Hiking on Ice – A Winter Adventure in Ricketts Glen State Park

Westley Shaffer, a Liberty Mountain Customer Service Rep, found himself on an icy trail surrounded by in Rickett’s Glen State Park on the first day of the year. 

What better way to ring in the New Year than with a challenging hike!

All of last year, I had intentions to visit Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania. I heard how beautiful it was, the Falls Trail in particular.  The park hosts 22 waterfalls in 13,050 acres of old growth forest.

The park typically closes the Falls Trail to the general public after Thanksgiving. Only properly equipped ice climbers and hikers are allowed on the Falls Trail during the winter. Crampons and often an ice axe are required for descending the trail through Ganoga Glen.

On the morning of January 1, I loaded up the car with crampons, ice axes, some energy bars, and enough water for a camel. I was ready for an adventure.

After reaching the parking lot, the first step was all I needed to know how icy the ground was. The parking lot was covered in a layer of ice and hidden by a few inches of fresh snow. I immediately slipped and fell, causing a nice sized goose egg of a bruise.

After adding my name to the trail register, I headed off to the trailhead. The Falls Trial would take me 7.2 miles along 21 waterfalls and through some of the most beautiful valleys in Pennsylvania.

The trailhead, appropriately marked with caution tape, made it clear that it was off limits to those without proper gear. Here I stopped and threw on my Grivel Air Tech crampons. With a little reassurance I set off.

With in a half-mile I came to Mohawk Falls. The trail disappears under a 45-degree slope of ice. With a smile on my face and a small jump, I rode down the ice like it was a slide. At the bottom I discovered a set of coyote tracks that I followed for an entire mile along the trail. Every once in a while the coyote tracks would end and a butt track would appear. On gentle slopes the coyote would stop and slide down the hill playing in the snow.

Ganoga Glen holds Ricketts Glen’s largest waterfall, the 94-foot Ganoga Falls. Although the falls were not frozen, Ganoga Glen is host to some of the better ice climbing in the state. With recent warm temperatures and rain most of the ice has melted. Hopefully the coming days will bring back the cold temps needed to form new ice.  

For my first time visiting Ricketts Glen I took my time. I spent the last mile meandering along the trail in no hurried fashion. I wouldn't have wanted to spend my New Years day any other way!

Gear Used:

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