Lake Elkhorn Loop & Black Flag Brewing Company

Columbia, MD

If you’ve ever been to Columbia, you know they’ve got a great brewery scene! When we lived in Laurel, we hung out there all the time. Another great thing about Columbia is the focus on green spaces! All the neighborhoods are connected by paved trails. One of our favorite trails in the area is this loop around Lake Elkhorn. It’s pretty short so it’s great for families or to go for a run. Usually when we go, we add on a section of the Patuxent Branch Trail to get some extra distance. This is a great nature walk and perfect for seeing some birds. Conveniently, Black Flag Brewing Company is just minutes away from the trailhead. This trail is perfect for winding down after some holiday shopping at the Mall. Don’t let the winter chill keep you inside!

THE HIKE: Lake Elkhorn Loop

Length: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 40 ft
Difficulty: Easy (paved path)
Time: 45 mins
Trail use: Hiking, Biking, leashed pets
Parking: Two parking lots around lake
H&H: 3/5

The Lake Elkhorn trail is a popular 1.9 mile paved loop in Columbia. It’s definitely not as woodsy as some of our other hikes, but you still can see some wildlife and get away from the hustle and bustle. This trail is also nice because it easily connects to the Patuxent Branch trail so you can make your nature walk fairly long. The Patuxent Branch Trail actually goes all the way to Savage Mill! The whole loop is about 10 miles so it’s not for the faint of heart. 

Lake Elkhorn is man made and was constructed in 1974. Today it is maintained by the Columbia Association, a nonprofit that provides community services for residents in the area. They maintain over 3,600 acres of open space and 95 miles of walking trails! 

This trail is very popular with walkers of all ages and abilities. The paved path makes it a great place to come with small kids or elderly people. It’s also a really good place to go jogging, just be prepared to share the trail! It’s a very popular spot. You’ll also see many different kinds of waterfowl and other aquatic creatures. This past trip we saw ducks, geese, cormorants, and a heron. In the summer, you’ll see lots of frogs, turtles, and fish. A surprising amount of wildlife for a populous suburb! 

I really like this trail because it’s easy to add on to a day of running errands around Columbia or if you only have a little bit of time to get some fresh air. And if you have more time, I highly suggest adding on a section of the Patuxent Branch trail. It’s very peaceful and is a great stretch of the legs! 

THE BEER: Black Flag Brewing Company

Address: 9315 Snowden River Pkwy, Columbia, MD 21046
Distance from Trail Head: 1.1 miles, 3 mins
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 5/5

Black Flag is another of the first breweries that we went to after moving to Maryland. They’re also located in Columbia, in a strip mall right off Snowden River Parkway. They opened in 2015 as Columbia’s first production brewery and taproom in Columbia. They’ve really grown in the last few years, now offering 16 taps of freshly made craft beer. True to their name, Black Flag doesn’t like to live by the norms. They just made beer that smells and tastes amazing, who cares what the numbers are! 

Black Flag makes some really awesome dark beers. They have really become known for their flavorful pastry stouts. Now I’m not usually one for sweet beers, but I’ve definitely been digging some of these dessert stouts. This visit we had several tasters since it had been a while since we visited. I’m always a fan of New England IPAs, so I really enjoyed the juicy Sun Run. But a close runner up of the day was the Airing of Grievances. It was a delightful hint at the upcoming winter holidays with a taste of molasses and gingerbread aromas. It’s Christmastime people!!

Also, please enjoy the complete nerdiness of Black Flag if you make it out there. I absolutely love their giant mural of Star Wars characters drinking Black Flag beer.

