Hocking Hills Gorge Loop & Brewery 33

Hocking Hills, OH

I think I might be in love with Hocking Hills, OH. We traveled there last weekend for a wedding and added on a day of camping. We got in so much hiking but there was still miles more that I wanted to do! This hiking loop takes you past some of the park’s most famous views including Old Man’s Cave and Cedar Falls. This is the most popular part of Hocking Hills so the trails might be a bit busy. Make sure you set aside lots of time for this hike because this is one place you don’t want to rush through! The rocky gorge is absolutely incredible and will make you forget that you’re in Ohio! Afterward, head over to Lake Logan and grab a refreshing brew at Brewery 33 Hocking Hills. The perfect getaway weekend!

THE HIKE: Old Man’s Cave and Gorge Loop

Length: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 425 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2.5-3.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: large lot by visitor center
H&H: 5/5

First of all, the biggest congrats to my wonderful cousin and her new wife! They’re the whole reason that we made it out to Hocking Hills and I couldn’t be happier for these two wonderful ladies. During the wedding weekend, J and I split the cutest AirBnb with my parents. It was a three bedroom cabin on a little pond and was pretty much everything I could want from a cabin. We were treated to a chorus of frogs at night and an ensemble of birds in the morning. I will definitely be staying here again! 

Although the wedding weekend was pretty packed with activities and setting up for the party, we still managed to fit in a few hikes. Since we knew we’d be busy, J and I decided to take Monday off and try our hands at camping! Now we’ve been camping before, but only ever with other people. It was all on us this time and I think we did pretty well! Plus staying the extra day meant that we could check out some of the popular parts of the park without the weekend crowds. 

Devil’s Bathtub

For our “big” hike of the weekend, we did a 6.5 mile loop starting at the Hocking Hills Visitor Center. First of all, this is a super nice center with bathrooms, water fountains, and lots of interpretive displays. We chatted with a ranger that gave us the lowdown on the best loop to see everything in this area of the park. Armed with a map and plenty of water, we were ready to set out! 

One of the things I liked best about the Hocking Hills area is that most of the trails are one way. Since a lot of the trails travel along narrow cliff faces, this is a must for safety! So keep on trail and follow the arrows. This loop starts on the blue blaze, immediately taking you down in the gorge following along the Old Man’s Creek. The first natural feature you’ll see is the Devil’s Bathtub, a unique stone feature that the creek has carved out over millennia to look like a pool for bathing. Keep following along the path until you see the signs for Old Man’s Cave. Okay, I’ll be honest that this is the only point where I didn’t obey the one way signs. The path into and through the cave is one way and you can’t get back to the blue blaze with going halfway back to the visitor’s center. So we snuck back after exploring the cave area. Don’t tell on us!

Old Man’s Cave

Back on the blue trail, we continued past features like the stone cliff that looks like a Sphinx head and the Lower Falls. I cannot even express how beautiful the gorge in this area is. Pictures don’t do it justice, you’ll just have to come and see for yourself! As you leave the Old Man’s Cave area, trail traffic will decrease significantly and there will be less sculpted trails. At one point you will hit a crossroads in the trail and you’ll have to decide if you’d like to add on the Whispering Cave loop (an extra 1.5 miles). We opted not to because the weather was calling for afternoon storms and I already couldn’t believe how long we had taken to do 2 miles! As you continued along towards Cedar Falls,  be prepared for some rock scrambles and more difficult trails. Despite the glory of the caves, this was actually my favorite section of the trail. We kept coming across beautiful waterfalls and it felt like we had the entire woods to ourselves. The last major feature before getting off the blue blaze is the massive Cedar Falls. It’s the largest falls (in terms of volume) in the park. At this point, you’ll switch to the red blaze and start making your way up the stairs to the rim trail. 

Now, don’t panic when you realize that you’re only halfway through the hike. I think it took us about 2.5 hours to get through the first part. We took tons of pictures and spent a lot of time just enjoying the views. Plus the rocky trails make it difficult to go too fast. But once you hit the rim trail, it’s quite flat and more like a normal forest hike. We got through this section and were back at the visitor center in just over an hour! Now if you’re looking to beef up this hike a bit, try tacking on Whispering Cave like I mentioned earlier. You can also do a loop around Rose Lake! Really the possibilities are endless. Just make sure to check the weather before heading out and pack enough water and snacks if you’re doing a long day hike. 

Well folks, I’m gonna be talking about this hike for a LONG time. It’s only April but I have a feeling this is going to be in my top 5 hikes of the year. And after such a cool hike, you need to rest up and Brewery 33 Hocking Hills is the perfect place to do it!

