Emerald View Trail & Inner Groove Brewing (Allentown)

Mt. Washington, PA

This loop is the best of urban hiking! It starts out on the wooded Emerald View trail, meandering around Mt. Washington then pops you out right at the overlook! From there, enjoy walking along Grandview Ave and then back through the historic neighbors of Mt. Washington. If you’re feeling extra frisky, you can even continue along the Grandview park section of the Emerald View trail. Or stop for a rest and treat at the Shiloh Street shops! The world is your oyster with this one. One big recommendation though is to end your excursion with a visit to Inner Groove’s Allentown taproom! They’ve got awesome beer, bar games, and an outdoor patio. What more could you want?

THE HIKE: Emerald View Loop

Length: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 660 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Biking, Leashed pets
Parking: Various parking lots and street parking
H&H: 3/5

As much as I love visiting state parks with acres and acres of untouched greenery, there’s also something to be said for our local CitiParks which are doing a lot with the little bits of greenspace they can find! One of my new favorites has been the Emerald View trail on Mt. Washington. I used to see the signs for trail crossings on my commute home from work and always wondered about where it could lead. Well last weekend, J and I decided to find out! 

Emerald View Park is one of the many green spaces maintained by the City of Pittsburgh Citiparks and their awesome group of rangers! This park encompasses over 250 acres on Mt. Washington and is a successful story of restoration. In Pittsburgh’s early days, Mt. Washington was heavily mined for soft coal, so much that it became known as Coal Hill. In the 1930s, access to the housing communities on Mt. Washington was created, including some of Pittsburgh well known streets like McArdle, Shiloh, and Grandview. Into the 1970s, the City took greater strides to regulate mining and to take advantage of the beautiful view. The scenic overlooks were built and groups started to advocate for the restoration of the area. Finally in 2007, the park was named as a regional park! 

This is such a great park system because there are beautiful wooded areas right in the midst of an urban neighborhood, then suddenly you come out to that iconic view of pittsburgh! We started our trek by parking at Olympia Park and heading right into the woods at the end of Hallock street.. We stayed on the Emerald View trail, although there are several other offshoot trails and neighborhood access points. I really loved this section of the trail because we were able to be in such a little slice of nature while also looking out over the hills to see the highways and iconic Pittsburgh neighborhoods. As you start into the big turn to head towards Mt. Washington and the overlooks, you’ll encounter the steepest parts of this hike. It can’t be Pittsburgh without some inclines! Finally, the Emerald View Trail pops out right on Grandview Ave by the Point of View Sculpture (Jim West, 2006). From there, the trail turned into more of an Urban walk as we stopped at the Duquesne Incline and the various overlook spots. My favorite viewpoint is by the St. Mary of the Mount church! We continued on Grandview Ave until we reached the Monogahela Incline, then started to make our way back towards Olympia Park. This was about a 5 mile loop! If you were looking for more, you could also add in the 2 mile loop in Grandview Park! 

This was a great hike to explore our city a bit more and also to appreciate the wonderful greenspaces that exist in the city limits! This park has definitely inspired me to check out more of the City’s regional and neighborhood parks! Do you have a favorite?

THE BEER: Inner Groove Brewing

Address: 827 E Warrington Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15210
Distance from Trail Head: 2 miles, 8 mins 
Website: https://www.innergroovebrewing.com/
Food?: BYOF or takeout
Details: Outdoor seating, dog friendly outside

Inner Groove is a microbrewery based out of Verona, which is quite a trek for me! So I was really excited when they opened a taproom in the City of Pittsburgh up in the Allentown neighborhood of Mt. Washington. This taproom is still fairly new, having opened in May 2022 and boasts a large taproom and nice outdoor side patio. Although they don’t have a kitchen, there are plenty of great places to grab a bit in Allentown. Plus, that also means their taproom is 

dog friendly, as I brought a furry friend with me the first time we visited and sat outside! In addition to a large selection of their own beers, they also have local wine and a selection of cocktails. 

Inner Groove has been a staple in the small borough of Verona since 2019 when two couples finally realized their dream of opening a brewery together. Inner Groove is known for their unique styles and flavors and always has a broad range of beers on tap. As a nod to their name, most of their beers are also inspired by music and feature a music lyric in their names! I love how witty some of them are! 

Inner Groove is a great addition to the Allentown neighborhood and I’m so glad that we have another brewery in our area!

