Patuxent Wildlife Refuge & Jailbreak Brewing Company

Laurel, MD

When I first moved to Maryland, the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge was my favorite place to hike! It’s small but it’s such a great place to see wildlife. It’s always peacefully quiet and feels like you’re miles away from the hustle and bustle. There’s one main trail that follows along the lake which is very popular with fisherman and birdwatchers. This refuge is so serene and there’s even a nice visitor center with activities for the whole family. And when you’re done taking in the scenery, pop over to Jailbreak Brewing which offers refreshing brews and a full kitchen. This is the perfect afternoon hike & hop combo!

THE HIKE: Patuxent Wildlife Refuge – South Tract

Length: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 45 mins
Trail use: Hiking, running, leashed pets
Parking: Very large parking lot at the visitor’s center
H&H: 5/5

The Patuxent Wildlife Refuge is run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and has been open since 1936. It is maintained as a sanctuary for biodiversity and for researching wildlife. Thankfully, it’s also open to the public! There are three main areas. The North Tract is the newest section, previously a military testing site that was incorporated into the refuge in the early 90’s. The Central Tract is not open to the public due to the sensitive nature of research conducted here. In the South Tract area, there’s a large parking lot and visitor center with interpretive exhibits that will be popular with the whole family. Today’s hike is in the South Tract!

I really like this park because despite its short trails, it offers so many different landscapes. The main trail takes you through the woods and along Cash Lake. There’s a floating bridge that crosses the lake, giving you a close up of the sea of lily pads. This is also a great place to view some large birds of prey! We’ve even seen a bald eagle roosting on one of the birds nest stands. The trail is very flat so it’s a good spot for people of all abilities. There are some sections with raised tree roots so be careful! Along the path there are many benches to stop and take in the scenery.

THE BEER: Jailbreak Brewing Company

Address: 10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop, Laurel, MD 20708
Distance from Trail Head: 10 miles, 20 mins
Food?: Full Kitchen
H&H Rating: 5/5

Opening in 2014, Jailbreak Brewing Company was Howard County’s first production brewery! My partner and I used to live in Laurel and we were here all the time. Jailbreak has delicious brews that you can find all over the state. They feature a solid line of headliners and also have unique seasonal offerings. For this visit, we were excited to introduce the brewery to some of our family and friends. Needless to say, there was a lot of sampling going on! Jailbreak also offers a full bar menu as well as wine. We stuck to beer and were able to taste most of the menu. What are friends for right? My fav of the night was definitely the Hey, Porter! I also always like the headliner amber ale, The Infinite. 

One of my favorite things about Jailbreak is that they also have a full menu. And let me tell you, it’s really, really good! They have pizza, tacos, and sandwiches. I’ve tried a lot of the menu and there really hasn’t been anything I didn’t like. This time I had the fried chicken sandwich and it was pretty much life changing. 

Our Beer:

  • Last Chance to Throw Out Ideas for the Collab Beer Name – Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout – 12.8%
  • Dry Hopped Saison – Saison – 6.2%
  • Logger: Pre-Prohibition Lager – Lager – 5.8%
  • Hey, Porter! – Porter – 7.4% 
  • The Infinite – Amber Ale – 5%

SUM UP: Long before Hikes & Hops was official, this was one of our original combos. The Patuxent Wildlife Refuge is small but mighty, offering beautiful views over Cash Lake and lots of opportunities to see wildlife. Doing the full loop around the lake will give you about a 2 mile stretch of the legs, with the opportunity to add on another mile through the woods if wanted. There’s ample parking here with a large visitor center. Afterward, head into Laurel to warm up with a brew and a bite at Jailbreak Brewing Company. They have a large variety of beers, as well as cocktails and wine. Jailbreak is everything you could want in a brewery!

Patapsco Valley State Park – Soapstone Trail & Heavy Seas Brewery

Halethorpe, MD

We never seem to get enough of Patapsco Valley! This state park is massive and there are so many different areas to explore. When we first started getting into hiking, a friend recommended the Soapstone Trail in PVSP and we went so much! This is a great trail for beginners or someone who just wants a quick hike. It’s got just enough incline to get your heart pumping but only takes about an hour to complete. And to make it even better, Heavy Seas Brewing is less than 5 miles away.