Our Beer:

  • Rockets to the Moon – NEIPA – 7%
  • Cobbler: Raspberry Pomegranate Cherry – Sour – 6%
  • Airing of Grievances – Imperial Gingerbread Stout – 9%
  • Betwixt – Pastry Stout – 10%
  • Sun Run – NEIPA – 6.5%
  • Divining Rod – IPA – 7.2%

SUM UP: Lake Elkhorn is an easy, paved 1.9 mile loop in Columbia with the potential to add on additional miles along the Patuxent Branch Trail. There are two parking lots along the loop but they can fill up quickly since this is a popular spot. This trail is great for viewing waterfowl and is perfect for all ages and abilities. Afterward, check out Black Flag Brewing Company, Columbia’s first brewery and taproom. They’re known for unique brews and pushing the limits on big flavors. Make sure to try one of their amazing pastry stouts!

Ousel Falls Trail & Beehive Basin Brewery

Big Sky, Montana

Here’s another peak at our amazing trip out West! This was a little hike & hop that we did on our way from Bozeman down to West Yellowstone. The towns are only about 2 hours apart, but it was some of the most beautiful scenery we had ever seen! We were constantly pulling off to gaze at sheer cliffs and clear blue rivers. Along the way, we stopped at Big Sky Montana, a well known mountain resort to check out a short hike and a new brewery. Ousel Falls was the perfect trek for us because it offered a lot of bang for your buck. We really didn’t want to exhaust ourselves before we even made it to Yellowstone and it was also only 2 miles away from Beehive Basin Brewery, a new microbrewery in the Big Sky town center. Nestled in the meadow, the brewery offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains. We ordered sandwiches from the nearby deli, had a cold brew, and relaxed in the beauty of the ridges. Definitely worth a stop if you’re on the road to West Yellowstone!

One of the pull-offs along the way from Bozeman to Big Sky

THE HIKEOusel Falls Trail

Length: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 250 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 45 mins
Trail use: Hiking, biking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot with vault toilets
H&H: 4/5

Ousel Falls is a delightful little trail just minutes away from the main town center of Big Sky. It’s maintained by the Big Sky Community Organization, a nonprofit that manages many of the local trails in the area. It’s clearly a popular trail judging by the ample parking lot and the wide, gravel trails. Also there are vault toilets in the parking lot so that’s always a plus. The trail starts with a bit of a steep decline, but there are railings and benches which make it accessible for most abilities. Along the way, you pass over the South Fork of the Gallatin River several times, offering lovely vistas and plenty of benches for relaxing in the beauty. Within no time, you’ve already reached the falls! Although several other hikers told us the cascade was very light, we still thought the falls were gorgeous. I loved that we could get so close to them! There were so many friendly people along the trail and several offered to take pictures of us. I’ll never get over how warm the camaraderie among hikers is!

If this trail is too short for you, there are several other hikes in the area, including some mountain treks. We were short on time, so this little hike was perfect for us. I think this hike would also be great for families or people with some mobility issues. The trail is very wide throughout and mostly free of tripping hazards. There’s also a great spot to bring a picnic! Overall, we were really pleased with this hike, especially since it was a spur of the moment stop for us. So glad we did!

THE BEERBeehive Basin Brewery

Address: 245 Town Center Ave, Big Sky, MT 59716
Distance from Trail Head: 2.2 miles, 6 mins
Food?: BYO, deli right across the street
H&H Rating: 4/5

By the time we finished our hike, we were definitely ready for lunch and a rest. Taking in beautiful scenery really works up an appetite! Thankfully, Beehive Basin Brewery had been on my radar since I was originally planning our trip. Although they don’t have a kitchen, they encourage you to get food from one of the local restaurants. We opted for delicious sandwiches from the deli next door. I cannot even begin to tell you how much they hit the spot! 

Beehive Basin has an excellent patio with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. It was so peaceful out there. That is, until we started to get sunburnt! It’s amazing how quickly you can burn at higher elevations. Luckily, it was a quiet day at the brewery so we had no problem grabbing a seat inside. I was really impressed with the decor inside the brewery. It was the perfect blend of mountain lodge and art gallery. Taking notes for my future place! Our beer was pretty good for a very new brewery! I really hope they continue to grow. My favorite pour of the afternoon was the Mad Fresh Hop Pale Ale which was made with freshly picked hops from a local hop farm. J really liked the Malty Mountain Rye since he’s usually a big fan of malty flavors. All in all, I’m so glad that we stopped in Big Sky!

