April showers bring incredible May hikes in Pennsylvania. The state’s 16.8 million acres of forest boast river valleys, gorges, and waterfalls that grow more beautiful in the rainy spring season.
As the flora and fauna of this eastcoast state bloom, the winter ice begins to melt, and the rain from April’s showers begin to make their way through the crevices of PA, it’s time to start planning your first hike of the season.
Check out one of these five Pennsylvania waterfall hikes that will get you in a spring state of mind!
1. Ricketts Glen State Park
Living up to its namesake as a glen (or a narrow valley), Ricketts Glen offers 22 named waterfalls within its hilly 13,000+ acres. See more than a third of them on the Ricketts Glen Falls Loop which stretches eight miles for a satisfying ratio of one incredible waterfall per mile.
To give you viewpoints from all angles, the trail snakes up and down the valley ridge on rock steps, patted-down dirt paths, and some unmarked terrain. In total, you’ll gain and then lose just over 1,100 feet in elevation along your journey, so be sure to pack plenty of snacks and water along with sturdy hiking boots that support your ankles.
2. Bushkill Falls
Nestled into the world-renowned Pocono Mountains is Bushkills Falls, a privately-owned glen area not unlike Ricketts Glen State Park. Though not quite as big, this park doubles the dramatic effect of the falls by snaking you down into the glen where you’re close enough to feel the mist on your face.
Once you’ve paid your $18 entrance fee (which is used to protect and maintain the flora and fauna inside the park), you’ll have roughly two miles worth of trails to choose from. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, take the two-mile Red Trail which gets you up close and personal with all eight falls.
Be advised that this park is not only private, but it also only operates on weekends during the summer season. Buy your tickets ahead of time for any weekend between April 1st and October 31st.
After you hike, leave some time to explore the many other attractions that the park has to offer including the Gemstone Mine, the full-service snack bar, and the expansive giftshop.
3. Seven Tubs
Perhaps it’s not the most majestic waterfall in the state, but that doesn’t make Seven Tubs Recreation Area any less cool to explore. This slice of Pinchot State Forest gets its name from the unique tub-like potholes etched into a rocky glen by glacial meltwater thousands of years ago.
Right when you hit the trail, you’ll come up on Wheelbarrow Run where you’ll get a close look at the tubs. Following the tubs is a 1.8-mile loop. Audubon Loop is a relaxing, woodsy trek that gains and loses just over 200 feet in elevation.
While this trail is great for the spring when the pools are gushing with spring rain water, this trail is also cool in the fall. This is a great spot for taking in the Pennsylvania fall foliage!
Pro Tip: There are no rules against climbing down into the pools, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing so if you’re alone or you aren’t physically fit. I nearly got myself stuck.
4. Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle State Park
Last, but certainly not least, we have Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle State Park. Just southeast of Pittsburgh, this green getaway spot is an excellent reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Cucumber Falls is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of waterfall. This waterfall lies roughly quarter of a mile from the road, so you can stop by for a quick walk if you’re just passing through. The Cucumber Picnic Area is just a mile down the road and offers a great place for a post-waterfall snack.
Hungrier hikers might be interested in a longer trek. I’d recommend the 4.9-mile Great Gorge Trail, an out-and-back situation that takes your right past Cucumber Falls and along the Youghiogheny River at the bottom of the gorge.
Bonus: Buttermilk Falls
Just (and I mean just) over the northern Pennsylvania-New Jersey border is Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. With over 7,000 acres of rivers, summits, and forest managed by the National Park Service, this park has something for everyone including those star struck by a good waterfall.
Standing a whopping 85 feet tall, Buttermilk Falls is one of the taller waterfalls on this list and definitely one of the easiest to get to even with the seasonal road closure.
The two-mile hike from the parking area is almost entirely flat and packed gravel. Plus, you’ll find some lovely picnic tables and sitting areas right at the falls. Enjoy a sandwich and a relaxing sit with the view.
The seasonal parking spot can be found via the directions from this AllTrails map. This specific route connects the Buttermilk Falls Trail to a portion of the Appalachian Trail that runs along the crest of the Rattlesnake Mountain summit. Make it a day and go for the full 10 miles!
Pro Tip: This waterfall is west facing, so the best time to see it is a little after noon so the sunshine is hitting the water. Trust me.