When the first European settlers grew restless on the shores of New England and began to migrate westward they encountered strings of north-south mountain ranges with few breaks or passes. It is no wonder that frustrated travelers hung the name “Endless Mountains” on these northeast Pennsylvania uber-hills. A good waterfall trail might yield three, maybe four waterfalls. How about a trail that goes past 23 named waterfalls? That’s what your dog will find on the always magical Falls Trail in Ricketts Glen State Park (www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/rickettsglen.aspx), a Y-shaped exploration along two branches of the Kitchen Creek. One of the most uniquely scenic areas in the Northeast, Ricketts Glen was slated to become a national park in the 1930s but World War II shelved plans for this development. Instead, it opened as a state park in 1944.
Gradually the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania continued purchasing blocks of land from the descendants of Robert Bruce Ricketts until the park spread across more than 13,000 acres. The remoteness of the land in the 19th century kept the waterfalls, ranging as high as the 94-foot Ganoga Falls, undiscovered until 1865. Colonel Ricketts hired a crew to build a trail along and across the plunging water and the project took 28 years. Today the Falls Trail remains a maintenance challenge and its steep grades can be muddy and slippery and your dog’s four-wheel traction will be most welcome.
Kitchen Creek slices through the Ganoga Glen to the left and Glen Leigh to the right before uniting at Waters Meet. The two prongs of the trail connect at the top of the twin falls via the 1.2-mile Highland Trail. The complete falls experience encompasses almost seven miles. The stem of the trail flows through Ricketts Glen, among towering hemlocks and oaks, before tumbling over three cascades at Adams Falls near the trailhead. Twenty miles to the west an arresting landscape awaits in Worlds End State Park(www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/worldsend/). So named because the first road built here atop steep ridges left travelers feeling as if they were at the end of the world, these hiking trails wind to panoramic views of the Loyalsock Creek Gorge. The heart-stopping High Rock Trail is one of the most challenging short trails in Pennsylvania and features life-threatening drop-offs that mandate a tight leash on the dog. Your reward for these tough miles, are visits to High Rock Falls and a series of plunges along Double Run. A third state park gracing the Endless Mountains, Salt Springs (www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/saltsprings.aspx), serves up an enchanting run of cascades on the Falls Brook Trail with three signature waterfalls on one of Pennsylvania’s most spectacular footpaths. The trail unwinds underneath a forest of Eastern hemlocks, some of which are estimated to be over 500 years old.
Endless Mountains, Pennsylvania
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