Our Beer:

  • Montana Wheat Bier – Witbier – 4.5%
  • Mad Fresh Hop – Pale Ale – 5.4%
  • Green Bridge IPA – American IPA – 6.4%
  • Malty Mountain Rye – Rye Beer – 6.2%

SUM UP: Ousel Falls is an easy out & back trail in Big Sky, Montana that is 1.6 miles long. It has some small elevation gains but is well suited for all ages and abilities. The trails are very wide and even with several benches to take breaks. The short trail guides you through pine forests and over and across the beautiful South Fork Gallatin River. The Ousel Falls themselves are breathtaking and the trail allows you to both at the base and from overhead. Make sure to take plenty of pictures! Only 2 miles away is Beehive Basin Brewery, a new microbrewery that has a constantly rotating taplist. Offering views of the surrounding mountains, Beehive is a perfect place to relax with a crisp beer. We can’t wait to share more of our Montana/ Wyoming adventures with you soon!

Sugarloaf Mountain & Mad Science Brewing Company

Dickerson, Maryland

The very happy birthday boy!

This was a very special Hike & Hop edition because it was J’s birthday! In honor of my favorite hiking partner and lover of trees, I took him on a surprise little pre-hike outing. We went to see the biggest tree in Maryland! It’s in Dickerson Conservation Park just off the C&O canal. The largest tree is an American Sycamore that’s a whopping 138ft tall and 310 inches in circumference. However, the tree itself is a bit hard to get to. Park at Dickerson Conservation Park and the tree is only about ¼ mile away. Cross the towpath and follow the trail leading towards the river. It will turn right and follow along the river. The tree is to the right of the path and there is a big rock outcropping on the VA side of the river directly across from the tree. The day we visited, there had been huge rain storms so the river trail was extremely washed out. The tree was totally worth it though, it was simply massive! Definitely worth checking out! Want to know more about big trees in Maryland? Check out to see if there are any near you!

After trekking to find Maryland’s biggest tree, we decided to tackle Sugarloaf Mountain. We had been dying to come back here ever since doing a short hike with friends but the timing was never right. Weekends can get busy here, but aside from the main overlook point, the trails aren’t too busy. The best part of Sugarloaf? There’s a winery at the bottom of the mountain! And if you’re like me and beer is more your style, Mad Science Brewing is only a 10 minute drive away. And to round out your day, may I suggest Rocky Point Creamery in Tuscarora? This sounds like the perfect day to me so what are you waiting for?!

THE HIKE: Sugarloaf Mountain and Northern Peaks

From the Sugarloaf Mtn website with our route overlaid

Length: 7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1500ft
Difficulty: Hard
Time: 3- 3.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Large parking lots by trailhead. $5 suggested donation
H&H: 4/5

White Rocks Overlook

Sugarloaf Mountain is a very popular hiking area in Dickerson, Maryland. It is privately owned by the nonprofit Stronghold, Inc who maintains the park and event center. There is a suggested $5 fee to use the trails or you can get a yearly membership. This park is very popular so try to get there early (the park opens at 8). There’s a lot of parking but there can be a lot of traffic in and out of the lots. Just make sure you don’t start too late because the park closes at 6pm in the Spring/ Summer and at 4pm in the Fall/ Winter. Also be aware that there are no trash cans in the park! If you plan to have a picnic, make sure to pack out all of your trash. 

We don’t make it out to this area very often so we wanted to see the best the mountain has to offer. That meant tackling the Northern Peaks trail. This is a ~7 mile loop that incorporates the main peak, as well as the White Rocks overlook. This trail was really rocky with a lot of elevation changes so I consider it difficult. The final assent to the top of Sugarloaf really pushed us to our limits! The view was so worth it though. Extra water, snacks, and hiking boots are all essential for this hike. 

