North Park & Cinderlands Taproom

Wexford, PA

A head cold can’t stop me from going leaf peeping around Pittsburgh! Hoping for an easy, woodsy hike, we headed up to North Park after work. I am definitely going to miss the evening sunlight! We’ve been hiking in North Park before, but this time we combined sections of the Rachel Carson trail, white, and blue blazes to make a nice loop. This was a quiet loop on a Friday evening and would be a great hike to bring the kids on! After our walk, we went to Cinderlands’ new Wexford location which had a fantastic outdoor space with a firepit. Enjoy these last few days of autumn colors around Western PA!

THE HIKE: North Park Loop

Length: 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 331 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, mountain biking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lots around the park
H&H: 4/5

North Park is such a huge park that it can be hard to figure out where to hike! For some reason, we always end up in the same area near the pool but we never end up on the same path! There’s so much to choose from around here that it’s good to have a map or an AllTrails route picked out. This particular path was a nice easy wander through the woods which was exactly what I needed with a head cold! It’s always shocking how exhausted I feel when I’m sick. We had great intentions of a bigger loop but it just wasn’t in the cards that day! This 2.6 mile loop includes sections of the Rachel Carson trail, the white trail, and the blue trail and there’s plenty of opportunity to add more to your route! If you want to learn more about the Rachel Carson trail, I talk about it more in this post:

North Park is the biggest of the county parks here in Allegheny County and it has pretty much any outdoor activity you could possibly want. There’s a pool, miles of trails, a golf course, a large lake for kayaking and fishing, an ice rink, several ball courts, and much more! North Park was envisioned by lumber baron E.V. Babock when he was named County Commissioner. He dreamed of creating “people’s country clubs” around the county that would offer a preserved green space for people to enjoy the beauty of nature. Coming at the high of the Industrial Revolution here in Pittsburgh, this idea for preserving greenspace was widely mocked. However, Babcock forged ahead, creating both North and South Park in 1927. We know who’s laughing now almost 100 years later! 

As you can imagine, North Park is pretty popular so be prepared to share the trail with other hikers, mountain bikers, and families as you explore nature. We only encountered a few other folks but I imagine the trails would be busy on a nice weekend. Especially at this time of year keep your eyes peeled for fungi too! We saw these huge white mushrooms on a dead snag, let me know if you have an ID! I love hiking in the fall and seeing all of the colors of the woods slowly change and fade. This was the first year I really saw the golden color of the undergrowth ferns before they die back in the winter. Overall this is a lovely hike to take any time of the year, but it was especially beautiful in the fall!

THE BEER: Cinderlands Taproom

Address: 171 Wexford Bayne Rd Ste 101, Wexford, PA 15090
Distance from Trail Head: 6 miles, 12 mins
Food?: Bar Snacks
Details: Outdoor seating, dog friendly outside

After our stroll, we wanted to check out the Wexford branch of Cinderlands. I’ve only ever been to their location in the Strip District which is very nice but so big! The Wexford location is their newest expansion, opening in 2021. The team describes this location as a stripped down version of Cinderlands, focusing in on the beer experience. Unlike the other locations, there’s not a full kitchen  although some bar snacks are available. At this taproom, there’s a wide selection of cans and merch available to-go. We saw lots of people come in to stock up for their weekend! This Cinderlands experience feels much more intimate than the larger Strip District location. The inside space is cozy with the tables thoughtfully placed so you can have a large group or just sit with a partner. We especially liked the outdoor space with tables and a firepit. The set up really encouraged friendly camaraderie with the other folks enjoying a beer. And the firepit was really a nice touch as these evenings really get cooler! 

I’ve had several Cinderlands beers before but I was most looking forward to trying their fall offering. This year, Cinderlands took a different approach to the pumpkin beer craze. They created a pumpkin beer in their Star Crumb sour line! It’s described as “Pumpkin pie in a glass”. I shamelessly love pumpkin beer so I had to try it. Sadly, this was not the one for me. I wasn’t a fan of the acidity of a sour beer and the sweetness of pumpkin. It was popular with the folks around us though so it must just be me! 


  • Full Squish – NEIPA – 6.5%
  • Star Crumb: Pumpkin Pie – Sour – 8.2%
  • Archive Series: Amber Ale – Red Ale – 5.5%

SUM UP: North Park is the largest of the County Parks here in Allegheny County and it offers over 200 miles of multi-use trails! We stuck to a loop around the pool that stays completely in the woods and almost makes you forget how close to civilization you are! The trail is mostly easy with one steeper incline at the very end and a few rocky spots. Although I’ve rated it as moderate, I still think a novice hiker could do this one! After enjoying a stroll in nature, head over to Wexford to relax at Cinderland’s Taproom. Try to snag a spot at the firepit for the perfect fall evening!