THE BEER: Brewery 33 Hocking Hills

Address: 12684 College Prospect Dr, Logan, OH 43138
Distance from Trail Head: 11 miles, 17 mins 
Website: http://www.brewery33.com/
Food?: BYOF or Food Trucks
Details: Outdoor seating & dog friendly
H&H Rating: 4/5

Brewery 33 sits right next to Lake Logan and about 15 minutes away from the Hocking Hills Visitor Center. They offer both indoor and outdoor seating and are very pet and kiddo friendly! Although there’s no kitchen, check to see if a food truck is on the schedule or get takeout from one of the restaurants nearby. We lucked out and had amazingly beautiful weather the day we visited. It was so nice to sit in the sun with a couple of beer and just relax. And the nice thing about traveling with company is you get to sample more! Any time we go to a brewery with my parents, we all taste each other’s beers. Brewery 33 had a lot of good stuff to offer, but my favorite by far was the Mingo Mango Sour. It’s their basic german sour brewed with fresh mango juice. I love a good fruity beer and this was the most refreshing brew I’ve had in a long time. The only thing that could have been better was if it was a slushie! My second favorite was the Pottery Pale Ale which was a perfect porch beer. We had a great time at Brewery 33 and we’ll definitely be back the next time we visit Hocking Hills!

Our Beer:

  • Hooker Honey Lager- Honey Beer – 5.5%
  • Gateway Gose – Sour – 4%
  • Falls Mill – Milk Stout – 4.6%
  • Westenhaver – West Coast IPA – 6.2%
  • Pottery Pale Ale – Pale Ale – 5%
  • John McBride – Brown Ale – 5.8%
  • Mingo Mango Gose – Mango Sour – 3.3%

SUM UP: Hocking Hills is a very popular state park in Ohio. The Gorge Overlook Loop takes you past some of the park’s best features. The first section can get busy, so plan accordingly. Due to the elevation changes and some rock scrambles, this hike is rated moderately difficult. There’s plenty of parking at the trailhead, which is also the parking lot for the visitor’s center. Along this trail look out for incredible features like Old Man’s Cave, the Sphinx Head, Devil’s Bathtub, and Cedar Falls. After doing this loop, you definitely deserve a beer! And what better place than Brewery 33, Hocking Hill’s first and only brewery! Sit outside and relax, knowing you saw some of the best views in Ohio!

Raccoon Creek State Park & Coal Tipple Brewery

Burgettstown, PA

This past weekend, we braved the gloomy, damp weather to go for a hike in Raccoon Creek State Park. In case you don’t know, Raccoon is one of the largest parks in the state and it’s only about 40 mins away from downtown Pittsburgh! The park features waterfalls, a lake beach, fishing, and a gorgeous wildflower reserve. I highly encourage a visit during the springtime when the wildflowers are at their peak! After your hike and hopefully lots of pictures of delicate wildflowers, drive to Coal Tipple Brewery (located at Kramer’s Greenhouse), a small local brewery that offers fresh beer and a down home vibe. Also they’ve got a popcorn machine, so really what more could you want?

THE HIKE: Forest and Lake Loop

Length: 4.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 620ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  2-2.5 hours
Trail use: hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Gravel lot with Port-a-Potty
H&H: 4/5

Ah Spring in Pittsburgh! Grass is growing, trees are blooming and it’s…snowing?! Yup, springtime here doesn’t really mean sunshine and daffodils. It means waiting for a break in the chilly rain to finally get a hike in. Luckily, J and I managed to time our trip to Raccoon Creek State Park just perfectly so that we got there right when the rain let up for a few hours. My raincoat has been my best friend on our recent outings! 

Raccoon Creek State Park is one of the biggest state parks in Pennsylvania! At over 7,000 acres, it boasts 44 miles of trail, a 100-acre lake open for fishing, boating, and swimming, and multiple campgrounds and picnic areas. No wonder it’s so popular! While in summertime, Raccoon Creek State Park is quite busy at the lake, my favorite time to visit is during the spring. Raccoon is famous for its Wildflower Reserve which has some of the greatest biodiversity of wildflowers in the whole state. In fact, along just 4.5 miles of trail, there are over 700 species of plants. Wildflower blooms peak in late April through early May and then again in August through early September. 