Very rocky trail

I really liked this hike and the views were incredible. Nothing beats this area of Maryland for hills and views! My only complaint was how busy the trail was. There were so many people, a lot of whom were clearly ill prepared for a hard hike. We noticed a lot of trash along the trail, including Starbucks cups?! Hiking pro tip: bring old grocery bags to pick up trash along the trail, every bit helps! Anyway, I’m really glad we did this hike, I just wish we could have gone during the week.

THE BEER: Mad Science Brewing Company

Address: 1619 Buckeystown Pike, Adamstown, MD 21710
Distance from Trail Head: 7.6 miles, 11 mins
Food?: Food Trucks and BYO
H&H Rating: 4/5

Mad Science Brewing Company opened in 2013 as part of Thanksgiving Farms and Market in Adamstown. Even without the brewery, the farm is worth a visit for its huge variety of plants, eclectic gifts and home grown produce. Thanksgiving Farms prides themselves on their “We Grow Our Own” attitude and that extends to the brewery too! Every batch of beer is made with farm fresh ingredients and they currently have around 240 hop plants grown onsite.

Thanksgiving Farms is really quirky and I loved it. Everything is brightly colored and it just made me happy. I could have spent hours looking through the market and plants but there was beer to be had! The brewery is only open on weekends 11-5pm so make sure to plan accordingly! We rolled in after our hike and were pleased to see a full house with a bluegrass band playing. Nothing I like more than sipping a malty beer and listening to Avett Brothers covers, can you say Heaven? I went straight for the festbier (very predictable) while J opted for the Human Harvester, which was made with all freshly harvested hops from the farm. Everything we had at Mad Science was a solid beer, but my favorite was the Antidote #1. I really love a refreshing Pale Ale! And of course we had to try the barrel-aged scotch ale. Thank goodness we only got a small pour, this packed a punch! Overall, we really had a great time at Mad Science. My only complaint was the early closing time!

Our Beer:

  • Special Relativity – Festbier – 5.3%
  • Human Harvester – American IPA – 6.8% 
  • C. Hopulinum – American IPA – 6.4%
  • Antidote #1 – Pale Ale – 5.3%
  • Barrel-Aged Wheezy – Scotch Ale – 7.3%

SUM UP: Sugarloaf Mountain is a very popular hiking spot in Dickerson Maryland. It is owned by the Stronghold Inc and there is a suggested $5 fee to enter. There is lots of parking but the roads can get rather backed up on the weekends so plan accordingly. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails, but be aware that there are no trash cans so all trash must be packed out. The trail itself is very rocky with some steep inclines but the views are worth it! After your hike, check out Mad Science Brewing at Thanksgiving Farms for unique brews with a focus on hop-forward flavors. Before heading home for the evening, grab a sweet treat from Rocky Point Creamery and watch the sunset from the parking lot. Hike + Beer + Ice Cream = Day Made!

View from Sugarloaf Mountain overlook
The big tree!

Jug Bay Wetlands & Calvert Brewing Company

Upper Marlboro, MD

I have been so excited to share this hike & brew! Jug Bay is one of my favorite places in Maryland and this time was so special because we got to introduce it to my parents! We saw so much wildlife at Jug Bay and had some truly delicious beers at Calvert Brewing. I could do this combo every weekend! Let’s go!

THE HIKE: Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary

Length: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 250ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 2 hours
Trail use: Hiking Only (No Pets)
Parking: Large parking lot, $6 per car
H&H: 5/5

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary is located along the Patuxent River and is operated by the Anne Arundel Department of Recreation and Parks. It’s so much more than just a park with tons of educational events and conservation efforts happening all the time. Before you head out, check to see what events are happening, there might be something to interest you! There’s a lot of parking at the Main Entrance but please remember to stop in the visitor’s center and pay the entrance fee. It’s only $6 per car and it goes to a great cause. 