THE HIKE: Patapsco Valley State Park – Soapstone Trail

Trail Map:

Length: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 290 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  1-1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Biking
Parking: Large lot off road
H&H: 4/5

Patapsco Valley State Park is Maryland’s second largest state park, running 32 miles along the Patapsco River. Its 16,000 acres span into Howard, Carroll, and Baltimore counties. The busiest area of the park, Avalon, is where you’ll find Cascade Falls, one of Maryland’s most popular hiking spots. Be aware though, due to its popularity, certain entrances at PVSP hit capacity and have to close. Plan accordingly if you want to visit here in the summer months! 

We always like the Soapstone trail because it doesn’t use the main entrance of the park and we’ve never had trouble parking. The trailhead is right off S. Rolling Hill Road where there is a very large gravel pull off area. This hike is very popular but even on the weekends we’ve always found a spot in this lot. Please note: if you decide to do this trail by starting at the park’s main entrance, there is an entry fee! 

This hike is an easy 3 miles. The first half is taking a meandering path down through the woods. Be sure to add on the Bull Run loop at the 1 mile marker. Then continue down to a joining of two streams. At this point there is a larger stream crossing to get to another parking lot where there are bathrooms. Then, you take the more direct path of the opposite side of the stream to go back up the ridge. This is where you’ll encounter a few steeper spots, but they are very doable. 

This is really a great trail for beginner hikers or anyone short on time. Just be aware that it is a popular trail with both hikers and mountain bikers so be prepared to share the road! And when you’re ready to kick back and relax, Heavy Seas is the perfect spot for you!

THE BEER: Heavy Seas Brewery

Address: 4615 Hollins Ferry Rd, Halethorpe, MD 21227
Distance from Trail Head:  3.5 miles, 7 mins 
Website: /
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 4/5

Heavy Seas Brewing is one of the OG Maryland craft breweries. They’ve been around since 1995 and have been brewing their headliner Loose Cannon IPA since 2004 so they know what’s up. Heavy Seas is one of the largest craft breweries in Maryland, producing over 40,000 barrels of beer in 2020. Despite this huge production, their taproom in Halethorpe had a cozy, neighborhood feel. The main room had wooden tables with a large bar area. There also is a larger second seating area in the production facility with large yard games like jenga, connect 4, and corn hole. We sampled a flight in the taproom and my favorite was definitely the Great’er Pumpkin. It was delicious but really packs a punch! It was just what I needed after a crisp morning in the woods. J’s favorite of the day was the Dark Anchor Porter which is an English style porter so it had a bit more of a hoppiness to the roasty flavor. 

Despite living in Maryland for 4 years, this was our time at Heavy Seas! I’m so glad that we got to try some of the small batch beers in the taproom. We’ll definitely be back soon! 


  • Dark Anchor – Porter – 6.8%
  • Honey Graham Porter – Porter – 8% 
  • Treat – Sour Ale – 7%
  • The Great’er Pumpkin – Pumpkin Beer – 10%

SUM UP: Patapsco Valley State Park is one of the largest parks in Maryland. It has several different areas to hike but one of our favorites is the Soapstone Trail. This is a short hikes that’s great for beginners or for those looking for a quick hike. It’s got some elevation changes so I’ve rated it as moderate. There’s a large parking lot on the side of the road near the trailhead and there’s no entrance fee. Afterward, head to Heavy Seas Brewery only 3.5 miles away to sample some of Maryland’s favorite brews. Heavy Seas is one of the largest breweries in Maryland but you can’t beat getting beer from the source! They have a great neighborhood feel to their taproom that makes you want to stay awhile. Be sure to try either one of their headliners or sample a unique small batch; Heavy Seas has got it all!

Gunpowder Falls State Park & Inverness Brewery

Parkton, Maryland

There’s nothing I love more than a long hike in the fall! The trails are less crowded and I love to see the landscape changing. For this hike we headed up the Gunpowder Falls and did the Big Loop in the Hereford area. This hike was the perfect reset for me. Sometimes all you need is a quiet walk in the woods to rejuvenate! We still didn’t quite hit peak foliage colors, but the soft yellows were still beautiful.

THE HIKE: Gunpowder Falls Big Loop

Trail Map:

Length: 7.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 691 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  3 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets, horseback riding
Parking: Various road pulloffs along the loop
H&H: 4/5

Gunpowder Falls State Park spans across Harford and Baltimore counties making it one of Maryland’s largest state parks. It covers nearly 18,000 acres along the Gunpowder River. This particular hike follows a 7 mile loop in the Hereford area of the park. At times, several trails intersect your path so it’s best to have a map pulled up. These trails are open to hiking, biking, and even horseback riding so make sure to share the trail! When we went, we hardly saw anyone but there was a lovely group of horseback riders that we chatted with. Remember when coming up behind horses, try to make some noise to alert your presence. You never want to spook the horse! 

