Craggy Gardens & Burial Beer Co.

Asheville, NC

Today I want to share two amazing hikes that we did while staying in Asheville, NC. These two short hikes are very close together on the Blue Ridge Parkway, although you do have to drive a short way between trailheads. Definitely go for the views, as you’ll get some incredible sights of the Blue Ridge Mountains and I highly recommend doing the Pinnacle as a sunset hike. Back in Asheville, there’s no shortage of breweries to check out! We suggest pairing it with Burial Beer Company in the Brewery District area of town. Keep your eyes peeled for more hikes from North Carolina in the coming weeks, and don’t worry we’ll be back to hiking in the ‘Burgh asap!

THE HIKE: Craggy Gardens & Pinnacle

Length: 3 miles total
Elevation Gain: 816 ft total
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot at trailhead but fills up quickly
H&H: 5/5

Craggy Gardens and Craggy Pinnacle are actually two different hikes, but they’re so close together that I decided to group them into one! One of the best parts of Asheville, aside from the 29 breweries and world class food, is the proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This meandering road is known for its stunning beauty as it climbs through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It runs for 469 miles, linking Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains. All along the Parkway there are scenic pull offs and hiking paths to explore. 

The Craggy Mountains are situated in a particularly high elevation area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In fact the highest point in the Appalachian and the highest point in eastern North America is only a few miles away! Because of this, they have a unique environment in which catawba rhododendrons flourish. Although we were too late this year, visitors flock to this area in June to see the pink and purple blooms at their peak. The Craggies are only about 30 minutes away from Asheville so this is a great place to check out if you’re staying in town. 

We did this hike our first evening in town! After leaving Hilton Head, we drove 5 hours to Asheville and wanted to do a sunset hike to cap off the day. Craggy Gardens area was constantly mentioned as a great place for views along the Blue Ridge Parkway so we went for it! First, we did the Craggy Gardens loop which was 1.9 miles out and back. You can park either at the Gardens picnic area or at the visitor center for this hike! I’d suggest parking at the picnic area so you build up to the viewpoint at the visitor center. We did the opposite and while the hike was still lovely, it didn’t have the same “wow” factor! 

When doing this hike, make sure to wear sturdy shoes and maybe even bring hiking poles! The high elevation causes a lot of condensation so even when it’s not raining, the trails can be quite damp. BUT this also means SO MUCH GREEN. We had a blast on all of our hikes around Asheville hunting for wildflowers and mushrooms and we were not disappointed! Along the Craggy Gardens trail, you’ll also encounter some shelters for backpackers and a delightful gazebo that looks out over the mountains. We also walked through an interesting area called a bald. These areas of unexpectedly little vegetation are common in the Southern Appalachians but no one knows their origin. Unlike an Alpine zone where the lack of tall vegetation is expected, these are environments that could support large hardwoods, but don’t for some reason. It’s so odd to be deep in the woods and then suddenly spill out on a large open area! 

After you finish up at Craggy Gardens, it’s time to get back in the car and drive the few miles up the road to the Craggy Pinnacles. Try to time this part just right to get there well before sundown so you can catch the whole experience! Craggy Pinnacle is a quick 1 mile out and back but be prepared to spend some time here! Oh and the hike up to the Pinnacle is pretty steep. We definitely had to stop and catch our breath a few times! And at 5860ft in elevation, you might notice a slight difficulty in getting a lungful. As you near the top of the pinnacle, there are several scenic viewpoints to check out. First, head to the upper viewpoint which offers 360 degree views of the area! There’s a large stone structure that can accommodate several hikers, so you’ll have plenty of room to take in the views. The evening we went, it got a bit crowded up there so we went to the lower viewpoint and had the spot nearly to ourselves. Guys, I cannot say enough about how incredible watching the sunset here was. We took so many pictures, but nothing quite captures the intense colors and the swirling mist as the sun sunk behind the mountains. If you only get one hike in Asheville, make it this one. Oh and bring a sweatshirt, it gets chilly up on the ridge! After the sunset, carefully make your way back down to the parking lot. We were able to see pretty well in the dusk but bring a headlight or flashlight if you’re concerned about visibility! 

I cannot say enough good things about this hike! And if you ever go while the Catawba rhododendrons are blooming please send me a picture! 

THE BEER: Burial Beer Company

Address: 40 Collier Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Distance from Trail Head: 20.8 mi, 38 mins   
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Outdoor seating, dog friendly
H&H Rating: 5/5

Okay okay, you can probably tell that we didn’t go to this brewery after our hike. BUT who says you can’t hop then hike?? We had some time to kill before checking into our AirBnb for the weekend so we decided to check out the famed Asheville breweries before heading for a hike. Not sure I would recommend this method but hey we were on vacation! I had heard a lot of good things about Burial Beer and even our Airbnb host said it was their favorite in the area. So naturally, it was at the top of my (long) list of Asheville musts. Honestly it’s so difficult to decide where to go around here cause there’s just too many options and frankly I just can’t drink that much beer. We eventually had to just let go of wanting to try as many places as we could and just enjoy the moment. Hence, Burial Beer. 