For our trek, we decided to do a 4 miles loop that incorporates sections of the Lake Trail (blue blaze) and the Forest Trail (white blaze). If you go any time soon, be prepared for MUD. Spring is a very muddy time in the Pittsburgh region and there’s no avoiding mud on the trails. Just remember to wear good shoes and walk through the mud not around it! The Lake trail was by far the muddiest section of this trail but we managed to keep our feet mostly dry! I really liked the Forest trail portion, since it had some elevation changes and it was so cool to see the woods slowly turning green. I would call this a moderately difficult hike since there were some steep inclines and some stream crossings. 

After we had finished our hike, we hopped over to the other side of the park to visit the wildflower reserve. A few years ago, I did a short hike here with my parents and it was a great beginner hike. There’s a lot to see and it’s fairly flat. This time around, J and I only wanted to do a short loop to check in on the wildflowers. It’s definitely a week or two too early for peak blooms but I was so excited at the number of little ones popping out! We took so many pictures and used iNaturalist to try to identify them! So much fun! 

THE BEER: Coal Tipple Brewery

Address: 1905 Steubenville Pike, Burgettstown, PA 15021
Distance from Trail Head: 9.3 miles, 13 mins 
Website: http://www.coaltipplebrewery.com/brewery
Food?: BYOF (Popcorn machine!)
Details: Outdoor seating & dog friendly
H&H Rating: 4/5

Coal Tipple is a delightfully tiny brewery located at Kramer’s Greenhouse. They also have an onsite winery (Raccoon Creek Winery) so really this place has got it all! There’s usually only one or two people working and it feels like having a beer in someone’s dining room. I love it! They also have a small window in the taproom that looks out into the brewing garage so you can see the guys at work.

For such a small operation, Coal Tipple has quite the selection of beer!  They had 8 beers on tap with quite a range of styles. We went for the Pit Pony Wheat and the White Hat Stout. I’m not really a fan of this trend of light stouts, but this one wasn’t bad! The Pit Pony was very refreshing and they can serve it with blueberries, if that’s your thing. We also split the Dead Canary which is an American IPA that really packs a hoppy punch. Aside from their beer, another thing I like about Coal Tipple is their popcorn machine! They have complimentary bags of popcorn for their guests which really hit the spot. Every time I come here, I just love to sit back and relax. And if the owners are in, say hello! They’re super nice and love to chat with their guests. And of course, while you’re in check out their farm market, bakery, and plants. Honestly, what more could you need? 

Our Beer:

  • Dead Canary – American IPA – 7.28%
  • White Hat Stout – White Stout – 5%
  • Pit Pony – Wheat – 5%

SUM UP: Raccoon Creek State Park is a large park about 40 mins away from Downtown Pittsburgh. It offers 44 miles of hiking, a large lake for swimming, boating, and fishing, and plenty of sites for camping or picnicking. The Forest and Lake Loop is a 4-mile trek that shows off the best of Raccoon, including a walk along the lakeside and meandering trails through the woods. There are some steep sections, so I’d rate it as moderate. Also in the Spring and Fall, check out the wildflower reserve and see how many different types of flowers you can spot! After your time in the woods, head over to Coal Tipple Brewery for small batch brews in a quaint farm market. You can even pick up some wine and greenery too! This is an ideal spring day trip!

Devil’s Hollow Conservation Area & Fermata Brewing Company

Ambridge, PA

The creek crossing that led to some very damp feet

This is a story of the hike that wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes you just aren’t as prepared for nature as you wish you were! We originally were going to do the Walker Park Trail in Leet Township only to find about 0.5 mile in that there was a large stream crossing with no stepping stones. We went for it, not wanting to give up so soon, and got our feet completely soaked. Not 0.1mile later the trail veered over the stream again and we had to turn around. No trail is worth getting feet completely soaked multiple times in 40F weather! So instead we went up the road to the small Devil’s Hollow area which is managed by the Allegheny Land Trust. It’s a short trail but it was beautifully peaceful and had a great hill that got our blood pumping! And it’s conveniently very close to the newly opened Fermata Brewing in Ambridge!

THE HIKE: Devil’s Hollow Conservation Area

https://alleghenylandtrust.org/green-space/devils-hollow/

Length: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 346 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  45 minutes
Trail use: hiking, leashed pets, trail running
Parking: Small lot for three cars
H&H: 4/5

With all the lingering winter weather (why is it always crappy on the weekends?!) we’ve been finding it difficult to get out and hike! I’m so ready for those warm spring days. This past weekend, we decided to check out a small trail in the Leetsdale area. It had great reviews on AllTrails and looked like the perfect Sunday hike! Well it started out alright, we parked at one of the picnic shelters and used the stepping stones to cross the little creek. The first 0.5 miles traveled along the creek in a very peaceful woods. But then we hit problems. The trail meandered over the creek again but this time there were no stepping stones. The creek had gotten wider and there was no easy place to cross so we just picked a spot and went for it. Annnnnd got wet up to mid-shin on a 40F day. Not ideal. So then a few minutes later when the trail crossed the creek again, we decided to turn around. It just wasn’t the right kind of day for soaking wet feet! 