Be warned that some parts did get a little overgrown. At one point there were so many trees down along the path that we had to do a bit of bushwhacking! Always be careful when going off trail though and only venture when necessary. For me, the scrambling over trees and through narrow sections made it fun, but I can see some people finding this frustrating. Also a nice plus, this trail passes a bathroom at one of the trailheads which is always nice for longer hikes!

I’ve rated this trail as moderate due to multiple creek crossings and a few difficult inclines. I love stream crossings but J is not a fan. I was very impressed with him for tackling the log crossing over a stream! But don’t worry, the stream was small enough that you didn’t need to cross the log; we just did it for fun! We also saw some good mushrooms along the way. J absolutely loves fall hikes for all the little fungi hiding under leaves. 

The only thing I didn’t like about this hike was a small section where you had to cross a road and then go up the street to continue on the trail. It’s a fairly large street so be very careful when making this crossing! Overall, this was a very peaceful hike, perfect for a crisp fall day! I’d definitely come back and do this one again.

THE BEER: Inverness Brewery

Address: 16200 Markoe Rd, Monkton, MD 21111
Distance from Trail Head:  6.5 miles, 10 mins 
Food?: Food Trucks onsite, no outside food
H&H Rating: 4/5

Inverness Brewing is a large farm brewery in Monkton, Maryland. It opened in 2018 making it the first farm brewery in Baltimore County. They’ve got everything you could want for a day out! There are two separate bar areas and sometimes even a beer cart outside! You’ll never go hungry with multiple food trucks onsite. There’s plenty of room for kids to run around and even a bocce court! When we visited there was live music in the barn and lots of families picnicking on the lawn. It was such a great atmosphere. 

Inverness proudly grows its own hops which we love to see! Farm breweries really are the best because it always feels like you’re joining the owners at their home for the day. Inverness is full of family heirlooms and handmade furniture, including a really impressive swinging bar in the main barn made by one of the owners. There’s also a lower level to the barn that opens up to outdoor seating with firepits. Seriously if you can’t find a nice place to sit here, there’s something wrong with you! We also peaked into the Stall Bar, a small extension of the main bar where you can peek into the brewing facility. True to its name, the owners converted an old stable into the brewing area. Talk about repurposing! 

I was disappointed at first to see that no outside food was allowed. I really like to bring my own snacks so I don’t have to spend a lot. BUT we decided to split a pizza from the food truck and I’m glad we made an exception because it was delicious! We had to scarf it down pretty quick though because the flies were out in fll force. We finished out our afternoon by sitting in the loft of the main barn and enjoying the live music. My favorite beer of the beer was definitely the oktoberfest. It was the perfect compliment to the crisp fall day. J really liked the Rye on a Buffalo which was a barrel-aged Nordic Rye. I’m not a huge fan of rye flavors but I’m glad he liked it! Overall, this was a really great brewery and I’m sure we’ll be back!

Our Beer:

  • Maerzen/Oktoberfest – Marzen – 6.2%
  • Barn Beer Porter – Porter – 5.5%
  • Breezin – Session IPA – 4.6%
  • Rye on a Buffalo – Rye Beer – 6.8%

SUM UP: Gunpowder Falls State Park is a very large park north of Baltimore that spans across two counties. The Big Loop trail is located in the Hereford area and you can park off the road at the trailhead. You won’t encounter much traffic on this peaceful hike but be prepared for stream crossings, some overgrown trails, and climbing over downed trees. Bring a map, as the intersecting trails can get confusing! After this peaceful romp through the woods, head to Inverness Brewing, a farm brewery about 10 minutes away. There’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, with several onsite food trucks. The beer is very good and the farm setting makes for a great place to unwind. Be sure to check out all the antique and homemade furniture throughout the brewery. And, of course, sit back and enjoy the countryside with a cold brew!

Elk Neck State Park & Elk River Brewing Co.

