FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WINTER WATERFALL ICE HIKING

Where is Ricketts Glen State Park located and where is the exact meeting location?


ANSWER: View where the Park Visitor Center is on Google Maps HERE. The exact meeting location is at a certain parking lot within the Park. A Google Maps link with the meeting spot is provided in a detailed confirmation email you receive immediately after making a booking.




Is the half and full day trips appropriate for first-time ice hikers?


ANSWER: Yes. No prior experience is required or necessary.




What should I expect in terms of terrain, amount of waterfalls, trail type and hiking miles? What are the main differences between the half and full day hikes?


ANSWER: For the Full Day Hike, you hike about 4.5 miles in a mostly clockwise triangle. The first 1/3 is generally flat, the second 1/3 is down a steep ravine full of waterfalls and the last 1/3 is up another steep ravine chock-full of waterfalls. There are 17 waterfalls, including the big 94ft Ganoga Falls, and takes about 5hrs. The last 1/3 of the hike is not easy. While we take the hiking pace down a notch, there is about a 900ft elevation gain. Most people are tired at the end of the hike and having burning thighs.

The Half Day Hike is about a 2.4 mile in-n-out hike where you hike out the same way you hike in. There are 4 waterfalls, including the big 94ft Ganoga Falls, and takes about 3hrs. to hike. From the parking lot to Ganoga Falls, which is the turnaround point, the trail is all down hill. The hike back up hill is not easy, but we take our time.




How do I determine whether the Half or Full Day Hike is appropriate for me?


ANSWER: There is no straight answer, but here are some thoughts:

The full day hike is not easy. You’ll feel it in your thighs by the end of the hike and have a sense of accomplishment. Most people can do it. The better shape you’re in, the easier and less struggle you’ll have. We hike at quite a slow pace and stop at each waterfall and take additional breaks throughout the hike. If you are in reasonable good health, reasonably physically fit, live somewhat of an active lifestyle and are generally not averse to adventuring in potentially freezing cold inclement weather, then book the Full Day ice hike.

If you are overweight, are not physically fit, don’t live an active life style or if you have certain medical or health issues, perhaps it would be prudent to book the Half Day Hike.

You can’t go wrong. Both the Half and Full Day hikes are extraordinary, unique and deliver unforgettable scenery, but they are very different experiences.

If you want to do the Full Day Hike, but have questions about your physical ability to complete and enjoy it, please call us at 215-543-6171 for guidance.




What is the minimum age permitted on the ice hike trips?


ANSWER: Half Day: 10yrs. If you have a 9yr. old, please call to discuss.

Full Day: 12yrs. If you have a mature and active 10-11yr. old, please call to discuss.




Is there any ice climbing involved in the trip?


ANSWER: No. There is no ice climbing. You hike on a snow and ice covered trail.




When should I arrive at the meeting location to check-in?


ANSWER: We recommend arriving at least 20 minutes prior to the check-in time (the time for which you booked your trip).




What is the check-in process once I arrive at the meeting location?


ANSWER: Upon your arrival, a VTS employee will greet you, provide helpful and pertinent information and assist you in parking your vehicle. After parking, you can use the restroom, put on your personal hiking gear (cloths + boots) and ensure personal items (medication, water, snacks, food, extra layers, car keys, cell phone, camera, etc.) are in your backpack.

Then, once all participants arrive, we gather for a pre-trip orientation, which is when we distribute and put on crampons, harnesses and helmets and handout ice axes and foam pads. After demonstrating how to use the provided gear, we have a risk management discussion relating to hiking in the wintertime at Ricketts Glen. On average, this entire pre-trip orientation process takes 1 hour.




Are there restrooms at the meeting location and during the hike?


ANSWER: There are restrooms available at the Visitor Center and at the parking lot where we meet.

There are no restrooms during the hike, but you can still relieve yourself in the great outdoors. We’ll discuss with the group “going to the bathroom in the outdoors” using Leave No Trace principles to ease any anxiety. Having the urge to relieve yourself during a hike is very uncomfortable, so the guides will occasionally remind everyone to use the “restrooms” during the hike.




When is the hike start time? When do we leave the meeting location and actually start to hike?


ANSWER: On average, we start hiking 1 hour after the check-in time.




How long does it take to complete the actual hike?