Ricketts Glen State Park & Back Mountain Brewery

Dallas, PA

Last weekend, J and I were lucky enough to be in the Wilkes-Barre area for a wedding and got to do one of my bucket list hikes: Ricketts Glen. This incredible hike features over 20 waterfalls, with the tallest plunging nearly 100ft. In just under 5 miles, this loop will stun you at each turn with gorgeous views. Be prepared for some serious inclines though! The waterfalls definitely make it worth it! This is a great hike to pack a lunch and have a picnic at the midpoint. After you’re done basking in nature’s glory, head over to Back Mountain Brewing for a refreshing draft in a cozy local taproom. Sounds like an autumn dream to me!

THE HIKE: Ricketts Glen Waterfall Loop

Length: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 873 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot at trailhead – fills up quickly
H&H: 5/5

Ricketts Glen is one of 124 state parks managed by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. It covers over 13,000 acres in Northeastern PA, including sections in Luzerne, Columbia, and Sullivan counties. This area was originally the tribal lands of the Susquehannock and Lenape peoples. The area’s namesake Colonel R. Bruce Ricketts bought land in this area for logging. While the land was being clear cut for logging, the cascading waterfalls along the creeks were discovered. Colonel Ricketts left  some preserved areas around the Glen and even built trails so people could admire the natural beauty of the area. Eventually in the 1920s, Ricketts’ heirs sold the land to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and plans were put in place to create a new national park. World War II put a halt to that and eventually the park opened in the 1940’s as a state park. Many of the named waterfalls in the park pay homage to the Native Americans that once lived on the land

This Falls Trail Loop is by far the highlight of the Ricketts Glen State Park, which not only means that it is gorgeous but also that it is very popular. If you go on a weekend, expect to share the trail with many visitors. The parking lot can also fill up, and the rangers will direct you to overflow parking at the Lake Jean Beach, which will add a few tenths of a mile to your journey. Thankfully, we were able to squeeze into the main lot on a sunny Saturday morning. These trails are very clearly marked as it follows along the creek but I was surprised that the loop wasn’t one-way. I’m been seeing a lot more popular hiking areas designating a specific flow of traffic in their parks but not here! We ended up going counterclockwise (keeping to the right) which meant that we saw waterfalls right away but had to turn around to see them. It often felt like we were fighting the flow of traffic, although people were walking both ways. The path is mostly rocky steps which can be slippery and narrow at times, so you’ll find yourself waiting a lot for others to pass before you can have a turn. Were I to go back, I would rather start out going clockwise so that the hike ends with the last big ascent to some of the waterfalls. However, the nature of the split creek along the trails means that no matter which way you start, you have to go down and then up! 

I found this to be a moderately challenging hike but it would be difficult for some. There are a lot of steps that could be tough on the knees. A lot of older hikers had poles to help steady themselves on some of the more treacherous parts. This hike was also very popular for people with dogs, which I was a bit iffy on. I love dogs, but I get frustrated with people who aren’t used to taking their dog for hikes and it isn’t well trained enough for a busy path. Overall, I would just plan for some extra time on this hike because you won’t be moving very fast, plus you’ll want to stop at every corner to take pictures! 

THE BEER: Back Mountain Brewery

Address: 1174 Twin Stacks Dr, Dallas, PA 18612
Distance from Trail Head: 23 miles, 30 mins 
Food?: Snacks & Food truck
Details: Outdoor seating, dog friendly outside
H&H Rating: 4/5

After leaving the park, head along PA-118 towards Wilkes-Barre. This brewery is a bit further from the trailhead than I usually do, but the drive is so gorgeous, definitely worth it! We were treated to a beautiful display of fall foliage along the winding highway! Back Mountain Brewing Company is nestled in an old mill turned commercial property. The microbrewery offers up around 8 different brews at a time as well as pub snacks. There’s also usually a food truck on the weekends! The taproom space is very eclectic, with a mashup of old industrial and patriotic vibes. The owners traveled the world when co-founder Clay Cadwalader was enlisted in the army. After retirement, Clay undertook a brewing and distilling apprenticeship and brought his knowledge back to his hometown in Dallas, PA to start a brewery. Back Mountain officially opened their doors in August 2021 and has quickly become a friendly, local spot for the community to come together. They offer a lot of events throughout the week, including a hopping trivia night! 

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay too long at Back Mountain since we had to get back to wedding shenanigans, but this was a perfect place to come and relax. We wish them all the best in their second year of business! 

Our Beer:

  • Dumbest Hazy – NEIPA – 7.6%
  • Ol’ 76 Stout – American Stout – 6%

SUM UP: Ricketts Glen is a popular state park in Northeastern PA, well known for its unique waterfalls. Along a 4.5 mile loop, you can see 22 named waterfalls, as well as a number of smaller water features. The trail is moderately difficult and does involve a lot of steps and potentially slippery surfaces. This is popular hike so the main lot may fill up on the weekends. After the hike, take the scenic PA-118 to go to Back Mountain Brewing, a newer nanobrewery that focuses on quality beers in a cozy taproom. Head out asap for peak fall foliage!

