North Point State Park & Key Brewing Co.

Dundalk, MD

This past weekend, we made it out to Dundalk for the first time! I’ve been wanting to go to North Point State Park to see those amazing views out over the water. And since Maryland can be a wee bit unpleasant near water in the summer (the humidity and mosquitoes are no joke!), we opted to save this for a fall hike. That was a win for us because this park was absolutely beautiful in the crisp late fall weather. This is a great easy hike for those days when climbing a mountain just ain’t gonna happen. Enjoy the peaceful marshlands and relax in a bench by the water and when you’re ready, head over to Key Brewing Co. for a refreshing brew!

THE HIKE: North Point State Park Loop

Length: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 40 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets, biking on some trails
Parking: Large parking lot at trailhead. $3 per vehicle for MD residents ($5 non-resident) off season and weekdays; $4 per vehicle MD residents ($6 non-resident) for peak weekends
H&H: 3/5

Parts of the area that is now North Point State Park used to be an amusement park. The Bay Shore Amusement Park operated for about 40 years and was a popular trolley destination from Baltimore. After the area was bought out by a steel company, it was another 40 years before the land was recovered by the Department of Natural Resources and turned into a wildlife sanctuary. Parts of the old park still exist including the trolley station, a large pier, and a fountain. 

Trail through the wetlands

Because this park is right on the water, the trails are very flat and easily accessible. The first two miles of this hike is the most woodsy and was by far my favorite section. You start out on the Black Marsh trail which leads through the protected wetlands of the area. Please be aware that no bikes are allowed in this area! Throughout the wooded section, there are little educational signs about the wildlife in the area. We learned a lot about the birds of the area! Unfortunately, we didn’t see too many birds for ourselves. 

Moderately spooky abandoned building

After the marshlands, you pass by one of the old park structures. Some people were inside exploring but I don’t mess with creepy abandoned buildings! The trail then leads along the water, offering expansive views of the Chesapeake Bay. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought we were at the ocean! A really unique part of this park is the 1000ft Crystal Pier. It’s super impressive and we really liked walking all the way out to the end. Although it was way colder with no trees to block the wind! Aside from the pier, the latter half of the trail was not my favorite. Some of the path lead along the road and other parts were a mowed path through a field. I find grassy trails boring and difficult to walk on so I much preferred the marshland trail at the beginning. 

Overall, this was a great new park for us. We always love being in new areas and I will never stop being impressed by the Chesapeake Bay. If we went again, I think I would like to go on a warmer day and bring a picnic to have by the water. There are tons and tons of picnic tables so it seems quite popular! Also I believe that you can swim here in the summer? Don’t hold me to that though. Another perk of North Point State Park is it’s only 4 miles away from Key Brewing!

THE BEER: Key Brewing Co.

Address: 2500 Grays Rd, Dundalk, MD 21222
Distance from Trail Head: 4.5 miles, 9 mins
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 4/5

Like many Maryland breweries, Key Brewing is located at the end of a long industrial park. They have a really large, comfortable taproom which offers no-fuss, quality beers. Key brewing is the only brewery in Dundalk and they’ve been a community staple since their opening in 2015. Their name is a tribute to Francis Scott Key, our famous anthem writer and Baltimore native. Key Brewing has a vibe I can get behind: straightforward quality. They want craft beer to be something anyone can enjoy, not something intimidating or elitist. We felt completely relaxed in their taproom full of people watching a football game and a group having a small family reunion. I loved that it felt like a local hangout. 

Key Brewing was definitely an IPA place, which is great because that’s often what I’m craving after a romp in the woods. For me, the winner of the day was definitely the double IPA, Dundalk Calling. It’s big on flavor and is dry hopped with Citra, which I think is pretty much my favorite hops? Like I’m no pro but every IPA that I really like seems to be made with Citra! J liked the Next Stop Rye Porter, which he thought had a really subtle rye flavor that didn’t overpower the classic porter taste. I’m so glad that we stopped by Key Brewing and I will definitely be keeping a look out for their beers in my local market! 

Our Beer:

  • Diamonds and Domes – West Coast IPA – 6.7%
  • Speed Wobbles – Session IPA – 4.6%
  • Next Stop Rye Porter – Porter – 5.5%
  • Dundalk Calling – Double IPA – 8%

SUM UP: North Point State Park is a former amusement park located in Baltimore County on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Now it is a wildlife sanctuary and greenspace offering hiking and biking trails, as well as fishing piers. A highlight is definitely the 1000 ft. Crystal Pier, jutting out into the Bay. Make sure to have cash to pay the park entrance fee! All of the trails are flat with little to no obstacles. Only 4 miles away is Key Brewing Co., Dundalk’s first and only craft brewery. Bring some snacks, enjoy good beer, and stay for the comfy atmosphere!