ANSWER: Half Day Hike: 3hrs. | Full Day Hike: 5hrs.

These times are estimates. Actual hiking time can vary depending on the group dynamics, group size, ice and snow conditions, temperature, injuries and other human and environmental factors.

We hike as a group and try to prevent the “accordion effect” where people are spread along the trail hiking at different paces.

In general, we hike slowly to enjoy the experience. We make frequent, but short, stops. We stop at every waterfall. We stop at cool ice formations. We stop for water and snack breaks. We stop to adjust our layering system. We stop to adjust crampons. We stop for pictures. We stop for first aid. We stop to catch our breath from hiking up hill. Lot’s of stops!

All of these stops are what make up the trip - innumerable opportunities to observe the beauty of nature while maintaining personal comfort.

The trip is not about how fast we can complete the hike. If you do not want to hike in a group setting where the pace is controlled by guides, book a private trip with people who hike at a similar pace as you.




How many people are in a hiking group and what is the guide-to-client ratio?


ANSWER: Generally 16 max per trip with a guide-to-client ratio of 1:8




Are snacks and lunch provided?


ANSWER: No.




What should I pack for snacks and lunch?


ANSWER: We recommend snacking throughout the trip rather than having a formal lunch. In addition to stopping at each waterfall, we take mini breaks along the trail. All of these moments are great opportunities to recharge with a snack and some water. Pack your favorite trail-mix, a couple health bars, jerky, yogurt and a PBJ/turkey/ham sandwich or hoagie. You could also bring a thermos with a hot drink or soup. By snacking throughout the hike, you can maintain a consistent energy level and help prevent that all too familiar sudden urge of having to relieve yourself after eating a big meal.

Refrain from eating food that has a tendency to “upset” your stomach.

We do stop at a “lunch” spot on the Full and Half Day Hikes.

For the Full Day Hike, the lunch spot is 2/3 into the hike and at the very bottom of the mountain. After the lunch break, we start the last 1/3 of the hike up a rather steep ravine back to the top of the mountain. Doing this portion of the hike immediately after eating a big lunch can negatively interfere with your experience to say the least.

For the Half Day Hike, while the return hike is not as long or intense and there is less elevation gain, we still recommend not having a large lunch.




Can I bring my own camping stove to make a hot lunch?


ANSWER: While it sounds like a good idea, there just isn’t enough time. Please bring a pre-packed lunch that does not require use of a stove.




Does Valley to Summit provide any gear?


ANSWER: Yes – crampons, ice axe, harness, helmet, foam pad




What personal gear am I responsible for bringing?


ANSWER: Please refer to the following document: Comprehensive List of Required Personal Gear

The weather is often times unpredictable and having sufficient layers and appropriate clothing and related gear is essential. Having layers of clothing allows you to regulate your body temperature so you do not overheat and sweat or become too cold and risk becoming hypothermic. Stopping along the hike to take a layer off or to add a layer on is common and encouraged.

Dressing for winter adventures is similar to dressing for skiing.

We recommend following the weather and temperatures throughout the week leading up to your trip and to pack and dress accordingly.

If you are uncertain, bring all the winter gear you have and a Valley to Summit guide will assist you in the parking lot and provide advice on what to wear and bring and what to leave behind based on the day’s forecast.




What is the proper footwear?


ANSWER: Hiking boots must approach/cover ankles and be supportive. You do not necessarily have to purchase special winter hiking boots. If you have any questions, please take a picture of your boots and text them to us at 215-543-6171 for our advice.

No Uggs, rubber rain boots, sneakers, trail running shoes or steal-toed boots.




What lodging options are available near the park?


ANSWER: There are a number of options including hotels, Airbnb, Homeaway.com, B&Bs and other local accommodations. Please refer to the following document, which provides a non-exhaustive list of lodging options: Lodging Options near Ricketts Glen




Can I bring my dog?


ANSWER: No. While winter adventures with your dog(s) can be lots of fun, the terrain, environment, icy trail conditions and other factors make the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen during wintertime not an appropriate place for dogs, especially on a guided group hike.

Please note that leaving your dog in your vehicle during the hike is not an option. Please leave your dog(s) at home or find alternate local accommodations.




Are private trips available and, if so, what is the pricing?