Settler’s Cabin Loop & Helicon Brewing

Oakdale, PA

Nothing beats fall hiking. Not only are you rewarded with gorgeous colors, there’s less bugs and you don’t sweat as much. WIN! Last weekend, we went out to one of the best parks on the Western side of Pittsburgh, Settler’s Cabin Park. Despite going here for reunions and grad parties most of my life, I only learned recently that there are miles of wooded trails there too! This is an awesome place to catch a secluded hike on a blustery fall day. Afterward, head to Helicon Brewery in Oakdale for some brews, food trucks, and arcade games!

THE HIKE: Settler’s Cabin Loop

Length: 3.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 350ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Large lots throughout
H&H: 4/5

Settler’s Cabin Park is one of the many parks managed and maintained by Allegheny County. The large park boasts not only miles of trail, but large pavilions, a wave pool, playgrounds, tennis courts, and a hockey rink. There really is something for everyone! 

The park gets its name from a historic log cabin located onsite which archaeologists helped to date to 1780. The various pavilions are also named for the Native peoples that once lived in this area including the Algonquian, Seneca, Cayuga, and Chippewa. Prior to the land being purchased by the County in 1971, this area was an active coal mine. Thankfully, efforts are continually being made to reclaim and reforest the area, as well as to mitigate some of the residual mine drainage in some of the creeks. Because of its history, the land can support a unique variety of native flora in its more acidic soil. Settler’s Cabin is particularly known for its beautiful displays of wildflowers in the Spring and Fall. We were delighted to see the fall goldenrod and asters bursting out of the undergrowth! 

There are several trails you can take at Settler’s Cabin although not all are very well marked. We like to park by the dog park to start out and to follow the signs for the waterfall. I recommend using a trail map or app to track your hike as it can be easy to end up a lot further from your car than expected! If you’re not sure which trail to pick, the parks website has a pretty nice GIS map of all their county parks! You can get it in app form as well. We did a combo of the different trail blazes but I think we mostly stayed on the green and red blazes! These trails meander through the woods and at times cross over a parking lot or past a playground so keep your eyes peeled for the re-entry points. I would rate these trails as easy although there are a few places of incline that get your blood pumping. This trail system is really great for a short outing with the family or a longer solo hike. This is definitely an area that we’ll be returning to all year long! 

THE BEER: Helicon Brewery

Address: 102 Union Ave, Oakdale, PA 15071
Distance from Trail Head: 6.5 miles, 13 mins 
Food?: BYOF or Food Trucks
Details: Outdoor seating, dog friendly outside
H&H Rating: 3/5

Helicon Brewing is located in the small town of Oakdale, right on the Panhandle Trail. If biking is more your speed, this is an excellent place to end your ride! Helicon has been pouring beers since 2016 and has quickly become a town staple. When we visited on a crisp Friday night, the lawn was packed with families tailgating! They also have ample indoor space around the bar and at tables set up throughout the space. Probably the most unique thing about Helicon are the over 40 pinball machines! Periodically they host big tournaments so keep your eyes peeled on their social if that’s something you’re into!

What’s in a name? Well a lot actually! Nowaday Oakdale was originally part of a 400 acre parcel of land gifted to Judge Hugh Henry Brackenridge (the founder of the University of Pittsburgh and namesake of my sophomore dorm!). The land was named Mt. Helicon after the eponymous mountain in Greek mythology which is said to be the home of the muses. As a nod to this, Helicon’s logo is a Greek harp adorned with a barley sprig. 

Helicon is a great neighborhood space that balances being a local pub with a family friendly atmosphere. It’s always a hopping place that’s extremely popular with the local neighborhood. It feels like everyone knows each other when you pop in! While Helicon doesn’t offer a huge range of styles, it has some solid staples that are clearly crowd pleasers! My go-to is always the oatmeal stout, especially as these evenings get cooler! 

Our Beer:

  • Festbier – Festbier – 6.2%
  • Oatmeal Stout – Stout – 4.9%

SUM UP: Settler’s Cabin is a county park just outside of Pittsburgh that offers a wave pool, playgrounds, sports fields, and miles of trails. The trails are fairly well marked and don;t have too much difficult terrain. I’d rate most of the trails as easy and there are up to 7 miles of trail to explore. Keep your eyes peeled for the cutest waterfall on the green trail! Afterward, head over to Helicon Brewing in Oakdale for some brews, pinball, and neighborhood vibes. If you’re craving more outdoor time, take your bike for a spin on the Panhandle trail right beside the brewery!