We’ve done several different trail combos at Juy Bay but no matter where we trek, we always have to go on the boardwalk overlooking the river wetlands and we also have to visit Mark’s Pond along the Upper RR Bed Trail. It’s a small pond that is just teeming with life! We sat here for over an hour, barely talking, as we watched the animals of the pond. We were completely fascinated especially by the frogs who were in the throws of mating season, singing out their calls loudly and fighting off their competition. There were turtles lined up on logs in the sun watching the entire ordeal. To be honest, we didn’t end up getting much hiking in because we couldn’t tear ourselves away from this pond! 

On a different trip, J and I did the full park loop from the visitor’s center down to the pier, about 5 miles. It’s mostly flat so it makes for a nice easy hike. Watch out for bugs though! It’s close to the water so they can get brutal. Most of the hikes in Jug Bay are easy which makes them great for the whole family. Every time we’ve gone, we’ve seen hikers and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages! If you’d really like to get a good workout, try adding on a few extra trails. But don’t forget to stop and enjoy the park around you! This place really is all about the fantastic ecosystem!

In case you can’t tell, I really love Jug Bay Wetlands and I know I’ll be back soon! If this hike is close to you, consider getting a membership so every visit is free for a year. 

THE BEER: Calvert Brewing Company

Address: 15850 Commerce Ct, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774
Distance from Trail Head: 9.6 miles, 20 mins
Food?: Food Trucks (Some weekends)
H&H Rating: 5/5

We’ve been going to Calvert Brewing Company after Jug Bay since we first moved to Maryland. Calvert has such a friendly atmosphere and we always end up chatting with someone new. Recently, they set up tents and adirondack chairs in the parking lot and it’s been the best spot to relax with a brew. The inside is also huge so you’ll always find a spot to relax. 

Calvert’s spacious taproom
We appreciate art and nature on this blog

Since we had family with us this time around, we were able to sample quite a few of Calvert’s offerings. My favorite this time actually surprised me, the Watermelon Pucker! It was the perfect summer beer and was so refreshing after being outside. My dad is a big fan of NEIPA and he really liked the Single Hop: Sultana. We’re both really interested in single hop series that allow you to isolate the taste of a single hop variety. J has been finding a new love for saisons so he went with the Battle of the Beltway which was a collab with Peabody Heights up in Baltimore. Finally, my mom likes light beers so she went with the Indigo Luna, a refreshing wheat beer. After lots of chatting and snacking, we got one final glass to share, the incredibly thick Milkshake Smoothie Sour. This was really tasty but I’m so glad I didn’t get a full pour. I think it would have been delicious as a slushie though! 

We really love Calvert Brewing and we can’t wait to come back! We also really like their Route 4 IPA and the Excellent Adventure IPA which you can find in store around Maryland!

Our Beer:

  • Indigo Luna – Wheat Beer – 5.2%
  • Battle of the Beltway – Saison – 5.2%
  • Single Hop: Sultana – NEIPA – 6.7%
  • Watermelon Pucker – Sour – 5%
  • Strawberry Pineapple Milkshake Smoothie – Sour – 5%

SUM UP: Jug Bay is a large wetland park maintained by the county that offers miles of hiking and educational activities that are suitable for all ages. The park is teeming with wildlife so keep your camera ready. There is a $6 entrance fee and the park is only open to hikers (sorry, leave your pets at home). There are wooded trails and boardwalks over the marshlands. About 20 mins away is Calvert Brewing Company which is at the end of a business park. They make a wide variety of beers and the atmosphere is always laid back and friendly. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself chatting with someone new!

