J and I are super lucky to have an awesome hike and brew combo right in our backyard! It’s so nice to do a quick hike after work instead of having to wait for the weekend for a big excursion. The Waterworks trail is perfect for any length of hike. We usually do between 3-4 miles but the full loop is over 10 miles! Once you’ve gotten enough outdoors time on the trails, warm up at Forward Brewing, a small nanobrewery in the Eastport neighborhood. Come ready for a delicious menu and thirst-quenching brews!
THE HIKE: Annapolis Waterworks Trail
Length: 10.3 miles full loop (We did ~4 miles)
Elevation Gain: 1000 ft
Time: 4.5-5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets, mountain biking
Parking: Park off Housley road, can fill up
It took us a few months of living in Annapolis to finally venture out to the Waterworks trail. I was a bit intimidated at first because there wasn’t a lot of information online about it and it seemed pretty confusing. Well I’m going to dispel some of the misleading info out there so you can enjoy these trails! So first of all, the Waterworks park is a specific park in Annapolis that requires a permit to use. BUT you do not need a permit to hike the trails! I repeat, you do not need a permit! These trails run near the Waterworks park but they don’t actually go into the facility. However, there are parking areas that are permit only. The best place to park is on Housley road. There is a pull off for about 20 cars on the side of the road. Or you can park in the large shopping center lot and walk over. But you didn’t hear that from me! Be aware that the parking lot off Defense Highway is permit-only so don’t park there! The section of trail accessible from Housley is the southern section. If you want to access the northern section, the only way I know of is to get dropped off or bike ride to the trailhead on Honeysuckle Lane. Do not park here as I’ve heard the residents won’t hesitate to have you towed. So really, your best bet is to park at Housley Road.
Okay so now that we know where to park, let’s chat a bit about the trails themselves. These trails were built by MORE (Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts) and are maintained by their volunteers. Since MORE is an organization of mountain bikers, these trails are more geared toward that activity, although they are open to hikers as well. Just don’t be surprised if you encounter cyclists on the trail. Remember to share the trail! The full trail system comprises several different trails that all interconnect (Housley, Missing Link, Solar Park, Silopanna, Honeysuckle, and Duke of Gloucester). For our hike, we took the Housley trail and used the Missing Link connector to take us to the Solar Park Loop. Overall, we did about 4.3 miles! I’m so used to hiking on the weekend that I almost forgot to turn around with enough time to get back to our car before dark. We were definitely hoofing it at the end!
I really like these trails and I definitely enjoyed my experience of a winter hike. During the warm months, these trails can get very busy. But we hardly saw anyone on a Friday afternoon! Be aware that sometimes these trails can get muddy. Check the trail monitor at the trailhead to see if walking on the trails is recommended that day and use your discretion. We only encountered a few muddy spots, most of the trail was still frozen when we went! The only section I didn’t enjoy of this hike was the first half of the solar loop. It circled through an open field full of solar panels and while not exactly the nature I was looking for, it was actually the wind whipping by that I hated. Thankfully the later half of the loop took us back in the woods. This was surprisingly beautiful landscape for being smack in the middle of a town. I hope that eventually more parking is added to make these trails more accessible.
THE BEER: Forward Brewery
Address: 418 Fourth St, Annapolis, MD 21403
Distance from Trail Head: 5.3 miles, 15 mins
Food?: Full Menu
H&H Rating: 5/5
Guys I love Forward Brewing so much. There I said it! Despite the setback and challenges of opening during a pandemic, they’ve been killing it! Every time we visit, they are hopping and putting out consistently delicious beers. And just recently they’ve finally opened their indoor seating so we’ve finally been able to enjoy their cozy space.
Forward was started by two Annapolis natives and is very focused on their local neighborhood. I love how much of a local vibe this place has. In my hometown, nearly every neighborhood has their local brewery and I love to see that spreading! Unlike a lot of Maryland breweries that are in business/ industrial parks, Forward is tucked into the Eastport neighborhood in a converted house that has been in the owner’s family for over 30 years. There’s only street parking nearby so it’s pretty common to see people walking over to the brewery from their homes (or boats!). Be warned, Forward is pretty small on the inside so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a table. Sometimes they have outdoor seating too but it varies.
On this visit, we were excited to sample some of the new winter offerings. Dark beers reigned supreme with our favorites being the Chupez Stout and the Chaleur De Lenore Belgian Quad. The Chupez had just the barest hint of spice with a very smooth chocolatey finish. It was so satisfying after a chilly hike in the woods! We were also really impressed with the Belgian Quad and were happy to see that it was a collab with another of our favorite breweries, True Repite. We don’t often get out to Rockville so it was great to see our local pairing up with them. Honorable mention to the 2 Birds 1 Scone which was a cherry rhubarb sour with vanilla and spices which made it perfect for the chilly weather.
Another plug for why I love this place so much: they are highly invested in the health and future of the Chesapeake Bay. They’ve launched a campaign called the Momentum Initiative in conjunction with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in which they plant enough oysters to filter the equivalent of the water used to brew their beer. Fun Fact, oysters are key to clean water in the Bay because a single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day! I think it’s so important to give back to your community and I love that Forward is doing just that! If you’re ever in the Annapolis area, be sure to check them out!
- Chupez Beer – Mole Oatmeal Stout – 6.8%
- Eastport Wassail – Winter Warmer – 7.5%
- 2 Birds 1 Scone – Sour – 6.5%
- Silent is the Night – Imperial Black IPA – 8.6%
- Doppelbock – German Dark Lager – 8%
- Chaleur De Lenore – Belgian Quad – 9.2% (Collab with True Respite)
SUM UP: Annapolis Waterworks is a large trail system in the Annapolis area for mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners. All together it is about 10.5 miles but there are plenty of smaller loops to do. The best place to park is off Housley Road but it is a popular area and can fill up. The natural trail is full of ups and downs that keep it interesting but not too difficult. Keep an eye on the weather and don’t risk hiking on a wet trail! After your outing, head into the Eastport neighborhood to check out Forward Brewing. This cozy brewpub sits in a converted home and offers a full menu alongside carefully made brews. Keep an eye on the ABV, some of their taps pack a punch in the best way.