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5.24.2020

PA Waterfalls Bucket List: Our 25+ Favorite Waterfalls in the State

Pennsylvania has a total of more than 345 waterfalls, which our guide at this link will show you how to get to. Out of these falls, this list of 25+ waterfalls covers our absolute favorites. To be clear, visiting any waterfall is probably better than whatever you or I are doing right now, so you really cannot go wrong with any waterfall, but these all should be on any Pennsylvania explorer's bucket list. If you have not visited these falls, be sure to book it on over to check them out. We have not visited every single waterfall in the state, but of the ones that we have visited, these are the ones that have really impressed us.
  • Silverthread Falls is my single favorite waterfall in the state. The sheer height of this waterfall, around 80 feet, down a skinny chute, is just incredible. It does not even get top billing at its location, a few hundred feet from the spectacular Dingmans Falls in the Delaware Water Gap. I could sit and watch this waterfall all day. It is also the easiest waterfall to access on this entire list, located on a short and flat wooden boardwalk that is ADA accessible. For more information on visiting, check out the following article: Silverthread Falls
  • Raymondskill Falls is in a tie with nearby Darbytown Falls as the state's tallest waterfall at 120 feet. The tallest and most eccentric waterfalls in the state are found within the Delaware Water Gap. All three of Pennsylvania's waterfalls that exceed 100 feet are located in and around the Delaware Water Gap, in addition to the bulk of the overall waterfalls that exceed 80 feet. This waterfall is also pretty easy to visit. For information visiting, check out the following article for Raymondskill Falls
  • Dingmans Falls is located on the same wooden boardwalk as Silverthread Falls and measures in at just over 100 feet. The waterfall drops at an angle, which is cool to see, but does not lend itself well to photography. The sheer power of the falls are the most impressive part and make it one of the most memorable to see in the state. The boardwalk to access ends with an aggressive hike that goes up the side of the falls. For more information on visiting, check out the following article: Dingmans Falls
  • Ricketts Glen State Park's Falls Trail offers more than two dozen named waterfalls, of which most of them are just spectacular. Picking favorites at Ricketts Glen is a futile effort, so I will just count all of them in my favorites list.
    • For accessibility, the easiest to get to is Adams Falls, which is located on the same creek as the two main glens, but on the other side of the road. This is one of the finest falls in the state park, but it often gets missed since it is off the main drag of the Falls Trail. It should not be missed though because Adams Falls feels like where Mother Nature really stuck the landing on the 3rd or 4th attempt of several of the waterfalls that are up creek in the glen. I realize that last passage was quite cheesy, but I feel that it really describes Adams Falls. 
    • Oneida Falls is one of the most photogenic of the bunch, even though it is also one of the smallest. The sheer rock face that it flows over adds an extra stunning factor to these falls. 
      Top of Ganoga Falls
      Bottom of Ganoga Falls
    • Ganoga Falls is the tallest of the waterfalls at 94 feet, and you get to see it dramatically unfold before you on the hike, from both directions. Approaching it from the top, all you see is the drop off into a giant abyss, as you climb down the side of the gorge, the falls slowly appear and do not come into full view until you get to the bottom of the gorge. Hiking in the other direction, you see the falls similarly unfold as you approach. The twisted nature of the falls ensure that the only place you get a full view of them is at the immediate bottom of the falls. In addition to the several dozen named falls, there are also a bunched of unnamed falls on side tributaries into the gorge. 
    • The Falls trail is one of the finest hikes in the state, though with the popularity of the falls, it is recommended that you get there first thing in the morning or on a weekday to avoid crowds. It is also critically important that you wear hiking boots, stay away from the edges of cliff and waterfalls, and practice general caution. The state park is also a great camping destination. For more information, check out the following article: Ricketts Glen State Park
      Sullivan Falls - State Game Lands 13
  • Sullivan Falls, State Game Lands 13: State Game Lands 13 is adjacent to Ricketts Glen State Park and has some very nice waterfalls. Sullivan Falls is my favorite of the bunch, but there are lots of falls there. They require some serious physical effort to access because they are not on trails and the effort to access them is not really worth the effort in my opinion. Sullivan Falls is just spectacular though, and going over the the game lands is especially ideal in midday hours when Ricketts Glen is slammed with a bunch of visitors.  For more info and directions, check out the following article: State Game Lands 13
    Hector Falls
  • Hector Falls near the Allegheny National Forest is unique when it comes to the state's waterfalls. The creek falls over a house sized boulder that is like a giant rectangular box. It is probably the most distinctive waterfall within the state. For more information on finding this remote waterfall, check out this article. Hector Falls, Allegheny National Forest, Ludlow, Warren County, PA
    Fallingwater
  • Fallingwater in the Laurel Highlands is one of the world's most recognizable places thanks to the the creation of the Fallingwater House, which was designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It is an awesome place to tour and it attracts visitors from all over the the planet. For more information on visiting, check out the following article.  https://www.interestingpennsylvania.com/2016/10/fallingwater-frank-lloyd-wrights-world.html
  • Packsaddle Covered Bridge and Waterfalls: Similar to Fallingwater, this waterfall in and of itself is not spectacular because of beauty on its own, but it is noteworthy because of the covered bridge that is located right above it. It is located in a remote part of southern Somerset County and is well worth the effort to get to  PA Covered Bridge Journey: Somerset County 
  • Ohiopyle State Park: Ohiopyle State Park has a bunch of nice waterfalls. None of them are particularly huge, and many feel like repeats of each other, but a few of them are really quite amazing. 