The Burial story started when some beer-minded friends decided to start their own brewery after years of homebrewing and beer blogging in the Seattle area. Eventually, they found Asheville and decided the artsy, small-town vibe was the perfect fit. They started Burial Beer Co in 2013 with a modest system. Within a year, they already needed to expand to accommodate demand! Within a few years, their following grew so much that they were able to purchase an old forestry site used by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 40s and turn it into a huge production facility, office and a taproom & restaurant. Today, Burial also has locations in Raleigh and Charlotte. Talk about exponential growth! 

We visited their OG location in the South Slopes of Asheville. This was such a cool space with the indoor taproom giving some spooky crypt-like vibes and the outside patio feeling like a cookout party. I loved the red van sitting out back and learned it was actually the van that the founders drove cross-country in to start the business in Asheville! How cool! This location also has a full kitchen so no doggos inside but it seemed like they were welcome in the outside space. We really like the beer here, everything was delicious! And the names were cracking us up. As could be expected from the brewery name, they lean in pretty hard with the heavy metal atmosphere so all the beer names were so over the top. Personally, I’m not sure if they’re just pretentious or poking good natured fun, but we chose to interpret them as humorous. 

Our Beer:

  • Culture Keepers – Festbier – 5.8%
  • To Be Free of Clear Meaning and Willing Comprehension – IPA – 7%
  • Portrayals of Ephemeral Beings – Pale Ale – 5.8%
  • Currents of Radiance – Kolsch – 4.7%

SUM UP: Craggy Gardens and Pinnacle are must-do hikes when visiting Asheville. Both hikes are short and beginner friendly, although there are some steep inclines and potentially slippery rocks. Try to time the Pinnacle hike to be there for sunset, it was an incredible experience. Both of these hikes are along the Blue Ridge Parkway only about a mile apart, but be aware that the two trails do not cross so you will have to drive between the trail heads. These are popular trails so you might encounter some trail traffic. Make sure to pack layers as the temperatures on the Ridge can be vastly different than in town. Afterward, there is no shortage of awesome breweries to checkout. We went to Burial Beer Co for some delicious beer in some heavy metal digs. 

Pinckney Island NWR & Side Hustle Beer Co.

Hilton Head Island, SC

Even on vacation, there are Hikes & Hops to be had! J and I made the long haul down to South Carolina for a week of relaxing at Hilton Head. But if you’re like me and need other things to do than just soaking up the sun, there are several hiking areas in and around Hilton Head Island. Since it’s so close to the shore, this hike was a completely different type of terrain for us. At Pinckney Island, expect to meander past saltwater marshes, ponds, beaches and more. This is a place to take it slow and let nature speak for itself. Bring plenty of water and be prepared for lots of bugs! I also highly recommend doing a kayaking tour on your visit to HHI!

THE HIKE: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

Length: 4.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 30 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Biking, No pets
Parking: Large lot at trailhead
H&H: 4/5

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is managed and maintained by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and is a protected natural area. It was established in 1975 on land that was once a revolutionary war veteran’s plantation. The entire refuge is over 4,000 acres and includes several islands, although Pinckney is the largest and the only one accessible by the public. The Refuge offers a unique environment for a wide range of wildlife. Expect to see salt marshes, forests, brushland, and freshwater ponds. The truly captivating part of Pinckney Island is the sheer amount of wildlife that call it home. There’s a huge population of wading birds, especially egrets, ibis, and heron, as well as eagles, osprey, and hawks. If you’re lucky, you might spy a pod of dolphins! As you’re walking, keep your eyes peeled for reptiles like alligators and snakes. 

Although the refuge is open to the public, keep in mind that the Pinckney Island NWR is primarily a nature and wildlife preserve. Its main goal is maintaining an area of wildlife conservation, especially in a region of high coastal development. Pinckney Island is just one of seven protected refuges that make up the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex. 

Accessing Pinckney Island NWR is easy from either Hilton Head Island or Bluffton on the mainland. There’s only one entrance right off 278 (Wm Hilton Pkwy) which leads to a large parking lot. Be aware that there are no bathroom facilities on the island so plan accordingly! Although we decided to walk the trails, the wide gravel and mown paths are great for biking as well. Biking is probably the best way to see the entirety of the island’s nearly 14 miles of trails. However, do remember that this is South Carolina so it’s likely to be hot, extremely humid, and very buggy. Please bring plenty of water! 

