hike, we did a loop of approximately five miles that went up the Old Bulldozer Road Trail, off trail to a vista, and then off trail down the rugged gorge of Shingle Cabin Branch. We then crossed chilly Kitchen Creek and hiked out along the Falls Trail.

The Old Bulldozer Road Trail is blazed red and follows an old grade or forest road up the mountain. It was a steady climb, steep in places, and featured primarily open hardwoods with laurel. The trail steepened as we neared the top and hiked along some ledges. At the top, the trail leveled and here we began our bushwhack to the east along the ridgeline. As we neared a private land boundary, there were some nice views to the south from ledges. If some trees were trimmed, the views would be spectacular. The views showed tiers of ridges to the south, and a water gap near Shickshinny. It was an impressive view of about thirty miles.

We returned to the Old Bulldozer Road Trail as it entered thick laurel and crossed the headwaters of Shingle Cabin Branch. Here, we left the trail and descended into the rugged, beautiful gorge with cascades, boulders, and ledges. As we descended, we stayed on the north side of the creek where we encountered more cascades and some large old growth hemlock trees. Other hemlocks succumbed to the woolly adelgid. We soon reached the top of the impressive Shingle Cabin Branch Falls and made a steep descent to the bottom. The falls are in a beautiful grotto with tiers of bedrock and are about 35 feet tall. It is a hidden gem in Ricketts Glen, and only about 500 feet from Kitchen Creek. In winter, the ice flows must be impressive.

We hiked along Shingle Cabin Branch and reached Kitchen Creek below Murray Reynolds Falls. After crossing chilly Kitchen Creek, we hiked out along the sublime Falls Trail in the bright morning light. Kitchen Creek tumbled besides us, adorned with icicles, as we hiked under towering hemlock trees. Other hikers passed us, unaware of all the beauty that lies just off the trail. We returned to our cars and headed home.

We parked at 41.300336, -76.273014.

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Shingle Cabin Branch was beautiful.

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Kitchen Creek.

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Waterfalls of Maple Spring Run- Ricketts Glen State Park


Porcupine Falls, Maple Spring Run, Ricketts Glen State Park

Ricketts Glen is one of PA’s most popular, and beautiful, state parks. The famed Falls Trail takes hikers under old growth forests and along many waterfalls. However, this large park has many secrets besides the popular Falls Trail. I decided to explore Maple Spring Run to see what hid in its deep, isolated gorge.


I parked off of PA 118 and walked up the Falls Trail, passing several other hikers. This trail was not crowded, yet. After the third bridge, I went off the Falls Trail and began to bushwhack up Maple Spring Run. I soon encountered a maintenance trail to allow workers to access the Falls Trail for repairs. I continued up Maple Spring Run and was impressed by the towering trees and pristine stream that tumbled over mossy boulders. The stinging nettle made the hiking tedious, so I stayed close to the creek. A side stream joined from the left and I continued right. The gorge became steeper and I soon encountered the first falls, partially concealed by a fallen log. It was about 20 feet tall.


I scrambled above to see a series of beautiful cascades that led to huge boulders, ledges and a 15 foot falls. This gorge was once home to some truly huge hemlock trees. Sadly, most are now dead. Regardless, the isolation and scenery made Maple Spring Run feel primeval.


I climbed above this second falls and pushed upstream over the difficult terrain. I soon reached the finest falls on Maple Spring Run- Porcupine Falls. A truly beautiful sight with a column of water dropping straight off a cliff. There were additional 8 foot drops above and below. In total, this falls is about 40 feet tall; the two uppermost drops make the falls about 25 feet tall.


Nearby were cliffs and ledges with rock overhangs. I scrambled to the top to see some partial views from the cliffs into the misty gorge below.


I continued up the creek to see more cascades under hemlocks. I came to a final falls, about 20 feet tall in a glen. Another climb brought me to the Old Beaver Dam Road Trail, where I turned right. It seemed so easy to hike on a level, established trail as I sailed through beautiful forests of pine, hemlock, and laurel. I could hear the waterfalls of Kitchen Creek roaring far below.


Another trail soon returned me to the Falls Trail in Ganoga Glen. After hiking alone in the rugged wilderness of Maple Spring Run, I had culture shock from being surrounded by so many people. The Falls Trail was impressive with the high water flow and tremendous, powerful falls. Each was impressive, particularly Ganoga Falls, but I tried to avoid the crowds. I began to miss the isolation of Maple Spring Run.


I retraced my steps and returned to my car. I know there are more secrets in this famous park.

More photos.

When hiking Maple Spring Run, keep in mind it is rugged and stinging nettle is prevalent in summer.  This is a small stream that can disappear when it is dry out.  This is far more difficult than the Falls Trail and only experienced hikers should attempt it.

For the map below, the route along Maple Spring Run is off trail and not blazed.



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.