    • Cucumber Falls is easily accessible with its own parking area. It is the tallest of the waterfalls at Ohiopyle and it is very popular to visit. We recommend visiting it early in the morning or on weekdays. 
    • Ohiopyle Falls is the most powerful of the waterfalls at the park, for it carries the waters of the small but powerful Youghiogheny River. On days where the water is especially high, this 15-20 foot waterfall can look like little more than a large river rapid. It is quite an impressive sight
    • Sugar Run Falls: This waterfall is located right off of the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail and off of the Jonathan Run Falls Trail. Jonathan Run Falls is so close to Sugar Run that you cannot help but see both, but Sugar Run is probably my favorite waterfall at the park. On busier days at the park, this is the spot that will have the least people at it. 
    • Meadow Run Cascades: The Cascades are located on Meadow Run, just above the natural waterslides section. Similar to Sugar Run Falls, this section is often overlooked as well and requires more of an effort to access. The effort is well worth it though.
    • To find all of these falls, and the others at this state park, check out the following article:  Ohiopyle State Park
  • Buttermilk Falls, Indiana County: Pennsylvania does not have very many large waterfalls, and none of them are located in Western PA. Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County is Western Pennsylvania's only natural single plunge waterfall that exceeds 40 feet. Its notability for me stems from its importance in the formative years of one my personal heroes, Mister Fred Rogers. It is located in a public park that is easy to access. The following article has location information. Buttermilk Falls, Indiana County, PA
  • Rainbow Falls at Trough Creek State Park: The trail this is located on leads through a beautiful gorge that is filled with rhododendrons, and by Balanced Rock, a cool rock outcrop formation. The short, but beautiful, journey makes seeking out these falls well worth the effort. The following article gives information on visiting:  Trough Creek State Park: Copperous Rock, Balanced Rock, and Rainbow Falls 
  • Freedom Falls, Venango County: One of the most picturesque waterfalls in Western Pennsylvania is Freedom Falls. It is pretty easy to access and it has several awesome industrial remnants near it, including an old iron furnace that is incredibly intact for its age, and a rail tunnel on a rail trail along the Allegheny River. For more information on visiting, check out this article.
  • Springfield Falls is located in Mercer County near Grove City. It is very pretty and very easy to access. For information on visiting, check out this article
  • Frankfort Mineral Springs at Raccoon Creek State Park is a funky little waterfall that flows over a small cave. It was home to an old mineral springs resort, where people would go for supposed medicinal healing purposes. It is a pretty neat place to visit. For more information on visiting, check out this article
  • Hells Hollow Falls at McConnells Mill State Park is a unique waterfall that flows over a rugged rock formation. Of all of the falls at McConnells Mill State Park, this is the one that I think is worth the effort of checking out. It requires a short hike to visit and we highly recommend checking it out. For more information on visiting, check out this article: Hells Hollow Falls
  • Cole Run Falls is one of the most picturesque falls in the state. It is relatively small, but very nice and worth checking out in Forbes State Forest and the Laurel Highlands. For more information on visiting, check out this article. 
  • Dry Run Falls is memorable to me because it is located directly on the way to the stunning High Knob Overlook near Worlds End State Park. This scenic overlook is just incredible and you cannot miss Dry Run Falls as you are heading out from the overlook. While it is not the most scenic of the falls we have talked about, it is certainly memorable and it makes our list of favorite waterfalls within the state. My shot is quite dark for I took it after viewing a tremendous sunset up at the High Knob Overlook. For more information on visiting, check out this article
  • Big Falls at Cascade Park in New Castle, PA: Big Falls is the centerpiece of a tract of land in New Castle that has served picnickers for more than a century. This location was once home to an amusement park, but still remains as a wonderful picnic grove and community gathering place. At the bottom of the falls, you can see part of the structure that once carried the park's roller coaster across the bottom of the waterfall's gorge. For more information on visiting, check out this article from our sister website.
  • Tobyhanna Falls: This waterfall in the Poconos is located in the beautiful Austin T Blakeslee Natural Area. What this waterfall does not have in waterside is more than made up for in sheer power. This is a powerful waterfall that is worth checking out if you are in the area. For more information on visiting, check out this article
  • Fall Run Falls and Park, Shaler: This waterfall makes the list mainly for its easy accessibility for us in Pittsburgh. It is about a ten minute drive away from where we live and because of this, it is a place that we will often go to just as a quick walk in the woods after a long day at work. It is very special to us because of this and how much time we end up spending there. I am sure that all of you have a local waterfall that you like to frequent and in the end, these are the types of waterfalls that are our true favorites. The places that draw us and our communities together and closer to nature. For more information on finding this waterfall, check out this article. 