We went on a pretty muggy day so we didn’t make it quite as far as we hoped. When first leaving the parking lot, there’s only one main road to take. This is a wide gravel path that is fairly busy with cyclists and families. This road leads to the Ibis Pond where, true to its name, there are hundreds of wading birds. After this pond, there are a few directions you can go and you will likely leave the crowds behind! We didn’t see another person until we came back to this main road. 

My biggest complaint about this hiking area was the mown grass paths. When we went, the grass was quite high and it made me pretty uncomfortable despite my long pants. I was probably overreacting, but I didn’t like the idea of not being able to see critters in the long grass. So we did our best to keep to the gravel paths when possible. Despite the paths being quite flat, I was surprised how quickly we tired out. The heat and humidity is no joke! We wanted to make it to Shell Point Beach, but the distance was quite a bit further than I realized and we eventually turned around. Next time, I’d like to bring our bikes and try to see more of the island! 

Tiny crab!

THE BEER: Side Hustle Beer Co.

Address: 144 Arrow Rd Unit A, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Distance from Trail Head: 9 miles, 13 mins 
Food?: BYOF, Occasional Food Trucks
Details: Outdoor seating only, pets welcome
H&H Rating: 5/5

Side Hustle Beer Company is South Carolina’s smallest brewery! It’s so small in fact, that they don’t have an indoor seating area. It’s just a small counter where you can get draft pours and cans to go and then enjoy your draft on the outdoor patio. Honestly, with how gross and sweaty we were after the hike, it was probably for the best that we sat outside! 

As its name implies, Side Hustle is a small venture between friends who decided to start a small side venture to bring good craft beer to Hilton Head. And man are they succeeding! We were pleasantly surprised by how good the beer was here! Everything was refreshing and well made, I couldn’t believe that it came from such a new and tiny company. I particularly loved the Porch Pineapple, it was probably the best summer beer I’ve had in a long time!  We also loved the atmosphere. The patio was full of plants and games and it was delightful to see people swinging by on their bikes to pick up a six-pack. It definitely had the feel of a local favorite. 

Upon researching for this blog post, I learned that Side Hustle has been acquired by a larger branding company that also owns some local restaurants and the popular Burnt Church Distillery. I hope that this is a good move for the business! They recently announced that they will be moving to a larger facility with indoor seating, a beer garden, and several dining options. I wish them all the best!

Our Beer:

  • Point Break – NEIPA – 7%
  • Porch Pineapple – Wheat Beer – 5.8%
  • Rocket Emoji – Double IPA – 8.3%
  • …And There’s Your BFF – Peach Sour – 6%
  • South Island – Pilsner – 5.1%
  • Refraction – NEIPA – 7.6%

SUM UP: Pinckney Island is a federally protected wildlife refuge located on the South Carolina coast between Bluffton and Hilton Head. It is open to the public for hiking, biking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Be aware of the hot and humid climate as you’re preparing for a visit here. There’s no bathroom facilities but make sure to bring plenty of water and try to stay hydrated. I also recommend long pants and bug spray as the area can get quite buggy. Most of all, remember that it is the wildlife’s home and you’re just visiting! After your hike, head onto Hilton Head Island to visit Side Hustle Beer Co. This is a small neighborhood venture that offers up some of the best beer in the region! Bring a picnic or order some take out and hang out on the patio for a while! You won’t be disappointed.

Sunrise at Sea Pines
Our Eco-Kayak Tour! We saw lots of birds and oysters!

Cove Mountain Preserve & Pizza Boy Brewing

Enola, PA

While in Harrisburg for a quick weekend, we managed to squeeze in another short hike! We stopped at Cove Mountain Preserve which is on the other side of the Susquehanna river from the capitol. This nature preserve sits at the end of a suburban neighborhood and seemed very popular with families, as it should! We did a short 1.5 mile loop to the State of Liberty lookout. We ended up nearly running the last bit cause we heard some rumbles in the distance. I am not a fan of being in the woods during a thunderstorm! Thankfully we made it back to the car and took refuge at Pizza Boy Brewing which is a place I’ve been wanting to check out for years. True to their name, the pizza was awesome and the beer was delicious. Be prepared to make some hard decisions though, they had nearly 100 beers on tap!

THE HIKE: Cove Mountain Preserve – Statue of Liberty Viewpoint

Length: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 250ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time:  45 minutes
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Large gravel lot at trailhead
H&H: 4/5

Cove Mountain Preserve is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by volunteers from the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club. The Nature Conservancy purchased the land in 2017, making it the first nature preserve owned by TNC in Central PA. This important purchase actually creates a 14-mile stretch of protected land along the Kittatinny Ridge in Central Pennsylvania. This ridge forms a 185-mile stretch of rugged mountain from the Mason-Dixon Line to the Delaware River Gap. According to The Nature Conservancy, this ridge is critical to the biodiversity of Pennsylvania because it provides a forested “superhighway” for animals to escape from the effects of changing climates. 