Our Beer:

  • Stout Stout – American Stout – 8.5%
  • Domo – NEIPA – 6.5%
  • Boysen Da Hood – Fruited Sour – 5.3%
  • Daytime Campfire – Smores Stout – 8%
  • Tin Roof – Irish Red – 5.4%

Nature Nugget – Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses

Popping on with my first Nature Nugget in ages! As I’m sure a lot of you are aware, the Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive species that has spread across the United States. Currently, many counties in Western Pennsylvania are under a quarantine in order to mitigate the further spread of this harmful creature. You may have seen a lot of ads and billboard talking about squishing these bugs. It may seem harsh, but these swarming bugs cause serious damage to plants. Because of this, they have been labeled a “plant stressor” in that they will contribute to the “long-term weakening of established plants and trees”. These bugs are particularly harmful in the agriculture industry which is why everyone can help slow the spread of them!

.Spotted Lanternflies are dormant right now, BUT there is still something you can do to help eradicate them. Whenever you’re out hiking or walking around your neighborhood, keep an eye out for egg masses. The Spotted Lanternfly lays egg masses in September to November which will then hatch in late April to June. Each one of these egg masses can contain 30-50 individual eggs. Ugh! Egg masses are typically found on trees, near the base but can also be found on other smooth surfaces like buildings or concrete. Especially on trees, they might be hiding in the ridges between bark. 

PA Department of Agriculture

We got together with some other nature lovers last weekend to Smash and Trash the Spotted Lanternfly. We learned from rangers and an entomologist how to identify the egg masses and how to squish them so the eggs cannot hatch. In just over an hour, our small but mighty team managed to squash over 30,000 eggs! I’m definitely going to be keeping my eyes open for these masses as I take more hikes these Spring. Every little bit helps to eradicate this invasive species! 

Please note that PennState Extension is still requesting that all sightings of Lanternflies be reported! This information is incredibly helpful in gathering data about the spread of these pesky critters. 

Resources:

https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly

https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/PlantIndustry/Entomology/spotted_lanternfly/quarantine/Pages/default.aspx

https://extension.psu.edu/how-to-remove-spotted-lanternfly-eggs

https://dof.virginia.gov/spotted-lanternfly-egg-mass-scouting-diy/


Rachel Carson Trail & Necromancer Brewery

North Park, PA

Earlier this month, J and I did our first group outing with the Rachel Carson trail Conservancy! We joined their annual Sock Drive and Hike in North Park area. Everyone donated socks and then carpooled to the Harmony Trail parking lot on Wexford-Bayne road. From there we all set off along the Rachel Carson trail back to the North Park Cabin. This trek ended up being 6.6 miles! I will say, this wasn’t my favorite hike, due to the number of times we went out of the woods, but it was still a nice change to hike with a big group! This will probably be our only “snowy” hike of the year since we’d had a very mild winter. We ended the day by visiting Necromancer Brewing off of McKnight Road in North Hills. I’ve been wanting to go here for a while and it did not disappoint! I love dark beer and I love that so much of their taplist was dedicated to the dark side. Keeping this post short but check out my Instagram for a fun video of the hike!

THE HIKE: Rachel Carson: Harmony to North Park Cabin

Length: 6.6 miles (point to point)
Elevation Gain: 706 ft 
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, trail running, leashed pets, biking
Parking: Large lot at either end
H&H: 3/5

THE BEER: Necromancer brewery

Address: 2257 Babcock Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15237
Distance from Trail Head: 7.4 miles, 16 mins 
Website: https://necromancer.beer/
Food?: BYOF, Food Trucks
Details: Dog friendly

Hell’s Hollow – McConnells Mill SP & ShuBrew

Portersville, PA

McConnell’s Mill State Park is a perfect day trip from Pittsburgh! It’s only about an hour north of the city and is a great nature retreat. You can visit the popular old gristmill and covered bridge or follow the more secluded North Country Trail along the creek. On this visit, we started out with the easy Hell’s Hollow hike to see the beautiful waterfall and then did a nice out and back section of the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail. Afterward, we headed back toward town and stopped in the lovely town of Zelienople for dinner and a brew at Shubrew. We’ve been spoiled with such a mild winter and that means getting outside as much as we can!

THE HIKE: Hell’s Hollow & Slippery Rock Gorge Trail (NCT)

Length: 6.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 720 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, trail running, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot with port-a-potty
H&H: 4/5

McConnells Mill State Park is located in Portersville, PA in Lawrence County and encompasses over 2,500 acres of land. It included the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, a National Natural Landmark. The unique landscape around the gorge was formed by glacial runoff thousands of years ago, leaving behind boulders and beautiful waterfalls. This is one of those places that’s hard to believe is in Western Pennsylvania!

