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
Time: 1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Large lots throughout
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!
- 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!