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Hiking in a Winter Wonderland: Frozen Waterfalls at Ricketts Glen State Park

There are few places in Pennsylvania that are more awe-inspiring than the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park. In fact, this amazing trail made my Pennsylvania Bucket List, my list of the 7 Natural Wonders of Pennsylvania, and also was my pick for the number one place to visit in Luzerne County.

While this trail is beautiful throughout the year, the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park is sadly closed during the winter (Roughly from early November through early April, but the dates vary based on the weather). However, for those with proper ice hiking equipment, it is possible to hike the trail during the winter.

Frozen Ganoga Falls at Ricketts Glen State Park
Ganoga Falls is seen on all hiking trips with Valley to Summit.

I, like many other hikers in Pennsylvania, don’t have the proper equipment or experience to tackle this trail on my own. However, Valley to Summit (VTS), a wilderness adventure company, offers all of the equipment and experienced guides needed to hike this trail during the winter.

Winter at Ricketts Glen State Park
Beautiful scenes abound along the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park.

Having led hikes in the park for nearly a decade, Valley to Summit offers the chance to see this area every weekend from mid-December through March. Hikers can choose from a half-day hike to Ganoga Falls and back or a full-day hike that hikes through both Glen Leigh and Ganoga Glen.

I had a chance to go hiking with the Valley to Summit team during one of their early-season hikes as they prepared and trained for the upcoming season.

Winter hiking at Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania
Winter hiking along the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen.

Our hike started, as most of their hikes do, at the top of the Falls Trail near the Lake Rose Trailhead parking area. From here, it’s about a mile hike to the first waterfall, which is enough distance to get used to the crampons on your feet (which are supplied by Valley to Summit).

In addition to the crampons, VTS provides ice axes, ropes, helmets, and harnesses to ensure that all hikes are completed safely.

Winter Hiking at Ricketts Glen State Park
The beauty of Ricketts Glen in the winter has to be seen to be believed.

The direction that you hike once you get onto the trail depends on the trip you are on. Full-day hikes typically hike over to Glen Leigh and hike down that side before going up Ganoga Glen (Note that hikes in 2022 won’t be able to hike all of Glen Lehigh, so the route will be different). Half-day trips, on the other hand, hike down Ganoga Glen. For our trip, we hiked down Ganoga Glen.

While hiking here, the waterfalls come quickly one after the other. In fact, if you don’t pay attention, you might even miss some of them or mistake them for continuations of other waterfalls.

Winter on the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park
Waterfalls aren’t always frozen solid and often have some flow around the ice.

The trail through the gorge varies between snow-covered, ice-covered, and even spots with just dirt. While I was initially daunted by the idea of walking on ice, the hardest part of the hike is simply remembering to pick up your feet while hiking with spikes on the bottom of your shoes.

While I had no problem navigating the icy and dangerous sections of the trail, the flat parts tripped me up on occasion when the spikes would hit something on the trail.

Icicles on the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park
Icicles form along the trail and some are upwards of 15-20 feet in height.

Seeing and photographing the frozen waterfalls on the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park is a truly amazing experience. Having previously only seen this great area during warmer weather, it’s a unique experience to see it so quiet and peaceful.

Even better, if you’re used to crowds on the Falls Trail, you’re likely to encounter next to no one else on the trail due to the conditions.

Frpzen waterfalls at Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen is peaceful and beautiful during the winter.

Without a doubt, if you love hiking and waterfalls, you definitely won’t want to miss the chance to hike at Ricketts Glen during the winter. While it is possible to do the trip without a guide, Valley To Summit makes the trip safer and easier by providing experienced guides and all the hiking gear you need.

You can find out more about their half-day and full-day ice-hiking trips on their website

Winter at Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania
A close-up look at a frozen Ganoga Falls.

Want to see even more Pennsylvania waterfalls? Visit our page full of the best waterfalls in PA!

Need a hotel near Ricketts Glen? Here are a few great options:

See map for other area attractions.

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3 thoughts on “Hiking in a Winter Wonderland: Frozen Waterfalls at Ricketts Glen State Park”

  1. I just did this hike Dec 08 2020; starting at Lake Rose on the north end looping down and back up around the highland trail. I was able to do it in under 2 hours. It was beautiful and definitely fun!

  2. We have been to Rickets Glen several times. The hiking is fun and never disappoints. The water falls are just beautiful with one around every bend. We stayed in one of the cabin accommodations in the park which was clean and well equipped. Can’t wait to return.


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