Hell’s Hollow is a particularly beautiful section of the state park. Despite its name, it’s an easy 0.5 mile, flat trail to view the waterfall. The area’s name actually comes from the nearby old lime kilns that locals thought looked like portals to hell in the nighttime. I highly recommend starting out by checking out Hell’s Hollow and then venturing onto the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail. There’s a lot of parking at the trailhead, although I imagine that this fills up quickly on a nice summer day! To get to Hell’s Hollow, bear to the right and follow the well-marked trail. It’s a simple in and out that follows along a babbling creek. You do have to come most of the way back before you get on the Slippery Rock Gorge trail. 

The bulk of our hike was along the Slippery Rock Gorge trail which is also part of the North Country Scenic trail. If you have two cars, I think it would be awesome to leave one car at the main McConnell’s Mill parking lot so that you could do the whole 7.5 mile trek from Hell’s Hollow to the Gristmill. Unfortunately, we just weren’t up for a 15 miles round trip! This hike is definitely a moderate hike with a lot of ups and down and some rocky spots. We found it to be particularly challenging to walk in some of the muddy spots. The joys of winter hiking is that the sunny side of the hill is mushy and the shaded side is still icy! This is a hike that I would recommend crampons in during wintery weather and hiking poles if you’d like some extra balance.

If you have time, be sure to visit the main section of McConnell’s Mill as well! The Kildoo Trail is a particular favorite of mine and is just around 2 miles. Be sure to see the historic gristmill and the covered bridge, both of which were recently featured in the Netflix movie The Pale Blue Eye

THE BEER: ShuBrew

Address: 205 S Main St, Zelienople, PA 16063
Distance from Trail Head: 14.6 miles, 26 mins 
Website: http://shubrew.com/
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Rooftop Seating, dog friendly outside

Shubrew has been a staple of Zelienople since it first opened in 2013. It offers a nice (delicious!) menu as well as a large list of house-made brews. And if beer isn’t your thing, they also offer a wide selection of cocktails and wine! Subrew has grown quite a bit since their early days 10 years ago. Now, they operate a brewing facility in nearby Harmony, which allows them to brew a lot more and save space in their taproom for more seating! The owners of ShuBrew also operate General Shu’s (located just across the street) which features fast-casual Chinese food as well as a selection of ShuBrew beers! The taproom also features a full menu with some nods to Chinese influenced food, as well as more traditional pub fare. We don’t usually eat out at breweries, but we made an exception for the pulled pork nachos and they were heavenly! 

ShuBrew is definitely one of those places we will make a trip to visit and I know we’ll be back again soon! We’d like to visit again in warmer months to sit on the rooftop deck! 

Other great spots in the area: The Harmony In (North Country Brewing), Union Brothers Brewing, Burgh’ers Brewery

Our Beer:

  • Chew on That – Pilsner – 5.6%
  • Nut Brown Ale – Brown Ale – 5.4%

 

Sewickley Heights Borough Park & Big Sewickley Creek Brewery

Sewickley, PA

New brewery alert! I also make a point of trying to visit new breweries, especially when it’s in an area that doesn’t really have many taprooms. So I was thrilled to hear about Big Sewickley Creek Brewery! As soon as they were ready to open, I made sure to find a nearby hike so we could go to their opening weekend. Thankfully Sewickley Heights Borough Park was very closeby! This is a new area of the region for me but I was pleasantly surprised by the trails in this park. There was a great mix of natural wooded trails, as well as wider gravel paths. Be aware that some of these are equestrian trails so remember that riders have the right of way and always make your presence known near horses! This is also a popular off-leash area, so if large dogs aren’t your jam this might not be the best place for you.

THE HIKE: Sewickley Heights Borough Park

Length: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 335 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, unleashed pets, equestrian trails
Parking: Park only in designated areas on side of road
H&H: 4/5

As its name indicates, this park is located in Sewickley Heights Borough and is open to the public! It is funded mostly by generous donations from residents of the borough. Right next to this area is the Fern Hollow Conservation Area, owned and managed by the American Land Trust. This area is very popular with dog owners as the whole park is an off-leash area! So what does that mean for hikers? Well, be aware that an unknown dog might come running up to say hi! If that makes you a bit uncomfortable, you can always ask the owner to leash their pet but understand that they might not. To be honest, if you have a fear of big dogs, I would probably suggest checking out a different park. During our short walk, we probably had 4 or 5 large puppers come running up to us! 