Maryland Heights & Harper’s Ferry Brewing

Maryland Heights has been on my hiking bucket list ever since I moved to Maryland. Which is ironic since the hike technically starts in Harper’s Ferry, WV! This is one of those amazing hikes where the view at the top makes it all worth it. I love to be rewarded for a really tough climb by an incredible view! Okay so let’s get into the quick details: 

Incredible view of Harpers Ferry

THE HIKE: Maryland Heights 

Length: 4.6 miles Out and Back (option to add on a loop to the summit for a total of 6.6 miles) 
Elevation Gain: 1115ft 
Time: 2 hours 
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets allowed
Parking: Park at Harpers Ferry Visitor Center, $20 for 3-day pass ($80 for the annual NPS Pass)
H&H: 2/5

Okay so this hike is an UNDERTAKING which is why it probably took me so long to finally do it! The only way to access the trail is from Harpers Ferry National Park. There used to be a parking lot at the trail head but that has since been closed. So unless you are already hiking the AT (go you!) or biking along the C&O Canal (also go you!) there’s no nearby parking except for the National Park. So that means that this hike is a little more costly than others. The entry fee per vehicle is $20 and that gets you a three day pass. This is great for anyone planning an overnight hiking trip. You can also get an annual Harpers Ferry pass for $35 or the American the Beautiful Pass for all National Parks for $80. Totally worth it if you’re planning on visiting more than one Park in a year. And if this seems steep to you, just remember that your money is going to maintain these beautiful parks for years to come! 

So you park at the Visitor’s Center and then you can either take the free shuttle down the town (it comes every 15 mins) or you can follow the trails down. Just keep in mind that walking will add about 2 miles on either end of your hike! J and I did this hike after our very first time camping so needless to say, we were pretty tired already, so opted to take the shuttle down. It’s quick and plops you right out where you need to be. From there, just cross over the bridge and follow the C&O towpath to the trailhead! This is an extremely popular trail, so be prepared to share the trail with lots of people, including large groups of people. The trail incline is nothing to sneeze at, so make sure that you’re prepare to walk ~2 miles directly uphill. Just remember, it’s not a race and you can always let people pass if they’re going too fast for you! 

Personally, I found the uphill trek to be a good challenge but the sheer number of people on the trail made it less ideal. Plus I found the trail itself to be, dare I say, kinda boring? But that’s all fine because That. View. Guys, the overlook was everything I wanted it to be. Such a glorious view out over the town. Buuuuuut again, other people ruined it for me. I was pretty upset at the amount of people littering and smoking at the overview. Plus it was so crowded that it was hard to find a spot to even take in the view. I would highly suggest trying this hike during the week or earlier in the day. Overall, I’m glad I finally did the hike, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I much preferred Weverton Cliffs which I’ll go over in my next post! 

After finishing this hike, we relaxed and took in the views at quite possibly the most beautiful brewery I’ve ever been to: 

THE BEER: Harpers Ferry Brewing

Address: 37412 Adventure Center Ln, Purcellville, VA 20132
Distance from Trail Head: 3.1 miles, ~5 mins 
Food?: Full Kitchen, no outside food
H&H Rating: 4/5

By the time you get to the brewery you’ve been in three states today! Crazy right? Harpers Ferry Brewing is located right next to Harpers Ferry Adventure Park so there’s plenty of parking for everyone. I was pretty surprised at how huge this place was. There was plenty of seating in front and inside. But the real draw was the back yard full of adirondack chairs facing an incredible overlook of the Potomac River. After a long weekend of hiking and camping, this really was heaven. 

The beer was pretty good but we decided to stick with one since it was a bit pricey ($8 for a draft). I had the NEIPA which was good, and I’m usually quite picky with my ratings. J opted for the IPA which was quite hoppy. There weren’t many other options, but we were pleased with our choices. And honestly, I could have been drinking anything with that view. This was a much needed relaxing afternoon for us. I hope you get to check it out too! 

The Beers: 

Potomac Pale Ale – American Pale Ale – 5.7%
The Needles – American IPA – 7.0%

SUM UP: Maryland Heights is a very popular hike out of Harper’s Ferry that is an out-and-back moderately challenging hike. There is a park entry fee and a free shuttle close to the trailhead. Only 3 miles away is Harper’s Ferry Brewing, with incredible views, a full kitchen, and tasty but pricey beer. 

H&H overall rating: 3/5