Elkton, MD

Despite how much we hike, J and I are camping newbies. Thankfully we have awesome friends who showed us the ropes at Elk Neck State Park. While braving the autumn chill and sudden rain showers, we managed to fit in a little hike and hop. The Beaver Marsh Trail in the state park is a short hike that offers beautiful woods and water views. It’s fairly flat so it would be a really great hike for families. We enjoyed the sprawling woods full of pawpaw trees and the lovely views over the Elk River. Back up the peninsula in the town of Elkton, there’s Elk River Brewing, aka the cutest brewery ever™. And while you’re heading up there, why not stop at Chesapeake Bay Coffee Co for a delicious donut? Sounds like the perfect fall day to me! 

THE HIKE: Elk Neck State Park – Beaver Marsh Trail

Length: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 170 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time:  1 hour
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot, entry fee for day use
H&H: 3/5

Elk Neck State Park is a small park in Cecil County, Maryland with about 8 miles of hiking trails. While it might not have the most trails around, it offers 250 campsites, a beach, canoe/kayak launches, and fishing piers. It’s really got a lot going on despite its small size. Since a number of the trails were closed due to tornado damage from 2019, we opted to do the Beaver Marsh trail which looped around the central marsh in the park. Despite only doing 2.2 miles, I was impressed with the variety of scenery we encountered on this hike. We ambled through thick woods, walked along the marshy beaver pond, and ended with a stroll along the river beach. This was the perfect trail for hikers of all abilities and definitely would be ideal for a family. However, our group of four avid hikers found the trail just a tad lacking. I think we would have opted for a longer trail if we were just in town for the day. But since we were spending the weekend camping and canoeing, the shorter hike worked for us. 

Be aware that this hike is best done in the fall or spring as the marshy conditions come with a lot of bugs when the humidity rises. It also could be a pretty muddy trek so I would definitely recommend having hiking boots. Entry to the park is free if you are camping but be aware that there is a fee to access the park at other times. It is $3 per vehicle on weekdays and $3 per person on the weekends for Maryland plates. Out of state vehicles must pay $5 per car on weekdays and $5 per person on weekends. Make sure to have cash as you will be leaving your fee in an envelope at the entrance. There is an additional $10 (in state) or $12 (out of state) fee for using the boat launch

THE BEER: Elk River Brewing Company

Address: 112 E Main St, Elkton, MD 21921
Distance from Trail Head:  14 miles, 25 mins 
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 5/5

After our hike, we headed up the peninsula to the main street of Elkton where we found quite possibly the cutest brewery ever. Elk River Brewing Company has been on Main Street for three years and it really has established itself as the place to be. There’s cozy outdoor seating in front of the building where you can kick back in Adirondack chairs or you can stay inside and enjoy the homey décor. Much of the décor and signs inside are all handmade, which the crafter in me really appreciated. On weekends, the biergarten in back of the property is always hopping with live music, fire pits, and an outdoor biershed. Honestly, why can’t this brewery be closer to me?! It has everything a gal could want! 

While they don’t have their own kitchen, Elk River Brewing highly encourages you to BYOF or order from the local restaurants. We brought some snacks, had some delicious brews, and spent the Sunday afternoon playing Trivial Pursuit. I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing afternoon! We were very impressed with the range of beers that Elk River offered. Often you find that a brewery excels only in IPAs or they’re just known for their sours. We honestly liked everything we had at Elk River! Since it was starting to feel like fall outside, I was quite pleased to see some maltier offerings on tap. My favorite of the day was the Queen’s Imperial Red which was a delightfully strong beer that didn’t have the heady-ness that often comes with a high-ABV. It was well-balanced with a delicious malt flavor. Overall we were very impressed with Elk River and wished that it wasn’t over an hour (and several toll booths) away from us!

Our Beer:

  • Octoraro Red – Irish Red Ale – 4.8%
  • Susky River Stout – Stout – 7%
  • Gracie Browne – Brown Ale – 5%
  • Queen’s Point – Imperial Red Ale – 8.1%

SUM UP: Elk Neck State Park is a small park in Cecil County that offers hiking, camping, boating, fishing, and swimming. It’s located on a peninsula with the Chesapeake Bay on one side and the Elk River on the other. The Beaver Marsh trail was a short, easy hike that would be good for all hikers, especially families. There was a lot of variety in the landscape and the trail ended at a pretty beach overlooking the river. It’s also a great spot for canoeing or kayaking. After hiking, head into town for a coffee and delicious seasonal donut at Chesapeake Coffee Company. Afterward, continue north into Elkton to visit Elk River Brewing Company on Main Street. They make delicious beer in a friendly, homey environment. You might just have to stay for a second round!