We really enjoyed this park because of the varied landscape and types of trails. We parked along Hallaway Road in the designated spots and started out our trek by meandering along the wooded trails. The trails were easy to follow but not always clear which one you were on. We saw very few blazes or signposts, but thankfully since the park isn’t too large we were able to just wander without fear of getting too lost. Most of the trails are multi-purpose but a few are hiker-only. After crossing back over Hallaway Road, we walked along the gravel road which was more open. There were a lot of trails back in this area that I didn’t even realize until looking at the map afterwards. There’s plenty of places to walk at Sewickley Heights, whether you’d like mostly flat gravel paths, or woodsy natural trails. 

The park has a helpful website with maps and some rules and regulations about the park. As with most parks, you should stay on the path as much of the area is preserved for conservation. The park isn’t open to hunting at any time and groups larger than 10 should obtain a permit to visit. They also remind users that many trails are multi-purpose so know when to yield! Bikers yield to hikers and equestrians, dog walkers should lease their pets when approaching horses, hikers yield to equestrians and be aware of bikers. 

Overall, I was so glad we took a chance on this borough park! The trails were much more woodsy than I expected and I was pleasantly surprised by how big the space was. Plus it was the perfect excuse to go check out Big Sewickley Creek Brewery!

THE BEER: Big Sewickley Creek Brewery

Address: 2030 Big Sewickley Creek Rd, Sewickley, PA 15143
Distance from Trail Head: 4.4 miles, 9 mins 
Website: https://sewickleybrewery.com/
Food?: Food Trucks or BYOF
Details: Outdoor seating with firepits, dog friendly outside,
H&H Rating: 5/5

New brewery!! I have been following the process of this brewery and I was thrilled to hear they were finally having a grand opening weekend. I have long hoped for a brewery in the Sewickley area as there are so many parks and trails around. Thankfully Big Sewickley Creek Brewery (BSCB) really knocked it out of the park. They have a decent sized taproom that was a great spot for watching the football game. Since J and I aren’t big sports fans (sorry Pittsburghers, please don’t hate us) we sat outside to get a feel for their outdoor space. Man was it nice! There’s plenty of seating on the covered patio with really unique chairs made from old barrels and large heaters to keep it toasty. The yard though was our favorite area. BSCB has made the perfect backyard hangout, complete with string lights, adirondack chairs, and firepits! No to mention the brewery’s namesake creek flowing behind the property. Honestly, I think this place was made with us in mind! 

BSCB was started by two Pittsburgh brothers who retired from the medical field. Brewing beer had always been a hobby for them but as they neared retirement, they started to talk seriously about opening their dream taproom. They managed to get all the supplies ordered for the building before the pandemic put a halt in the plans. Thankfully, they were able to get construction moving and get landscapers to make the cozy backyard space. Since both of the brothers are dog owners, I’m happy to report that the taproom is VERY dog friendly! You might even find a treat for your furry friend behind the bar! During our visit, we were delighted to make the acquaintance of a little puppy on his first public outing! Also, a fun fact that I learned from the brewery’s feature in the Post-Gazette, owner Marc made all of the barrels for the outdoor seating after attending a welding training program! Is there anything these brothers can’t do?!

So let’s get to the product. Since the brewery is so new, they only had six taps flowing on their first weekend. That was perfect for us since I love being able to try everything on the taplist. Nothing like being haunted by the beer that got away! Not only was the beer crisp and delicious, I also really loved that everything was around 4% ABV. It seemed like everywhere has super boozy brews anymore and that’s just not my jam! I like to be able to sample a few before wanting to fall asleep. Bring back lower ABV beers! My favorite of the lineup was the Roasty Joe Amber. It just paired so perfectly with the campfire and was a great winter weather beer without being too heavy on the palette. But honestly all of the beers were very good and I know this won’t be the last time we visit! 

Our Beer:

  • Smokey Joe Vienna – Vienna Lager – 4% 
  • Sewickley Pale Lager – Lager – 4%
  • German Altbier – Altbier – 4%
  • Roasty Joe Amber – Amber Lager – 4%
  • Munich Helles – Helles – 4%
  • Otto-Pils – Vienna Lager – 5%