So get out there and explore!

5.17.2020

Guide to PA's 345+ Waterfalls: A Free Guide to Visiting Every Waterfall in the State

Pennsylvania has a wide variety of small waterfalls, with a few giants that are mainly located in northeastern Pennsylvania. This page offers you the tools for the most comprehensive guide to visiting the 345+ waterfalls that have been documented within the state. Some of these falls are on public and some on private property and a large number of others that have not been documented. When I am looking at regions to visit waterfalls, I consult these resources. We feature a bunch of waterfalls in our archives, including Ricketts Glen State Park, neighboring State Game Lands 13, Ohiopyle State Park, and the Delaware Water Gap's Silverthread and Raymondskill Falls and more. All of the following resources will have you covered for visiting the waterfalls that the state has to offer. The following two websites are community driven, giving a group effort on documenting the state's waterfalls, and thus they have the most thorough listing and set of details that is offered on waterfalls located within Pennsylvania.
The most comprehensive listing of falls can be found at the World Waterfall Database, which contains oodles of statistics and exact locations of waterfalls across the whole state, and the world. Its advanced mapping tool also gives you a pin map of direct locations of waterfalls and whether or not they are on public land, open to the public, or unable to access due to property rights.
Pennsylvania Waterfalls is home to the most detail when it comes to descriptions on access to waterfalls that are primarily in the northeastern region of the state. They also note whether the falls are open to the public or not and what effort is needed to get to them.

The following website, like ours, is the result of an individual effort, meaning that while it does not cover every single waterfall in the state like the community driven and collaborative efforts of Pennsylvania Waterfalls and the World Waterfall Database, it still does a great job of covering the places that it visits. The Endless Mountains Experience is an excellent hiking blog that largely covers the northern tier of the state. They feature fantastic descriptions of hikes, waterfalls, overlooks, geologic features, and more. I enjoy their write-ups, and if you enjoy ours, you will definitely enjoy theirs. Their stuff is great and will give you ideas on waterfall adventures.

