Welcome to Tents, Trails and Taps: 25 Waterfalls and a Weird Ghost Town
Make sure to read the intro post to this series here.
If you are new to camping, read what gear you’ll need here.
Road Trip Rating: Easy. Without using any of the modifications listed at the end of the post, this itinerary breaks up all of the driving into short sessions so you don’t lose your mind. All of the chosen hikes are either easy or moderate.
Total driving time: 17 – 22 hours depending on your start/finish point
Days: 4 – 7 depending on if you include the bonus days options or if you decide to do the quickest modification listed at the end of the post.
*Dogs are allowed (on leash) on all of the featured trails on this itinerary
*All camping sites should be booked in advance during covid. If you don’t book in advance there is a good chance they’ll boot you back onto the road.
Highlights of this itinerary
- Explore Ohio’s only National Park, Cuyahoga Valley, and hike to 3 of the park’s best waterfalls
- Adventure into a fairytale type setting of ledges covered in green at Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park
- Hike a 7 mile loop trail that features 21 gorgeous waterfalls in Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania
- Visit a near-ghost town, called Centralia, that has inspired many horror fiction authors
- Visit America’s oldest brewery, Yuengling, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania
- Visit all or some of the 10 other breweries I recommend along the road
- Bonus days you may want to throw into your trip are: visiting Clyde Peelings Reptiland, kayaking in Montgomery PA, visiting Scranton PA (if you’re a fan of the show The Office), kayaking in Pittsburgh, and visiting Pittsburgh Zoo. As you are sorting through the itinerary I’ll let you know where these bonus days will best fit in.
*All of these itineraries are going to be written with the assumption that the majority of you have a starting point somewhere in upper Ohio/lower Michigan. If you are reading this right now and that is nowhere near where you will be starting out, I apologize! But you can totally modify this however you would like and just hit up the highlights along the way.
-You’re gonna start this trip out visiting one of my go-to places in Ohio. Plug in “Cuyahoga Valley National Park” into your maps and start heading East.
First Trail: Blue Hen Falls (easy)
-The first trail you’re going to hit up is a quick and easy saunter to Blue Hen Falls (as I am writing this the parking lot for this trail is closed due to covid, but you can park down the street and walk to the starting point. Check the comments on the app All Trails to see some tips on where people are parking… and when it opens back up they’ll also probably let you know on there too). Blue Hen falls is adorable any time of year, and you can crawl down the ledges and get up close and personal with the waterfall.
Second Trail: Buttermilk Falls (moderate)
-Your next trail is technically an unmarked trail (the land that it is on is owned by the ski resort and not the national park)… but it is frequently used by many people so the path is well worn. Your goal is to get to Buttermilk Falls, my favorite waterfall in the whole park. While you’re at Blue Hen Falls, look for the sign that says “End of Trail” and realize it’s lying to you. Follow the worn trail that continues on past that sign, you should be following the stream for the mot part. There is a good chance your feet are going to get wet, depending on how high the water is… so be prepared for that. Just keep going until you almost fall off a cliff and down a waterfall. You can walk around to the very bottom of the falls and enjoy a little lunch down on the log while overlooking the falls.
-After this trail hike on back to your car and plug in “Brandywine Falls” into your maps.
Third ‘Trail’: Brandywine Falls (easy)
-This really isn’t much of a trail, its just a neat boardwalk that takes you to a viewing platform to see the park’s largest waterfall. Oooo and ahhh and take a couple photos and head back to your car.
Now you’re probably hungry and you probably want some beer.
For your sake, I hope its not a Monday. Your first brewery on the itinerary is closed on Mondays. But if its not a Monday:
Your first brewery: Garrett’s Mill Brewing Company (35 minutes east of Brandywine Falls and only 10-20 minutes from your first camping spot, depending on which camping spot you pick).
After your belly is full and your heart is happy, its time to head to your first outdoor home for the evening. I’m giving you two options:
1.) The first option is Nelson Ledges Quarry Park. There is a beach, and cliff jumping, and sand volleyball and overall it sounds like a fun place. The website is a little bit repetitive, and as a tent camper it might take a while to find out where to make a booking… so just call them at (440) 548-2716 …the downside to this campsite is if you aren’t in the mood for a semi loud and semi busy environment, I would skip it. Which brings me to your second option:
2.) West Branch State Park. This is the more quiet option, but you can still swim here so thats exciting. You can make reservations online or give them a call at (330) 296-3239
-Make a little camp breakfast and then pack up your gear and head down the road to your hiking spot of the day.
-Plug in Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park to your map app. Whenever I go here I just wander around and explore all of the ledges, but there are actual trails you can do and Cascade Falls to Devil’s Icebox Loop Trail will take you to all the highlights of the park.