Cove Mountain Preserve itself is a very well-maintained area with about 3 miles of trails. There are several small, interlinked trails that are color coded. We took the Green and Yellow trails to make a loop out to the Statue of Liberty viewpoint. This was about 1.5 miles of moderate hiking that wound through pawpaw (!) groves and has some small rock scrambles. There was a really cool spot where the trail squeezed through a break in the glacial rocks. It was fittingly called the Boulder Squeeze! A HUGE shout out to the folks with the SATC for making these trails, the green trail was absolutely beautiful, especially all of the rock work! Having done some trail building myself, I know moving rocks like that is no small feat! 

Okay, so you might be wondering if I’ve lost my mind talking about the Statue of Liberty. No, you can’t see all the way to the Big Apple from this trail. But there is a miniature replica of Lady Liberty on a rock in the Susquehanna. I had never heard about this until this trip and I needed to know more about it! And what a story it is. SO in 1986, a local man wanted to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Statue of Liberty by making a “prank” replica of it. He built it out of plywood and venetian blinds and, along with some co-conspirators, installed it on an old bridge piling in the middle of the night. It caused quite a stir and even a few traffic jams on the neighboring highway! Surprisingly, despite its flimsy construction materials, the statue remained in place until 1992 when it was blown off the pedestal and destroyed. However, people had become quite attached to her over the few years that a collection for a replacement was set up. Over $25,000 was raised and a replica was made of steel and fiberglass. Nearly 11 years after the first statue was built, a helicopter placed Lady Liberty back on her pedestal. It wasn’t until 2011 that a local lawyer Gene Stilp finally came forward as the mastermind behind the original statue. Wow what a story! 

We were very impressed with this little nature reserve and I would definitely recommend a visit! And if you go soon, check out those pawpaw groves, you might be able to catch a fresh fruit. 

THE BEER: Pizza Boy Brewing/ Al’s of Hampden

Address: 2240 Millennium Way, Enola, PA 17025
Distance from Trail Head: 6.8 mi, 12 mins
Food?: Full Menu – PIZZA
Details: Outdoor seating but no pets
H&H Rating: 5/5

Pizza Boy Brewing has been on my radar for a while as I’ve seen a few more of their beers popping up on draft around the Burgh. But I especially remember them from some of their delicious collabs with local fav East End! I’d really liked everything I’ve had from Pizza Boy so I was especially excited to be able to go to their brewpub. 

Upon visiting Pizza Boy, I was surprised to learn that the Pizza actually came first! Al’s of Hampden is a pizza restaurant that has been run by Albert Kominski since 2002. It wasn’t until 2011, that the brewery got started. The name makes a lot more sense now! The brewery quickly became popular, soon outgrowing their old location. The team was able to upgrade to a large facility in Enola PA where they have a full menu as well as take out, and over 100 beers on tap! They have a huge variety of Pizza Boy beers, as well as other local favorites and standard domestic pours. There really is something for everyone at Pizza Boy! 

Pizza and beer has got to be one of my favorite combos and it just hits different after hiking! I can only speak to how delicious their pizza was, but they also have a full pub menu, including subs, soups, and salads. The pizza definitely reels you in, but you’ll end up staying awhile for the taplist. And mostly because that’s how long it will take you to read it! Seriously, this place has so many beers that it was nearly impossible to choose. We actually went back the next day for another round of tasting! My favorite of the weekend was the Permission Slip, which was so crisp and refreshing with a nice hop profile. And I would be remiss if I didn’t call out the delightful Paw Paw Pale Ale. Pizza and pawpaw beer, I think I was in heaven! 

Our Beer:

  • West Shore IPA – IPA – 6.5%
  • Citrus Flip – IPA – 6%
  • Sunny Side Up (Bourbon Barrel Aged) – Coffee Stout – 9.5%
  • Starlit Morning – Pale Ale – 5.5%
  • Permission Slip – India Pale Lager – 5.7%
  • Puncheon Rogerd – Wild Ale – 6.3%
  • Hop Vision Cashmere – IPA – 6%
  • Engineer of Dreams – NEIPA – 6.2%
  • Keystone – IPA – 6.6%
  • Paw Paw Pale Ale – 5.5%

SUM UP: Cove Nature Preserve is a small hiking area just north of Harrisburg in central PA. It offers several miles of trails with clearly marked trail blazes. The trails are fairly flat with some moderately rocky terrain. This is a great spot for beginner hikers or families especially since the trails are well-maintained and have low foot traffic. After your stroll, head over to Pizza Boy Brewing for the classic pizza and beer combo. Get ready to make some tough decisions though. Between the lengthy tap list and robust menu, you’ll have a tough time choosing!