Washington Monument State Park (Via Appalachian Trail) & Homaide Brewing Co.

Boonsboro/ Williamsport, MD

It’s always a treat to make it out to western Maryland. Bit by bit, we’ve been tackling the sections of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. This hike was another small section that took us to Washington Monument State Park. It was the perfect hike to get our blood pumping on a chilly morning. Afterward, we warmed up with a couple (okay, a few) brews at Homaide Brewing Company. This was a great start to our winter hiking season!

THE HIKE: Appalachian Trail: Turner’s Gap to Washington Monument

Length: 4.4 miles (Out and Back)
Elevation Gain: 950 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  1.5-2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: AT parking at the Old South Mountain Inn. If full, do hike in reverse and park at Monument
H&H: 5/5

The Appalachian Trail meanders 40 miles through Western Maryland. We’re not backpackers (yet) so we’ve been slowly working through small sections of the AT. Since this is a bit far for us to drive, we planned to stop for a hike along the way to our hometown for Thanksgiving. This section of the AT is only 2.2 miles (4.4 out and back) but it was the perfect way to start out a weekend of eating, eating, and maybe some more eating. There’s ample parking for AT hikers in the Old South Mountain Inn, especially when the restaurant isn’t open. Also this is very close to the Dahlgren backpackers campsite if you’d like to extend your hike! 

I rated this trail as moderate since there are some elevation changes with a few rocky spots. I really liked all of these features since they kept the hike interesting! We hardly encountered anyone on the trail this crisp morning and before we knew it, we were already at the Washington Monument! We had the overlook completely to ourselves. The view from the top of the monument was utterly spectacular. Something about the brisk morning made the colors of the sky really gleam. 

Okay so you’re probably wondering, isn’t the Washington Monument in DC? Well this is a different one! This monument was built by the people of Boonsboro in 1827, making it the first completed monument to GW. It was used as a signal tower by the Union in the Civil War too. After the war, it fell into disrepair and was eventually revitalized by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. Now it’s maintained by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and is a popular hiking spot! 

We really liked this trail and if we hadn’t been on a time crunch we probably would have done a longer hike. You can also park at the lot off Route 40 (same as Annapolis Rock parking) and take the AT going south to the Monument for a ~6 mile hike. The options are endless!

THE BEER: Homaide Brewing Co

Address: 10212 Governor Lane Boulevard Suite #1012, Williamsport, MD 21795
Distance from Trail Head:  14 miles, 23 mins 
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 3/5

It had been a while since we were kicking around near Hagerstown. So long that a new brewery had popped up in the same plaza as Cushwa Brewing (from our very first Hikes & Hops post). Driving home for Thanksgiving was the perfect chance to stop along the way for this brewery. We’re starting to hit our limits of what we can drive to in a day. This is some serious commitment to our brews! 

Homaide Brewing Company opened in 2020 and has established themselves as beer experimenters. I’ve never been to a brewery with such off the wall flavors! We seriously had to try everything. Don’t judge us, it was the day before a holiday. The beertender was fantastic, giving us a rundown of the flavors and offering us small tasters of everything. She really knew her stuff! While Homaide had a broad range of styles, I was really feeling their darker beers. Maybe it’s because we were just hiking in 25F or maybe because it was right before Thanksgiving, but I was really wanting some dark, cozy brews. My favorite was definitely the Down the Hatch Porter. Some of the other dark beers were a bit too barrel aged for me. I’m quite picky about my barrel-aged beers and I just can’t do rye flavors. So the French Toast and You’l be Smitten were out for me. Thankfully, the Down the Hatch rose to the occasion, giving me a nice bitter cacao flavor with the smooth, creamy taste. Also honorable mention goes to the Coattails. Will I ever get sick of Hazy IPAs? Maybe but this was not that day! Overall, J and I were impressed with the wide range of offerings at Homaide. If you’re looking for traditional beers, this might not be the place for you. But if you love trying new things, it’s worth the trek out to Williamsport.

Also shout out to Homaide for being one of the few breweries in Western Maryland to be open in the early afternoon on a Wednesday! Don’t these people realize we have hikes to plan around?!

Our Beer:

  • French Toast Nightman – Barrel- Aged Imperial Stout – 10%
  • You’ll be Smitten – Barrel-Aged Milk Stout – 6%
  • Down the Hatch – Porter – 7%
  • Browned Out – Brown Ale – 5.9%
  • The Chef – Smoothie Sour – 6.5%
  • Doggo – Lager – 4.7%
  • Honey Bunches of Beer – Cream Ale – 7.5%
  • Coattails – Hazy IPA – 7.9%

SUM UP: Washington Monument State Park is a great day hike along the Appalachian Trail. There’s ample parking at the Old South Mountain Inn and it’s a 4.4 out and back trail from there. The hike has some elevation changes and some rocky spots. Spend some time at the Washington Monument, taking in the incredible views. You can actually see four different states from up there! After your trek, drive up to Williamsport to check out Homaide Brewing Co, a new nanobrewery who specializes in bold, unique flavors. The staff is very friendly and eager to talk about their brews. Right now, check out some of the dark beers, tis the season!