Easy stepping stone on this crossing, not so later on!

So we went back to the car after only getting about 1.5 miles in and decided to go up the road to Devil’s Hollow Conservation Area. This is a 97 acre area managed by the Allegheny Land Trust and there is parking for about 3 cars at the trailhead. This area was donated to the ALT in 2016 from the Little Sewickley Creek Watershed Association. It’s surrounded by private lands, so be aware that some trails may split off into private property. Try to stay on the main trail marked by ALT signs. 

I really enjoyed this trail! We did the loop counterclockwise which I highly recommend because it starts with a steep incline and ends with a long gentle downslope. I feel like the opposite way would make for a rough descent at the end! This trail does gain over 300ft in elevation in the first 0.5 mile so be prepared! Some areas of the trail were muddy at the very end but nothing impossible to navigate. 

Because this trail loops along a steep hillside, it creates a really interesting “silent” area. The hills block out any surrounding noises so it feels completely silent as you hike, broken only by squirrels rustling in the leaves and birds chirping in the trees. We didn’t see another person the whole time on the trail! I highly recommend this trail, and if you’re looking for a longer route, just complete the loop more than once! You might find something new along the way. 

THE BEER: Fermata Brewing Company

Address: 918 Merchant St, Ambridge, PA 15003
Distance from Trail Head: 5 miles, 12 mins 
Website: http://www.fermatabrewing.beer/
Food?: Food Truck or Local Restaurants or BYOF
Details: Indoor Seating only (Unsure about pets)
H&H Rating: 5/5

I was so excited to go to this brand new brewery in Ambridge! They had only been open 7 days when we visited and the place was THRIVING. Fermata Brewing Company joins Altered Genius as resident brew masters on Merchant Street in downtown Ambridge. 

The name Fermata is actually a musical term, which is fitting since all of the partners are music lovers! In written music a fermata is a “pause of unspecified length over a note or rest”. This is a fitting name for the brewery because it invites everyone to pause and stay for a while. Fermata wants to be a place of community in Ambridge where everyone is welcome to come and enjoy great beer and great community. Sign me up! Fermata also pays homage to the history of Ambridge and the American Bridge company from which the town gets its name. The brewery incorporates both the fermata symbol and a bridge in their logo as a shout out to their origins. 

One thing I really loved about this place was the immediate sense of chill when we walked in. There were so many places to sit and relax and we felt welcomed by the staff. The decor is so cool, with photos and maps harkening back to the old days of Ambridge side by side with classic music records and memorabilia. I also love that the brewing area is right out in the open! We sat with our beer and watched as the guys cleaned up from a brewing day. How cool to have a front seat to the beer making process? And if you’re a music lover, this is gonna be the place to be! There will be open mic nights, live music and much more so keep an eye on their social media to stay up to date! 

And of course, the most important part: How was the beer? It was pretty dang good! My fav of the day was definitely the Living in the Limelight. It was a crisp pale ale that really hit the spot after working up a sweat out in the woods. I also liked the surprising Cold Brew Collusion, which gave me all the lovely wheat flavors with a smooth coffee finish. Delightful! 

Our Beer:

  • Living in the Limelight – Pale Ale – 5.7%
  • Cold Brew Collusion – Coffee Wheat Beer – 5.6%
  • Wayward Son – Wheat Beer – 5.6%
  • You Too – Dry Irish Stout – 3.9%

SUM UP: Devils Hollow Conservation Area is managed by the Allegheny Land Trust and offers a 1.6 mile loop. But don’t be fooled by the length! This trail has a steep incline that really gets the blood pumping and bumps this up to a moderate hike . This is a low traffic area and there are three parking spots at the trailhead. The trail is so peaceful and quiet plus you can see a lot of birds! After your hike, check out downtown Ambridge’s brand new brewery: Fermata! They’ve got a great beer list in a huge, yet homey taproom. They don’t have a kitchen but they’ve got QR codes for all the local restaurants so you can order in or see if a food truck is on the schedule! This is an awesome addition to Ambridge and keep your eyes open for their music schedule!