Mountain Springs Loop

Small stream at Hall of Hemlocks

One of my favorite hikes is a combination of the Cherry Run and White Gold Circuit hikes, described as hikes nos. 27 and 29  in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”. This route follows the eastern part of the Cherry Run hike, and the western part of the White Gold Circuit hike.   This loop has it all- views, hemlock forests, cascades, streams, ponds and some history.  It is also moderate in difficulty and about 7-8 miles in length.

Hall of Hemlocks trail

I parked at The Meadows along Mountain Springs Road and entered the woods on the unblazed, unsigned Hall of Hemlocks trail.  The trail follows an old grade along the edge of the plateau, passing small streams and deep hemlock forests with ground pine.  It is very scenic.  The trail gets closer to the edge of the plateau with rock outcrops and partial views.  The trail moved away from the edge and climbed into a hardwood forest, this section can be a little hard to follow if there is snow or leaves on the ground.  It is likely easier to follow in summer.  I followed the trail back to the edge with more hemlocks and a small stream with a trickling falls.  The hemlocks continued as I descended to beautiful Cherry Run with its cascades.  Without a bridge, I made my way across the water using rocks.  I soon reached the yellow blazed Little Cherry Run Trail in Ricketts Glen State Park, where I turned left.

Little Cherry Run Trail

This is a gorgeous trail with two bridges as it closely follows Cherry Run with all its rapids and cascades in a narrow gorge.  It looks like this trail is becoming quite popular.  There is a large rock outcrop, pool and small falls at the bottom of the trail.  I then turned left on the red blazed Mountain Springs Trail, which followed an old forest road and also doubles as a snowmobile trail.  This was another scenic forest walk with more hemlocks, birch, and maple.  I could hear Bowmans Creek flow below.  I reached the end of Mountain Springs Lake, following the trail to the left.  The lake has been officially drained, but when enough water flows in, it does fill back up.  I was lucky to see the lake full once again.  The trail went along the north shore of the lake with many nice views.

Mtn Springs Lake

I reached the end of the lake and passed the dam, heading straight on the dirt road.  Old foundations for the ice industry were to the right.  I turned right, or straight onto an old grade where the dirt road turns left.  This obvious grade headed east, passing on the north shore of the wetlands of what once were Ice Dam No. 1.  I had not hiked this trail before and I enjoyed it.  Bowmans Creek meandered within this wetland with many beaver dams.  I reached the end of the wetlands at the remnants of the dam and deep meandering pools.  I turned left onto an old forest road and climbed up to the dirt road.  This was now a part of the White Gold Circuit.

I crossed the road and followed an obvious trail up a gradual slope back to the plateau. As I neared the top, huge boulders and ledges rose above me.  This is a beautiful trail.  The trail kept close to the edge with views through the trees.  The views opened up from cliffs and ledges of the lake and the streams that roared below.  This is a nice place for a sunset.  The trail left the cliffs, meandering through woodlands, and reached Beech Lake Road.  I turned left on the road, took the grassy grade on the right out to Beech Lake to see some ducks and geese.  To my surprise, there was no ice on the lake, which reflected the blue skies and white clouds.  I retraced my steps and returned to my car.

If you’re looking for a new place to hike, I highly recommend this superb loop.  While all trails are not blazed or signed, all trails and grades are well established and this loop is fairly easy to navigate.

On the drive home, I stopped by the Hayfields in Ricketts Glen State Park.  I never really hiked here, so I explored the meadows and wetlands, and enjoyed a sunset in the frigid breeze.  I also stopped by the former site of the lumber town of Ricketts, once home to 800 people, but now replaced by forest.  It is amazing all the lives that have come and gone in a place that is now so isolated.

More pictures.


Hiking this loop is easy, it is about 7-8 miles long.  Terrain is moderate with gradual inclines and declines.

1.  Park at the Meadows along Mountain Springs Road.  N41 21.574  W76 14.120

2.  Enter the unblazed Hall of Hemlocks trail into the woods and bear left onto an old railroad grade.  There may be some yellow or blue paint blazes, but they are infrequent.  N41 21.519 W76 14.138

3.  Cross some small streams and enjoy the hemlock forests.  N41 21.068  W76 13.920

4.  The trail moves closer to the edge of the plateau.

5.  Leave the hemlocks and enter a hardwood forest.  Trail may be a little harder to follow through here, especially if there is snow or leaf cover, but it is discernable.