Lastly, there are two books that cover waterfalls that I thoroughly recommend. Pennsylvania Waterfalls by Scott Brown is the first book that delved into this topic. While some details are not quite on the mark, all you have to do is go to the internet to check on the current status of places to visit them. He covers the true highlights of the collection of waterfalls that the state has to offer and basically set the blueprint for charting the locations of the state's waterfalls. He covers the waterfalls that are well worth going out of your way to visit. Johnny Molloy's Hiking Waterfalls in Pennsylvania delves into most of the same waterfall highlights in the state. Both books offer crisp, in focus, and clear photography with accurate historical background on the falls.

While I often seek out waterfalls, I feel like the best way to find them is to simply hike and explore. Many of the falls that I have run into have actually been secondary to just the adventure of hiking. If going and focusing on the waterfalls is the only objective of what you are doing, you just might miss beautiful old growth forests, old historic remains, beautiful scenic overlooks, rugged and rocky geologic formations, and more. I take a holistic approach when it comes to my adventures. One of my most recent adventures involved going to the beautiful Charles F Lewis Natural Area in Galltizin State Forest near Johnstown. I did not expect to run into a beautiful waterfall gorge with slopes covered in white trillium. I went on the hike for the sheer elevation gain stats alone. I ended up finding beautiful little waterfalls and the most dazzling display of trillium I have ever seen. When doing your explorations, be sure to take in the whole picture, otherwise you just might be missing out on something else that is equally great. Disconnect yourself for a bit and just take in nature and any stresses you may have in life will just melt away.


5.10.2020

Otto & Magdalene Ackermann Reserve: A Waterfall, Hikes, Forests, Wildflowers, & More Near Pittsburgh

The Otto and Magdalene Ackermann Reserve is a beautifully forested tract that is maintained by the Westmoreland Land Trust. It is an unlikely forest hideaway that is located in the developed urban and suburban sprawl of North Huntingdon, North Versailles, Irwin, and Trafford, along the right-of-way of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line in Westmoreland County.
It started out as plot of land that was owned by Otto and Magdalene Ackermann. They were German immigrants and emigrated to Western PA in the 1920s. Otto was a trained electrical engineer and worked at the legendary former Westinghouse Plant in East Pittsburgh. They initially lived in Wilkinsburg and moved out to Irwin. They slowly purchased the land that became the reserve and greatly appreciated its natural beauty. The land had a forested tract and a former quarry on it, and is immediately adjacent to the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line. The family of five kids preserved the refuge and added land to it, even after Otto passed in 1964 and Magdalene passed in 1991. The family treasured this parcel it and opened the land to the public in 1997. They donated the land to the Westmoreland Land Trust to continue this preservation.
The preserve is one of the most accessible places in the immediate Pittsburgh area to take in some short hikes of varying levels, to see a stunning display of spring wildflowers, and to see beautiful forest. It made our list of best hotspots to see wildflowers in Pennsylvania. In the spring, the wildflowers are so abundant that it almost looks like there's been a fresh coat of snowfall on the ground.
The hikes have some decent elevation change along a small tributary, with a small waterfall, that empties into Brush creek. At this point, the tributary is unnamed, but they filed to name it Blue Dell Run, after the old pool and drive in theatre complex that operated under that name up on the Lincoln Highway and Route 30 corridor. The small tributary was the water source for that locally famous former pool.
This is a lovely place to get a nice little hike within the Pittsburgh area off of Route 30/the Lincoln Highway. The coordinates take you to the parking area. It is very easy to miss the entry way into the property, because it is located in what is basically an empty lot between two homes. Once you get beyond the backyards of those homes, the preserve opens up.

Coordinates:
40.360944, -79.744291

For more information and background about this cool place, check out the website for the Westmoreland Land Trust.
 