ANSWER: Yes, private trips are only available on the weekdays at the following rates:

Full Day & Half Day

Group Size | Cost Per Person | Total

1 | $340 | $340

2 | $170 | $340

3 | $141 | $425

4 | $127.50 | $510

5 and more | $115 | Depends on group size




How do I book a Winter Waterfall Ice Hiking Trip?


ONLINE BOOKING Click "BOOK NOW" on our website HERE, then choose Full Day or Half Day, pick a date and time, enter contact info and provide credit card info for payment. TELEPHPONE Call us at 215-543-6171 and we can complete the booking process, plus waive the additional $3.50 per ticket in online taxes and fees.





KAYAKING

How does the kayak program work?


ANSWER: We are a mobile business and meet clients streamside at certain river access points along the Schuylkill River Water Trail. Everyone then takes a short shuttle ride (except The Lock 60 Loop trip) with the kayak trailer in tow upstream to put-in on the river at another access point. After disembarking the shuttle, distributing gear and conducting a short orientation, you’ll begin your on-water kayak adventure.

You’ll paddle/float at your own pace downstream enjoying wildlife sightings and the beautiful tree-lined river banks to the take-out access point at which we originally met for the shuttle and where you parked your car. A VTS staff member will be at the take-out upon your arrival.

The access points are all located in local county/township parks and offer beautiful settings for a before or after-paddle picnic. Some even offer hiking opportunities and many offer easy access to the Schuylkill River Trail on which you can bike or enjoy a wonderful hike. There are also wonderful river towns with great restaurants and other festive attractions.




Are the kayak trips appropriate for first-time kayakers?


ANSWER: Yes, the self-guided rental and guided tours are appropriate for first-time kayakers. The guided tours, however, are especially a great introduction to kayaking for first-time kayakers. Doing a guided tour is a great way to experience kayaking on a slow moving river and to learn basic paddling technics and safety protocols. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss which program might be best for you.




How long are you on the water for each trip?


ANSWER: As a general rule, the first hour of every trip includes all of the following pre-trip on-land activities: meeting, bathrooms, shuttle ride, taking kayaks off the trailer, distributing and fitting gear, intros, paddle demo, risk management discussion and then finally pushing off onto the river. The balance of the time is yours to enjoy on the water at your own pace.

As an example, the first hour of the 3hr. kayaking trip (rental or guided) involves all of the pre-trip on-land activity just described. The remaining 2hrs. is all yours to explore and discover and to paddle/float from the put-in to the take-out access points. You can be on the water for the full 2hrs. or for just 1hr., it all depends on your speed. Some go fast, some go slow. Some like to paddle, some like to float.

If you paddle a lot during your trip and don’t stop along the way, you will certainly finish early. If you mostly float and paddle just to steer, then you will be on the water for most of your on-water time allotment.

The amount of time you are on the river also depends on the water current. Sometimes the water current will move quicker than normal as a result of prior storms, resulting in a quicker on-water experience. If the water is moving too fast, kayaking may be canceled.




Where does the shuttle meet?


ANSWER: The shuttle meets at the specified meeting location for the specific trip you book. Details are provided on the trip webpage and in the detailed confirmation email you receive immediately after you make a booking. Keep an eye out for the Google map link that has the meeting location pinned.




When does the shuttle depart?


ANSWER: Shuttle departs 10 minutes from the trip meeting time (the time for which you booked). Shuttle rides range from 10mins. – 18mins, depending on the specific trip and traffic conditions. Please do not be late. We run multiple kayak trips daily and operate in adherence to a strict put-in and take-out schedule. We do not wait for late arrivals beyond the 10 minute window / shuttle departure time as it could affect the daily trip schedule.




Do all trips have shuttles?


ANSWER: Most, but not all. All trips have a shuttle, except for the 3hr. Lock 60 Loop trip. For that trip, you paddle in a circle – 2 miles down the Schuylkill River and then 2 miles up the canal back to where you parked.




Is use of the shuttle service for people required?


ANSWER: No, but we highly recommend you use our shuttle service. If you choose to arrange your own shuttle, please make appropriate plans, understand the logistics involved and ensure it does not interfere with the trip’s schedule. Please also make us aware of your intentions to self-shuttle.