-Once you feel as if you’ve sufficiently explored this fun little park, get ready for a little bit of a drive. Plug Williamsport, Pennsylvania into your map and settle in your seat for just under 4 hours until you reach your second brewery of the trip: Bullfrog Brewery.
-Once you’re done sampling some beer and eating some foods at Bullfrog Brewery, head 20 minutes down the road to your campsite at Riverside Campground in Montgomery, PA. Have a fun campy night.
BONUS DAY: Right about here is where you would plug in the first option for a bonus day. You would start your bonus day by heading to Clyde Peelings Reptiland to see some cute sneks and turts (translated to: snakes and turtles). If you brought your own kayak on this trip, you can kayak the river using the launch point right there at your campground. After a fun day of reptiles and kayaking, you can hit up the taproom at New Trail Brewing Company (closed Mondays and Tuesdays) for a little tasting and then head to Boom City Brewing Company for dinner and more beer. Spend the night sleeping at the same campsite, Riverside Campground.
-Pack up camp and hit the road early, you have about an hour drive to Ricketts Glen State Park.
-Once you get to the park get ready to hike about 7 miles and see 21 waterfalls. This is one of my favorite trails east of Toledo. Some of the waterfalls you can swim in, so if thats your jam be ready for that. You’ll be doing the Ricketts Glen Falls Loop, which I will rate as moderate because of the amount of miles and the number of stairs you’ll be doing.
-After your buns start to burn from all the stairs you just accomplished (go you! I’ve been told a hiker’s butt is the best butt, so congrats) head to North Slope Brewing Company to hydrate with some delicious beer and put some nutrients back into your tired body. You’ve done good.
-Head to your camping spot for the night either at Ricketts Glen State Park or Frances Slocum State Park (you can kayak here!)
BONUS DAY: I am adding this bonus day in here just incase some of you are obsessed with the show “The Office”. At this point in the trip you’re only about an hour away from THE Scranton, Pennsylvania. This sounds pretty exciting, right? Turns out they didn’t really shoot much of the show in actual Scranton, and the city itself seems a tad boring…. but if you are totally into the show and like this kind of stuff, head to Scranton for the day. (I realize I didn’t sell that great… I love the show but was bored when I looked up the city).
-Get ready to visit the modern ghost town that inspired “Silent Hill”, and a handful of horror fiction authors such as Dean Koontz.
–Centralia is an old coal town. In 1962 a fire was lit in the town dump and it spread beneath the entire city, and it still burns today. Occasionally smoke can be seen billowing up from cracks in the ignored ground, and now less than 10 people live here.
-The highlight of this rejected city is a 3/4 mile stretch of broken up highway that buckled to pieces from the heat below. Its been renamed “Graffiti Highway” and is a neat pit stop. The access to the highway is from a small dirt parking area next to St. Ignatius Cemetery. There is no signage or anything pointing you to the correct access point… but it is not far from the road so if you’ve been walking a long time you might have missed it. If you look at St. Ignatius Cemetery on google satellite and scan a tiny bit south you can see the actual graffiti all over the highway and it’ll help you figure out how to access it.
*Rumor has it that access to the highway has changed and the land may have been bought… I don’t know what this currently means for people wanting to visit, so I’ll encourage you to give it a good ol’ college try and if you can’t get to the Graffiti Highway don’t yell at me.
-After exploring the small and creepy town of Centralia, head to America’s oldest brewery, Yuengling, just about a half hour away from the ghost town.
-After your belly is full, yet again, drive west to Seven Points Campground. Set up camp and enjoy some more of the outdoors.
*This campsite was just picked because it breaks up your driving time and allows you to stop in Pittsburgh during day time hours the next day. It’s also kinda cute.
-Before leaving this cute lake area, make sure to stop by the Ridenour and Hawns Overlooks, just a quick 0.4 mile walk with a very pretty view.
-Now you’re going to drive about 2.5 hours to Pittsburgh. You can either visit the zoo, or take your own kayaks to one of the many boat launches you’ll find listed on the app Go Paddling.
-The main reason behind visiting Pittsburg is to enjoy their beer scene. Go to one or all of the following breweries:
Church Brew Works, Brew Gentlemen, Dancing Gnome, Grist House and Hitchhiker Brewing Company.
-If you’re tired from sleeping on the ground, hiking a lot, and being one with nature, this night would be a good night to spoil yourself with a cute AirBnB. But if you’re still rocking that tent life, head to Raccoon Creek State Park and set up camp.
Get yo ass home. The fun is over.
If you want to do this trip as fast as possible (usually what I like to do), cut out all the bonus days and don’t bother going to Pittsburgh, just drive all the way home either after Ricketts Glen or Yuengling. The trail at Ricketts Glen makes the entire trip worth doing no matter what, so as long as you get that hike in there you’re golden.