South Park, PA
‘Tis the Season for frigid hikes! That wind chill can be killer out there, but it doesn’t stop us crazy people from a ramble in the woods. This week, we’re heading south of the city to feature a hike in Bethel Park. South Park is a HUGE park that has something for everyone! We did the White/Buffalo Ridge Trail and I highly recommend you have a trail map because there are very few signs or blazes on the trails and it’s easy to get turned about. After your hike, there are several local breweries to choose from! We went with an old favorite, Spoonwood Brewing which has excellent beer and pretty spectacular pizza!
THE HIKE: South Park – Buffalo Ridge Trail
Length: 6 miles (We did 4.5)
Elevation Gain: 800 ft
Time: 2.5-3 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Mountain biking, Leashed pets
Parking: Large lots throughout park
South Park covers a huge 2,000 acre space in Bethel Park. It has something for everyone, including an ice rink, pool, golf course, skate park, picnic shelters, and miles of paved and natural trails. South Park is one of the nine parks managed by Allegheny County Parks and it is the second largest. The land for the park was acquired in the 1930s and the park has been a local favorite ever since! It used to be the site of a huge county fair that attracted over half a million people. Another fun history fact is that the Oliver Miller Homestead, where the first shots of the Whisky Rebellion were fired, is also located within South Park. There’s a small house museum dedicated to this historical event.
South Park is a pretty big place so we had a bit of a hard time figuring out what trails to tackle. There aren’t too many detailed trails on AllTrails (my go-to trail app). According to the County website, there are several different paved or wooded trails. We wanted to get a decent workout in so we opted to combine the Buffalo Ridge Trail and the Red and White Loop from AllTrails. The day we went out hiking was bitterly cold so we had a feeling that we wouldn’t be making it the whole 8 miles. So we parked in the middle of the park near a trail entrance. Well we thought it was near a trail entrance. We quickly found out that the trails in South Park could use some TLC. There are few, if any, trail signs and almost no blazes. We had to rely heavily on the AllTrails App to find the Buffalo Ridge trail. Even once getting to the right place (after several false starts), I had to have my phone out almost constantly to make sure that we were going the right way. Usually I don’t mind just finding my own way but in a park this size, I didn’t want to end up 4 miles away from our car when it was 20°F!
We both had mixed feelings about this park. At times the trail was very woodsy and peaceful but then suddenly you would have to cross a road. We had to cross the main road twice and it was very busy, making it pretty dangerous to cross. Overall, it was pretty easy to get lost and the trails intersected roads far too much for my liking. However, we did manage to see some nature, including a pileated woodpecker and some fungi! Oh and Justin found a tree friend.
I would recommend South Park more as a place for a picnic or for playing sports. It’s trails are poorly marked, difficult to find entrances to, and often suddenly spit out onto a road. Either way, I’m glad we came out here if only as an excuse to go to Spoonwood!
THE BEER: Spoonwood Brewing Company
Address: 5981 Baptist Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
Distance from Trail Head: 1.7 miles, 4 mins
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Outdoor seating, but no pets
H&H Rating: 5/5
A lot of breweries make good beer. Not so many have a stellar food menu too. Thankfully, Spoonwood excels at both! They’ve been churning out beer and pizzas since 2015 in Bethel Park. Since then, several other breweries have joined the ranks in the South Hills, but Spoonwood continues to be a very popular place! In fact, we had a hard time getting a seat on Sunday afternoon!
Spoonwood has a huge space inside and a nice patio out back too. A centerpiece of the space is the huge pizza oven that churns out so many delicious types of pizza. We split a BBQ chicken pizza that pretty much changed my life. It was made with in-house smoked chicken (oh yeah they have a whole range of smoked meats too!). It’s so refreshing to go to a brewery and get delicious, handmade food. I’m all for a food truck, but sometimes your girl needs some table service! The one bad thing about the full kitchen though is that your four legged friends have to stay home 😦
Okay onto the beverages. One of our reasons for heading to Spoonwood (aside from it being amazing) is that they were participating in East End Brewing’s Day of Gratitude. We love a barleywine so we definitely had to try it. It was smooth and full, almost like a boozy syrup. We only got a taster and savored it all evening. Spoonwood had a really good tap list and we tried to get a variety of things. My favorite of the night was the Fruit of Another which was a ginger-lime pale ale. What an interesting combo! It worked so well and was refreshing with a wintery twist. J loved the chili pepper pale ale Secret Alphabet. It seriously left your lips burning, but we liked it! In the dark beer world, we got the Strategic Cocoa, which reminded me of a chocolate covered pretzel. Another unique beer was the Espresso Change-o, an IPA with a coffee aftertaste!
We had a fantastic time at Spoonwood. The food was amazing, we loved trying out all of the unique beers, and the atmosphere was great. We 100% will be back here, fingers crossed that we can snag a table!
- Fruit of Another – Pale Ale – 5.8%
- Gratitude – Barleywine – 11.5% (Guest Tap: East End Brewing)
- Secret Alphabet – Pale Ale – 6%
- Strategic Cocoa – Brown Ale – 6%
- Espresso Change-o – IPA – 6.5%
SUM UP: South Park is a large park south of the City of Pittsburgh and is managed by the Allegheny County Parks Department. There are tons of things to do here to satisfy every type of person. There are many miles of trails but we had a hard time finding them! Trails were not well marked and signage was nonexistent. If you go, be sure to have a map handy as it is easy to get lost. After we were done freezing out in the woods, we went to Spoonwood Brewing which was by far the best choice of the day. We had delicious pizza and really tasty, unique beer. I wish we could have hung out all evening!