Montour Woods Conservation Area & Abjuration Brewing

McKees Rocks, PA

So excited to share the very first of our Hikes & Hops in Western PA. J and I recently moved back to our hometown and we can’t wait to have a whole new area of hikes and brews to explore. Last weekend we took advantage of a fresh snowfall to go for a winter hike. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day at the Montour Woods Conservation Area! Then we did some sampling at Abjuration Brewing in McKees Rocks which has been on my radar for a while. It was a perfect day and such a warm (cold?) welcome back to our hometown.

THE HIKE: Montour Woods Conservation Area – Hollow Oak Loop

Length: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 426 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, mountain biking, leashed pets
Parking: Small lot or park at Montour Trail
H&H: 5/5

One of the most exciting things about moving back home is exploring the area with a whole new lens. J and I haven’t lived in Pittsburgh in over 4 years and while we definitely were beer snobs, we hadn’t really gotten into hiking yet. I’ve spent a lot of time since moving researching green spaces in Pittsburgh and there are so many more than I thought! Montour Woods is one of the first that I learned about and I knew we had to go right away. I grew up walking on the Montour Trail but it leaves a bit to be desired in terms of hiking. Side note: it is a great place for running or biking! The Montour Woods Conservation Area is just up the road from the Hassam Rd parking lot of the Montour Trail. And in fact, there’s a project due to be completed at the end of the month to connect these trails with the larger Montour Trail system. Yippee!

This trail area is maintained by the Hollow Oak Land Trust, an environmental nonprofit based in Coraopolis. They care for 6 conservation areas totaling over 600 acres of protected space. The Montour Woods Conservation Area covers 320 acres of woods and offers over 10 miles of hiking trails. As I mentioned above, it also will connect to the Montour Trail and there are plans to connect to Moon Park in the future. There are three trailhead parking areas to access this site: Hassam Road (where we parked), Nike Road, and Downing Drive (in Londonbury). 

So there are 10 miles of trails here but we stuck to about a 3 mile loop since it was so snowy. Thankfully, there wasn’t much ice on the trails so we didn’t encounter any dangerous conditions. We cobbled together our own loop only vaguely following the Hollow Oak Loop on AllTrails. Based on the trail map above, I think we took Meeks Run → Honeydew Trail → Powerline Trail → Hemlocks Trail → Meeks Run. It was an awesome loop with some elevation changes that really got my heart pumping. 

This was my first truly snowy hike and it definitely changed my opinion about being outside in the winter. I had always been afraid of getting too cold or slipping on ice so I opted to stay home. But this year I’ve made a point to get outside every day and try to hike every weekend. I invested in a pair of slip-on crampons which I’ve really liked and I always wear two pairs of pants if it’s under 40F. No more staying inside all winter for me! This was a particularly beautiful hike because the day before the snow fell there was some freezing rain so all of the branches were encased in ice. There was still some snow falling as we walked around and it felt like we were in a snowglobe. We hardly saw anyone on the trail so it made for a magical winter hike. I highly encourage everyone to get outside in the winter, especially after a fresh snow. Just be aware of icy conditions and make sure you know where the trail is. It can be much easier to get off trail in the snow!

THE BEER: Abjuration Brewery

Address: 644 Broadway Ave, McKees Rocks, PA 15136
Distance from Trail Head:  5.2 miles, 12 mins 
Website: http://www.abjurationbrewing.com/
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 5/5

Abjuration is one of those small local breweries that popped up in Pittsburgh after I moved away. It’s been on my radar for a while since I love the life they’re bringing back into the McKees Rocks area. This small town used to be a thriving town but has suffered decline once the steel mills closed down. But the small team behind Abjuration is doing their best to bring people back to the Rocks. 

The brewery is located inside of the historic Parkway Theater which has undergone a complete revitalization and is now known as the Community Reel Art Center. The Center’s mission is centered on bringing new life to the Stowe community through art and film. They work closely with the team at Abjuration so you can bring drinks from the full bar or a beer from Abjuration into the film screenings or live shows. Follow the Community Reel Art Center on facebook to keep up with upcoming events! 

The day we visited Abjuration it was HOPPING. They had two major bottle releases and were hosting a stop on the Pittsburgh Brew tours. We were lucky to grab a seat! As we like to do at a new place, we stuck with some tasters to get a feel for the place. As one of the owners informed us, you won’t find traditional “headliners” at Abjuration. They pride themselves on sticking to their homebrewing roots by making small batches and constantly tweaking the recipe. That’s why all of the names refer to the version of the beer. And keeping in line with their experimental mad scientist theme, all the drafts are served in beakers. I love it! 

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a brewery where I liked every single beer I tasted. Honestly it’s hard picking a favorite since they were all SO GOOD. But I think the standout beer was the Coffee Stout made with local favorite Prestogeorge French Vanilla Roast. Maybe I’m biased since Prestogeorge is always a favorite when I visit the Strip District but this was one of the best coffee stouts I’ve ever had. It was so smooth with none of the bitterness that sometimes crops up in coffee stouts. Especially after a long hike in the snow, this one really hit the spot! 

Another great thing about Abjuration: since the two owners were homebrewers themselves, they make all of their recipes available online! Nice job guys!

Our Beer:

  • Dip Hop IPA (v1.2) – New England IPA – 7.6%
  • IPA (v6.7) – IPA – 7.2%
  • Norwegian Farmhouse Ale (v1.3) – Farmhouse – 5.5%
  • Coffee Stout (v2.2) – Stout – 7.1%
  • Smoothie Style Sour (1.16) – Sour – 7.1%
  • Malty Amber Ale (v1.16) – Red Ale – 5.9%

SUM UP: Montour Woods Conservation Area is a 320 acre greenspace managed by the Hollow Oak Land Trust. It provides over 10 miles of hiking and connects to both Moon Park and the Montour Trail. The area offers peaceful woods, some opportunities for elevation changes, and a bubbling stream to follow. It’s surprisingly woodsy despite being so close to suburbia. It’s especially beautiful in the winter so don’t let the snow keep you at home! Afterwards, had into McKees Rocks to enjoy delicious small batch brews at Abjuration brewing located in the old Parkway Theater. Sit back and enjoy the old Hollywood atmosphere inside or take a seat in the biergarten complete with picnic tables and fire pits. You’ll definitely be treated like new friends here!

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