Ricketts Glen State Park Review with Kids

Kristina

Kristina

Jun 30, 2024

Ricketts Glen State Park is a great place to take your kids. Its a place where you can unwind and disconnect from your day to day. It is most famous for its Falls Trail System which can impress even the most experienced hiker with all of the natural waterfalls in the area. My kids have never been so enthusiastic about hiking, excited by discovering the next waterfall on the trail. They were literally running from waterfall to waterfall.

two boys at ricketts glen waterfall hike

It is located in Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia counties and makes you feel out in the middle of nowhere, in a very good way. Once you enter the park however, you will not get any cell service until you leave the park.   

This was a great place to take our 3 nature loving kids and dog. The park has lots of interest points with its plentiful waterfalls, nice and clean Lake Jean beach, hiking trails and food and ice cream just outside of the park.

Check out Hiking with Toddlers and Hiking with Babies for guides on how to get started today!

Facts About Ricketts Glen State Park

  • Total Waterfalls: 22
  • Size: 13,192 Acres
  • Beach: Lake Beach Jean
  • Beach Concession: Summer Season only
  • Playground: No
  • Hiking: 26 miles of trails

Where to Stay at the Ricketts Glen State Park

Ricketts Glen State Park has a couple different options for overnight guests. We chose to stay in the deluxe cabins, however the park has RV hookup options, tent camping spaces, and modern cabins. With the exception of the modern cabins, all are located on the Big Loop and the Small Loop, which gives campers access to the Beach Trail; a pedestrian path leading straight to Lake Jean Beach area.

The big loop is located slightly further from Lake Jean and only open from mid April till mid October. It has tent and trailer hook ups as well as the deluxe cabins which are lakeside. The last two cabins are dog friendly, and the only sites in the Big Loop that allows dogs. 

Cabins at Ricketts Glen State Park
The Shawnee Cabin

My family stayed in Shawnee Cabin, one of the two dog friendly cabins and Toby, our goldendoodle, had a great time chasing his disc in the nearby woods. 

The small loop has sites open year round and there are more options to bring your dog if you are tent or RV camping. However, these sites do not have lake access like the Big Loop offers, but are next to the Lake Trail.

The modern cabin area is closer to the beach but inland, instead of being designed around Lake Jean. These cabins offer something the deluxe cabins do not, your own bathroom and running water in the kitchen. Three of the ten modern cabins allow dogs. However, this option does not butt up to the Lake Trail which is a great pedestrian trail to the beach.

The Deluxe Cabin Experience 

Since this is where we stayed I wanted to give some more details and opinions on the deluxe cabins. The cabin was large enough for my husband, 3 children, dog and me to stay. These cabins are not huge or glamorous, but designed perfect for their size.

The 2 room cabin overlooked the lake with a nice concrete deck with a picnic table and  afire pit. When you enter there is a good size table and kitchen area, again no running water. But the kitchen had a fridge, cabinets, a microwave, and stovetop. 

three kids at cabins at ricketts glen state park
Our nightly fire set up, great for S'mores

The back room of the cabin was the bedroom, two bunk beds with one lower bunk being a double. It was large enough for us to set up our pack-n-play for our 1 year old.

There was no running water in the cabin, therefore we had to utilize the showerhouse and restroom. For us this was not a problem. We brought our kids’ bikes and every time we went to wash dishes, shower or use the facilities the kids loved to ride there. They even found a dirt track around the back of the building. When we washed dishes in the outside sinks in the back they happily road up and down the dirt hill.  My kids all rode or currently riding the Strider balance bike, which is perfect for toddlers.

The cabin butted up to the lake trail which, again, was a great joy for our kids who hopped on their bikes and rode to Lake Jean beach. It was just shy of a mile away, but nothing for a kid on a bike. We had a hiking backpack for our one year old daughter.  

What to Pack to Stay at Ricketts Glen State Park with Kids

Lodging

This is dependent on how you are camping at Ricketts Glen. However, everyone should bring food, there isn’t too much around except a couple simple restaurants outside the park. Having the option to cook at your campsite will allow more time in nature and time to relax.

If you are tent camping read Best Camping Gear and Camping Checklist.

Cabins

For the cabins they do not come with linen or cookware. Make sure to bring your own.

Hiking Gear

For all types of camping I would suggest bringing what you would normally bring to go hiking, don’t forget the bug spray and sunscreen. My young kids log all their hikes in their Hiking Journal, which I created for them. The journals are a great way to remember all your adventures.

Broken Affiliate Link

One of my favorite hiking gear for both myself and my children are a pair of Keen sandals. These sandals are perfect for hiking, it has great traction and flexibility, but also made to be worn in the water. You can walk through streams and creeks no problem. Every summer, because kids feet are like weeds, I buy them a new pair.

If your child is 4 and under, I would also bring a hiking backpack. Even if you child starts out hiking themselves having the option to carry them once they get tired is game changer. We use the Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature Child Carrier and loved it for all 3 of our children. Read Best Back Carrier for Toddler for more info.

Beach Gear

Beach equipment is another must for families coming with children. Shovels, buckets, towels and some chairs for the adults.  A cooler with some food for a meal or snack will enable you to spend more time at the beach.