Can customers transport rental kayaks for self-guided trips on their own vehicles?


ANSWER: No. All VTS kayaks must be transported on VTS’ trailer and vehicle.




What type of shuttle vehicle is used?


ANSWER: 15 passenger 2019 Ford Transit Mid Roof Height with roof rack. The trailer is a large commercial kayak trailer capable of holding a variety of paddleboats. Between the roof rack and trailer, we can transport, on average, up to 19 kayaks.




How long until you push-off on the river from when you arrive at the put-in access location?


ANSWER: On average, you are on the water kayaking in 20 minutes from the time you arrive at the put-in access point. It can take much shorter or a little longer; it really depends on how many people are on a particular trip.




Do you have to know how to swim?


ANSWER: While knowing how to swim is not necessary, we encourage you to seek professional instruction if you don’t know how to swim as it enhances your personal safety. We do provide a life jacket that will assist keeping you afloat in the event you find yourself out of the kayak and in the water. Life jackets are required to be worn at all times during a self-guided rental trip or a guided tour.




Is it a good idea to bring a cell phone/camera on a kayaking trip?


ANSWER: We recommend at least one person in your party bring a cell phone for safety purposes on self-guided rental trips. Cellular service is available on the river for your mobile phone.

It’s ok for others in your group to also bring their cell phones to take pictures and video. The main risk of bringing your cell phone on the river is dropping it in the river and forever damaging it or not able to retrieve it. Most people, however, do bring their cell phones and they go home with it and enjoy great pictures and video they took.

If you do bring your cell phone, the ultimate recommendation is to purchase a cell phone waterproof pouch/case from a store or online. Our life jackets have zippered pockets. While not 100% waterproof, the zippered pocket is a great place to keep your phone while not in use to prevent it from falling in the river.




Are water, snacks and lunch provided?


ANSWER: No. Please bring your own water, snacks and lunch.




Do we run trips in the rain?


ANSWER: It depends. We try to run trips when the forecast is for friendly rain - drizzling, raining on and off or if it looks like the rain will pass though quickly. Being on the water during and after friendly rain can be lots of fun filled with lots of unique opportunities to discover and explore.

If thunderstorms are likely or imminent, we will cancel your trip. You can also cancel if you are not comfortable paddling in friendly rain. In either case, you can reschedule or request a refund.

Forecasters are not always correct in terms of severity, timing and location of rain/thunder storms. Forecasting weather is not a perfect science and what is forecasted today to be a thunderstorm for tomorrow can develop overnight into a forecast of a mere passing rain shower. As such, we try to wait as long as possible before canceling a trip. If weather is forecasted, we will contact you the day before to discuss options. Feel free to reach out to us also via phone, text or email to inquire about weather conditions.




Do we cancel trips due to river conditions?


ANSWER: Yes.

High Water Closure: Water levels often rise during and after storms creating a very swift and dangerous current to navigate for beginner and more advanced paddlers alike. Fast current creates unique difficulties getting into the river and ultimately reaching the take-out. Fast current also makes any necessary self or assisted rescue much more difficult and places yourself and the rescuers in enhanced danger. In addition, many islands and other places along the banks of the river that you normally can access to get out of your kayak to explore become inaccessible, which limits your ability to seek safety if necessary. Storms and high water also create dirty brown water with dangerous floating debris such as large tree trunks, branches and other large objects, some natural and others manmade.

Low Water Closure: Low water closures are caused by extended draughts, normally occur in July/August and are very rare. When there are insufficient water levels, the kayaks bottom-out scrapping the rocks, paddling becomes impossible at times and you have to carry your kayaks over the shallow parts, all of which creates a frustrating experience. The sections we paddle are navigable throughout the summer and do not normally suffer from draughts as badly as other sections do on the Schuylkill River.




Are life jackets required?


ANSWER: Yes. Life jackets are provided and must be worn at all times when on or in water, even if you bring your own paddleboat.




Is alcohol or other controlled substances permitted?


ANSWER: No.




What service/gear is provided?


ANSWER: The following is provided for every self-guided rental trip: shuttle (except for The Lock 60 Loop trip), kayak, paddle, life jacket with whistle, waterproof map, handheld bilge pump, sponge, waterproof bag and dry storage hatch

For guided trips, everything from the above list is provided, with the addition of a professional guide who provides assistance and instruction.