Lake Elkhorn Loop & Black Flag Brewing Company

Columbia, MD

If you’ve ever been to Columbia, you know they’ve got a great brewery scene! When we lived in Laurel, we hung out there all the time. Another great thing about Columbia is the focus on green spaces! All the neighborhoods are connected by paved trails. One of our favorite trails in the area is this loop around Lake Elkhorn. It’s pretty short so it’s great for families or to go for a run. Usually when we go, we add on a section of the Patuxent Branch Trail to get some extra distance. This is a great nature walk and perfect for seeing some birds. Conveniently, Black Flag Brewing Company is just minutes away from the trailhead. This trail is perfect for winding down after some holiday shopping at the Mall. Don’t let the winter chill keep you inside!

THE HIKE: Lake Elkhorn Loop

Length: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 40 ft
Difficulty: Easy (paved path)
Time: 45 mins
Trail use: Hiking, Biking, leashed pets
Parking: Two parking lots around lake
H&H: 3/5

The Lake Elkhorn trail is a popular 1.9 mile paved loop in Columbia. It’s definitely not as woodsy as some of our other hikes, but you still can see some wildlife and get away from the hustle and bustle. This trail is also nice because it easily connects to the Patuxent Branch trail so you can make your nature walk fairly long. The Patuxent Branch Trail actually goes all the way to Savage Mill! The whole loop is about 10 miles so it’s not for the faint of heart. 

Lake Elkhorn is man made and was constructed in 1974. Today it is maintained by the Columbia Association, a nonprofit that provides community services for residents in the area. They maintain over 3,600 acres of open space and 95 miles of walking trails! 

This trail is very popular with walkers of all ages and abilities. The paved path makes it a great place to come with small kids or elderly people. It’s also a really good place to go jogging, just be prepared to share the trail! It’s a very popular spot. You’ll also see many different kinds of waterfowl and other aquatic creatures. This past trip we saw ducks, geese, cormorants, and a heron. In the summer, you’ll see lots of frogs, turtles, and fish. A surprising amount of wildlife for a populous suburb! 

I really like this trail because it’s easy to add on to a day of running errands around Columbia or if you only have a little bit of time to get some fresh air. And if you have more time, I highly suggest adding on a section of the Patuxent Branch trail. It’s very peaceful and is a great stretch of the legs! 

THE BEER: Black Flag Brewing Company

Address: 9315 Snowden River Pkwy, Columbia, MD 21046
Distance from Trail Head: 1.1 miles, 3 mins
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 5/5

Black Flag is another of the first breweries that we went to after moving to Maryland. They’re also located in Columbia, in a strip mall right off Snowden River Parkway. They opened in 2015 as Columbia’s first production brewery and taproom in Columbia. They’ve really grown in the last few years, now offering 16 taps of freshly made craft beer. True to their name, Black Flag doesn’t like to live by the norms. They just made beer that smells and tastes amazing, who cares what the numbers are! 

Black Flag makes some really awesome dark beers. They have really become known for their flavorful pastry stouts. Now I’m not usually one for sweet beers, but I’ve definitely been digging some of these dessert stouts. This visit we had several tasters since it had been a while since we visited. I’m always a fan of New England IPAs, so I really enjoyed the juicy Sun Run. But a close runner up of the day was the Airing of Grievances. It was a delightful hint at the upcoming winter holidays with a taste of molasses and gingerbread aromas. It’s Christmastime people!!

Also, please enjoy the complete nerdiness of Black Flag if you make it out there. I absolutely love their giant mural of Star Wars characters drinking Black Flag beer.

Our Beer:

  • Rockets to the Moon – NEIPA – 7%
  • Cobbler: Raspberry Pomegranate Cherry – Sour – 6%
  • Airing of Grievances – Imperial Gingerbread Stout – 9%
  • Betwixt – Pastry Stout – 10%
  • Sun Run – NEIPA – 6.5%
  • Divining Rod – IPA – 7.2%

SUM UP: Lake Elkhorn is an easy, paved 1.9 mile loop in Columbia with the potential to add on additional miles along the Patuxent Branch Trail. There are two parking lots along the loop but they can fill up quickly since this is a popular spot. This trail is great for viewing waterfowl and is perfect for all ages and abilities. Afterward, check out Black Flag Brewing Company, Columbia’s first brewery and taproom. They’re known for unique brews and pushing the limits on big flavors. Make sure to try one of their amazing pastry stouts!