5.03.2020

Gallitzin State Forest Recreation Guide: Awesome Hiking, Views, and More

Gallitzin State Forest is a wonderful asset in the state forest system of Pennsylvania. It features two main divisions that preserve wooded and rugged lands that restore tracts of land that have been heavily scarred by human industrial activity over the last few centuries. This seemingly remote area is located just on the outskirts of the Johnstown area, with large portions of the property that were formerly owned and heavily used by logging companies for timber, and the former Bethlehem Steel Plant for coal, quarrying, and use as a water source. This left much of the land as a barren wasteland, though some major coal strip mining and logging still occurs in land adjacent to the Babcock Tract.
Trillium covered Clark Run Gorge in the Charles F. Lewis Natural Area, Rager Mountain Division

The two major divisions are the Rager Mountain and the Babcock Divisions. Rager straddles the edge of Cambria and Indiana Counties on one rim of the Conemaugh River Gorge, and is home to the Charles F. Lewis Natural Area. The northern trailhead for the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail picks up directly across the river from this spot.
The Charles F. Lewis Natural Area was named after the second president of the legendary Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which has lead Western Pennsylvania towards preserving and rejuvenating natural areas for the public good. Their efforts lead directly to the creation of state parks such as Ohiopyle and McConnells Mill. This natural area is named in his honor.
The bottom of Clark Run Gorge. Note the old bridge piers from an old right-of-way
I went into Charles F. Lewis Natural Area not expecting much, since a lot of the stuff mentioned online talks about the high tension power lines that lead from a nearby nuclear power plant, but the elevation profile is what attracted me, with a combined elevation change of 2400 feet, which equates to 1200 feet ascent and descent on a 6 mile loop. Those kinds of numbers attract me to a hike, for I love making huge elevation gains on hikes. With those numbers, it could be a barren hellscape and I would still be interested in hiking it. I was pleasantly surprised at just how beautiful the hike was, especially when in the gorge of waterfalls in Clark Run Gorge.
One of the most amazing parts of this hike was seeing the gorge walls, which were covered in the most spectacular display of trillium I have ever seen.
The slopes up and down from creek level were legitimately COVERED in white trillium, with some red trillium and other species mixed in.
Once you reach the top of the gorge on the Clark Run Trail you have two options.
You can go straight and proceed onto the Rager Mountain Loop, which has a gradual elevation change through to the top of the Conemaugh River Gap, with some views of the gorge, albeit with the main clearing obstructed by power lines, and see some neat rock formations, and more.
You cross these high tension power lines twice. The clearing give you the clearest view of the Conemaugh River Gorge. In the distance you can see the nearby nuclear power plants.
A cool rock formation at the pinnacle of Rager Mountain, the highest point on the hike. Note how blackened the rocks are from the old charcoal production in old steel making, through more modern times under Bethlehem Steel, and the former coal power plant.
The remainder of the climb up Clark Run Gorge at the beginning of the Rager Mountain Loop
The Rager Mountain Loop rejoins with the Clark Run Trail Loop and takes you through the beautiful Rock City in the Charles F. Lewis Natural Area and then back down to the trailhead.
The start of the large rock city in the Charles F. Lewis Natural Area
Your other option is to turn left and proceed on the Clark Run Trail Loop and head right to the rock city in the Charles F. Lewis Natural Area and then back down on the loop to the trailhead and bypass the Rager Mountain Loop. If you are pressed for time, you should turn left and finish the Clark Run Trail Loop. If you are not pressed for time, I recommend taking in the whole trail system and proceeding onto the Rager Mountain Loop outside of the Natural Area and into Gallitzin State Forest.
The hike was fantastic and exhilarating, and ended up being one of my absolute favorites in Western PA. This is a hiker's hike, with outstanding elevation change, nice waterfalls, awesome rock formations, and some nice views. About a quarter mile in on the Clark Run Trail, in the gorge portion of the trail, there is a very large tree that is down, near the top of the gorge portion of the hike. It took some major maneuvering for me and CeCe to climb over, but it was not insurmountable. If you are unable to pass it, you are most of the way up the gorge at that point, and around the most spectacular display of wildflowers that is offered on this hike. We started our hike on the Clark Run Trail and took a right up the stairs and went into the gorge, took the Rager Mountain Loop, and then went back down the remainder of the Clark Run Trail loop.
When I go back to do this hike again, I will probably do it in the other direction, because I believe the ascent up to the rock city will be easier.
The descent was steep and challenging, with lots of jutting rocks that I like to call ankle busters. It would definitely be easier to go up this portion than go down it like we did.
This is the most difficult part of the hike, but it is very nice and has a cool stone outcropping that gives you a cool view of the Clark Run Gorge and Conemaugh River Gorge. As it warms up, be on the lookout for snakes through the Rock City, for this area is definitely prime for them.
Map Courtesy of DCNR
The Charles F. Lewis Natural Area of Gallitzin State Forest is home to one of the premier short hikes in Western PA. The loop trail is about 5 miles long, but has over 2400 feet in elevation change (1200 foot ascent, and 1200 foot descent, along creeks, boulders, rock formations, and fantastic views right up the rugged Conemaugh River Gorge, the deepest river gorge east of the Mississippi. We highly recommend it!