6.  Trail moves away from the edge of the plateau, going off and then onto an old grade.

7.  Trail moves closer to the edge of the plateau with more hemlocks.

8.  Cross a small stream with a seasonal falls.  N41 20.522 W76 14.531

9.  Enjoy more hemlocks above Cherry Run and descend.

10.  Cross Cherry Run (no bridge) and meet the Little Cherry Run Trail, blazed yellow.  Turn left on this trail.  N41 20.815 W76 14.929

11.  Hike the trail down along Cherry Run, very scenic.

12.  Turn left onto the red blazed Mountain Springs Trail.

13.  Hike to Mountain Springs Lake, walk to the dam and parking area.

14.  Continue straight on dirt road.  Ice industry ruins on right.

15.  Where dirt road turns left and climbs, continue straight onto obvious old forest road.

16.  Hike above the wetlands of former Ice Dam No. 1.

17.  Reach four way intersection, turn left and climb to dirt road.  N41 20.828  W76 12.565

18.  Cross dirt road and follow obvious footpath as it goes through pickers and up an old grade.

19.  Trail bears left on an old grade, near edge of plateau.  N41 20.903 W76 12.800

20.  Trail turns right and climbs, levels below cliffs and ledges.

21.  Reach the top of cliffs with views of the lake.  N41 20.773 W76 13.509

22.  Trail meanders through woodlands and ends at Beech Lake Road.  N41 21.538 W76 14.005

23.  Turn right onto obvious forest road to Beech Lake.  N41 21.555 W76 13.822

24.  Retrace your steps and return to your car, which is nearby.


First Day Hike- Ricketts Glen State Park

Little Cherry Run Trail

Last year we began a tradition of having a First Day Hike, a concept that has spread across the nation over the last few years.  This year, we decided to keep the tradition alive.  Despite the frigid 9 degree temperatures, the bright sun provided some motivation to hike as five brave souls met me at the parking area in Ricketts Glen State Park.  While surrounding areas were free of snow, over six inches covered the trails in the park, giving the impression that this was in fact winter.

This hike was about 5 or 6 miles long and we began by hiking down to the breached Glen Leigh dam, an old, crumbling concrete structure that is odd for a dam since it is essentially hollow.  We passed above some frozen waterfalls and hiked along the headwaters of Bowmans Creek under deep green boughs of hemlocks.  Maples and birch trees with rolls of peeling bark rose through the forest.  The temperatures warmed a little since we were out of the wind.  The trail was beautiful as it explored peaceful forests and countless animal tracks across the snow.

Little Cherry Run Trail

We turned left onto the new Little Cherry Run Trail, the most scenic section of the hike.  Everyone loved this trail as it climbed up a gorge with a tumbling stream that had several small waterfalls and cascades.  Large rocks and boulders loomed overhead.  The gorge was draped in snow and ice flows.  Two bridges offered easy passage over the frozen stream as the sound of the falling water filled the gorge.  The water was reddish from the swamps upstream.  For those that tire of the crowded Falls Trail, be sure to hike the Little Cherry Run Trail.

Group on the Little Cherry Run Trail

The trail leveled off through a beautiful, deep, green hemlock forest as we crossed small meandering streams.  The frigid sunlight cast shadows across the snow.  We turned left onto the Cherry Run Trail and returned to the dam to complete the loop.  We retraced our steps back to the cars.  Join us for next year’s First Day Hike!

More photos.

The loop we hiked.



Hall of Hemlocks, Cherry Run, and Beech Lake Loop


Cherry Run

This is one of the most diverse dayhikes in the region, following both official and unofficial trails in SGL 57 and Ricketts Glen State Park.  This hike offers a taste of everything, from views, big rocks, lakes, wetlands, mountain streams, hemlock forests, gorges, and small waterfalls.  And the terrain is moderate in difficulty.
I started at the parking area along Bowmans Marsh and crossed the road into the state park, following an obvious, unblazed trail.  I continued along an old railroad grade with ties still in the ground.  The forests through here were very scenic, with deep hemlocks, carpets of moss, and ground pine.  Springs bubbled from the earth.  The trail followed the rim of the plateau, offering views through the trees.  I left the hemlocks and entered a bare hardwood forest, only to return to the hemlocks.  A gradual descent brought me to Cherry Run, where I followed one of the state park’s yellow blazed trails.
Cherry Run is a highlight of the hike as it tumbles down a gorge with rapids and small waterfalls.  It is very beautiful with hemlocks and moss covered boulders and ledges.  I took photos of a falls and pool under a huge overhanging ledge, before leaving the gorge and turning left onto a red blazed trail.  I hiked above Bowmans Creek and saw Mountain Springs Lake through the trees.  I was surprised; the lake had been drained, but does refill when enough water enters it.  The lake was peaceful as a fading sun reflected off of the water.

View of Mountain Springs Lake

I explored some old foundations, remnants from the ice industry that existed here a century ago and hiked down the road to another trail.  I hiked back up the plateau through scenic woodlands as large boulders and ledges loomed to the right.  I looked across the valley to see a large cliff rising through the trees; I made a mental note to explore it in the future.  I reached the top, hiking along the top of the cliffs with several views of the valley below.  Mountain Springs Lake reflected like silver in the setting sun as clouds spread across the sky.
My next stop was Beech Lake, a special, hidden lake that is one of the few, undeveloped natural lakes in the state.  The clear water revealed the rocks and gravel at the bottom.  The sun faded into the bare trees as I hurried back to the car, trying to keep at bay the cold, crisp temperature.
More photos.
Parts of this hike are described in and Hike Nos. 27, 28, and 29 of Hiking the Endless Mountains.