Are dogs permitted?


ANSWER: As a general rule, no, especially if they have never been on a kayak in moving water like the Schuylkill River. Once a trip starts and you begin your down-stream paddle, it is very difficult to assist if the dog is not having a good time. We recommend starting in a lake so that you can paddle back to shore if the dog isn’t happy. In addition, our kayaks do not provide much extra space for a dog, unless a tandem is being used.




What types of kayaks are provided and are there weight and size limitations?


ANSWER: We currently have 2 tandem sit-in kayaks available. Additional tandem sit-on-tops are ordered, but delivery is delayed.

Experience paddling premium recreational kayaks. All rental kayaks must be used on the trip for which you book.

SINGLE SIT-IN KAYAKS

Venture Flex Recreational Kayaks

  • How many? 13
  • single sit-in
  • skeg
  • twist lock footrests
  • 10’8” long
  • 25” wide
  • max paddler weight 265lbs
  • adjustable high backrest
  • adjustable deluxe padded seat
  • dry storage hatch
  • bungee cord lashes

Venture Islay Cruiser Recreational Kayak

  • How many? 2
  • single sit-in
  • twist lock footrests
  • 12’5” long
  • 26” wide
  • max paddler weight 275lbs
  • adjustable high backrest
  • adjustable deluxe padded seat
  • dry storage hatch
  • bungee cord lashes
TANDEM SIT-IN KAYAKS

Perception Cove 145T

  • How many? 1
  • tandem sit-in
  • adjustable footrests
  • 14’6” long
  • 31.25” wide
  • max paddler weight 550lbs
  • adjustable high backrest
  • adjustable deluxe padded seat
  • dry storage hatch
  • bungee cord lashes

Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T

  • How many? 1
  • tandem sit-in
  • adjustable padded footrests
  • 13’6” long
  • 31” wide
  • max paddler combined weight 500lbs
  • adjustable high backrest
  • adjustable deluxe padded seat
  • dry storage hatch
  • bungee cord lashes





FORMS

Participant Agreement for Adults including 1) Assumption of Risk Agreement, 2) Agreements of Release, 3) Waiver and Indemnity, 4) Photograph and Video Release Waiver Agreements and 5) Medical Agreement and Related Provisions


Participant Agreement for Adults including (digital signature)

- Assumption of Risk Agreement

- Agreements of Release, Waiver and Indemnity

- Photograph and Video Release and Waiver Agreements

- Medical Agreement and Related Provisions




Participant Agreement for Minor including 1) Assumption of Risk Agreement, 2) Agreements of Release, 3) Waiver and Indemnity, 4) Photograph and Video Release Waiver Agreements and 5) Medical Agreement and Related Provisions


Participant Agreement for Adults including (digital signature)

- Assumption of Risk Agreement

- Agreements of Release, Waiver and Indemnity

- Photograph and Video Release and Waiver Agreements

- Medical Agreement and Related Provisions




Participant Health Form


Participant Health Form (digital signature)




Winter Adventure Gear List


Winter Adventure Gear List




Lodging Options for Ricketts Glen State Park Region


Lodging Options for Ricketts Glen State Park Region





CANCELLATION POLICY

What is the cancellation, refund and reschedule policy?


Operator Cancellation: If we cancel a trip, you can reschedule, apply your funds to another trip category or request a refund.

Client Cancellation: Full refunds are available if you cancel at least 14 days before the date of your trip. For all other cancellations leading up to 3 days before your trip date, you may reschedule at no additional cost, apply your payment to any other VTS trip category or request a partial refund of 50%. If you cancel during the 3 days leading up to your trip, you can request a partial refund of 30% or reschedule for an additional $25 per ticket. No refunds or rescheduling options for no-shows and day-of cancellations.

If you are not able to travel to your trip destination due to local or state travel requirements or restrictions related to COVID, you can request a refund, reschedule without any fees or maintain a credit and apply the funds to a future trip.





COVID-19

What are the current Covid-19 guidlines?


We'd prefer that all clients be vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, please inform Valley to Summit staff so that we may impletment social distancing and other related protocols, such as the wearing of appropriate face masks. If you are have any covid-19 symptom, please stay home and get tested to prevent potential spread to other trip participants.