Charles F. Lewis Natural Area Trailhead Coordinates
40.410929, -78.985118

Babcock Division
The Babcock Division is larger and is located 22 miles southeast of the Rager Mountain Division, on the fringes of Cambria, Somerset, and Bedford County, and is home to a picturesque Bog/wetland, the Clear Shade Natural Area, enormous boulders, the John P. Saylor Trail, Turkey Trail, and County Line Trail, and spectacular scenic vistas off of the Allegheny Front. The trails in this section are numerous and lots of fun. While not terrifically challenging, they are very rocky, giving me pause on giving them easy status, but as far as distance hikes goes, the John P Saylor Trail is about as easy as it gets. It is often used by beginner backpackers or those just looking for a quick and easy jaunt into the woods.
The John P Saylor Trail was named after a Republican member of the House of Representatives who represented the region from 1949 through his death in 1973. He was a hero for the environment, creating legislation such as the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Act, and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. His efforts are memorialized with the creation of this wonderful trail within his former district in Gallitzin State Forest.
The Bog and Boulder Trail is a spur trail off of the main John P Saylor Trail whose name is pretty self explanatory.
This part of the trail is my favorite, for it leads to a wooden observation tower.
The tower gives you a view to look over the wetlands and bog area, and the flora and fauna that call it home.
It also leads to a boardwalk over the portion that is more of a bog.
You can get within inches of some of the carnivorous plants, which is truly spectacular.
You can then hike back to a Y on the Bog and Boulder trail that will lead you up to the boulders of Wolfs Rocks. These rocks are beautiful and many are covered in moss. The second growth forest is beautiful and you will be sure to see some wildflowers as well.
The Lost Turkey Trail is more challenging and goes 26 miles, starting on the ridge of the Allegheny Front in Gallitzin State Forest, and runs all the way down the ridge, and across to the next ridge to the second highest point in Pennsylvania, Blue Knob, at Blue Knob State Park.
The County Line Trail is very easy and graded 10 mile loop trail that gives numerous fantastic views across the Allegheny Front Mountain Ridge. It offers access to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.
The views are incredible and especially excellent for birding in the spring and fall months during the migrations, where you may see hundreds of bald eagles, hawks, turkey vultures, and other raptors. The two best scenic overlooks are pretty easy to access and well marked if you are driving instead of hiking.
The first overlook is about a quarter mile hike down the easy County Line Trail from a pull off point along the trail on Buffalo Road, to a wooden deck and picnic table that gives stunning views over Bedford County and to the next sets of ridges. This is a great place to hang out for a while.
Just under a mile further down the trail, when you hike up to Skyline Drive, you will see an even more tremendous vista, also marked with a wooden deck. This one you can drive right up to.
Map Courtesy of DCNR
Overall, Gallitzin State Forest is a wonderful place for some outdoor adventure. Its location near Johnstown makes it really easily accessible for most people in the Pittsburgh area and southwestern and south central PA. The area around Johnstown is also tremendously underrated as a scenic place and it is well worth spending some time in the area, checking out the scenic views, hikes, and historic places, including the Inclined Plane, Johnstown's historic train station, the nearby Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, Historic Stone Bridge, Johnstown Flood Memorial, and lots more.

Babcock Picnic Area Coordinates:
40.215411, -78.762700
Bog and Boulder Trailhead and John P Saylor Trailhead Coordinates:
40.214665, -78.727024
County Line Trail Trailhead
40.199543, -78.697783
Skyline Drive Overlook Coordinates: (accessible by hiking or by car)
40.233063, -78.660506
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