I really like Travel Chair Joey for all my camping trips. They are pack small and are lightweight meaning I can bring them in my hiking backpack for our hikes. But bonus points, they also work to take to the lake beaches when camping.

Read Toddler Beach Essentials for more beach packing ideas and gear I take.

What To Do At Ricketts Glen State Park With Kids

Waterfall Hike

Ricketts Glen is most famous for the Waterfall Hike and you would miss out if you went there and did not see at least some of the waterfalls. The full loop which has 21 waterfalls is 7.2 miles and something I would NOT recommend with small children. A good alternative is the shorter 3.2 loop which goes past all but 3 of the waterfalls.   This still is a decent size hike for young kids and for any child under 5 I would suggest bringing a hiking backpack to carry them in if they get tired.

all 5 family members on ricketts glen waterfall hike

My 4 year old hiked 70%, but conked out and got carried the last 30%. My 5 year old was able to hike the whole thing, however if your child isn’t used to hiking they might not be up to it.

The loop starts at Lake Rose Trailhead where you can follow the Falls Trail down to where the waters meet, making a Y. Here you head back up by turning left instead of continuing down the creek. You will intersect with the Highland Trail where you turn left and that will lead you back to Lake Rose Parking lot.

This hike is very up and down and you should plan extra time for staring at awe of the waterfalls and enjoying several snacks to get your through! Our two boys brought their own cameras and took pictures of each waterfall to remember later.

The trail will say no sandals, however the Keen Newport Sandals are not like normal sandals. They are hiking sandals that have a closed toe and ankle strap. These are allowed. The park is warning you not to wear cheap flip flop and open toe shoes on the hike.

Laurel View Trail

This trail is another one we did as a family with our dog. It is best seen in June when all the mountain Laurel are in bloom, but still pretty in April when we went. I also hear later in the summer blueberry bushes are right for picking and in autumn the fall-foliage is gorgeous. 

mount laurel hike with dog and kid in April

It takes you up to the highest point of Red Rock Mountain where there is a fire tower. Unfortunately you cannot climb the fire tower for a better view.

The trail is a 1.9 mile loop and easier compared to the Falls Trail. My 4 and 5 year old were both able to hike the whole way, however they were a bit sad that there were no waterfalls. Maybe do this hike before the Falls Hike so your children aren’t disappointed.

Lake Trail

This is a completely flat trail that leads from the Big Loop and Small Loop to the Lake Jean Beach area. My kids took this trail everyday on bikes and I couldn't have asked for a better pedestrian path. I also got some runs in while the kids biked along the trail. 

my daughter on the lake trail at ricketts glen state park

There are other hiking trails, but those are the main ones and the ones I did with my family. I will update once I hike the others.

Lake Jean and Beach

Lake Jean is a must if visiting with kids. This lake beach is pristine. We went in April, we could not swim, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time. 

lake jean beach at ricketts glen beach
The geyser my boys found

The kids found a geyser where the water was coming up from the sand almost 40 feet from the lake. They had a blast creating waterways into the sand to direct the water. Everyday we had to peel our kids from the beach to go back to the cabin for dinner.

In summer there should be a concession stand open and the ability to swim in the lake. We plan to check this out next summer again.

Family Friendly Places Around Ricketts Glen State Park

Ice Cream

Right outside the park, on route 118 is a great family friendly ice cream shop called Red Rock Scoop in Red Rock. Not only were my kids happy but my dog too! Seems it is a local hotspot to bring your dog for their doggie ice cream and treat!

dog at red rocks scoop ice cream shop near ricketts glen state park
My dog on the large Adirondack chair

We went there every day after our hike. It was very affordable and had many flavors of Hershey Ice Cream. 

Restaurants

There are two close restaurants if you are looking for a night without cooking. Trails End and The Crooked Creek located on Route 118, just down from Red Rock Scoop and General Store.

Trails End is more family style eating, offering comfort food and serving breakfast and lunch. It is closed on Mondays.

The Crooked Creek is a bar and grill that is closed on Tuesday and open for dinner every other day. It is also available for lunch Friday through Sunday.  

Additional Information

Next to Red Rock Scoop, is Red Rock General Store. If you are looking for something you forgot to bring camping, such as sun cream, bug spray or food, you can pop in. Other options exist, but this is by far the closest option to the state park.

Overall, we had a great family cabin camping experience at Ricketts Glen State Park. It forced us to disconnect from our phones and normal life and embrace what the park had to offer. The waterfalls are a must see and spending some down time at the beach.

The main negative we had is my daughter came down with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease while we were there. A sick 1 year old never makes for a happy child, and not having cell service made it more challenging to find the right medicine and to speak with the doctors. However, just outside the park I was able to get cell service and find what my daughter needed.

More Resources

Check out 24 Camping Toys for Toddlers for some inspiration on what to bring. One of my personal favorites is the Agoigo waterproof camera. Therefore whenever my kid, my kids use this camera way beyond the toddler years, sees something they want to remember they have the ability to take a picture.

4 year old taking a picture of a waterfall
My 3 year old capturing a waterfall

Read 30 Fun Camping Activities for Toddlers for more ideas of what you can do no matter where you camp.