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 
Website: http://backmountainbrew.com/
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!

Pinckney Island NWR & Side Hustle Beer Co.

Hilton Head Island, SC

Even on vacation, there are Hikes & Hops to be had! J and I made the long haul down to South Carolina for a week of relaxing at Hilton Head. But if you’re like me and need other things to do than just soaking up the sun, there are several hiking areas in and around Hilton Head Island. Since it’s so close to the shore, this hike was a completely different type of terrain for us. At Pinckney Island, expect to meander past saltwater marshes, ponds, beaches and more. This is a place to take it slow and let nature speak for itself. Bring plenty of water and be prepared for lots of bugs! I also highly recommend doing a kayaking tour on your visit to HHI!

THE HIKE: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

Length: 4.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 30 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Biking, No pets
Parking: Large lot at trailhead
H&H: 4/5

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is managed and maintained by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and is a protected natural area. It was established in 1975 on land that was once a revolutionary war veteran’s plantation. The entire refuge is over 4,000 acres and includes several islands, although Pinckney is the largest and the only one accessible by the public. The Refuge offers a unique environment for a wide range of wildlife. Expect to see salt marshes, forests, brushland, and freshwater ponds. The truly captivating part of Pinckney Island is the sheer amount of wildlife that call it home. There’s a huge population of wading birds, especially egrets, ibis, and heron, as well as eagles, osprey, and hawks. If you’re lucky, you might spy a pod of dolphins! As you’re walking, keep your eyes peeled for reptiles like alligators and snakes. 

Although the refuge is open to the public, keep in mind that the Pinckney Island NWR is primarily a nature and wildlife preserve. Its main goal is maintaining an area of wildlife conservation, especially in a region of high coastal development. Pinckney Island is just one of seven protected refuges that make up the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex. 

Accessing Pinckney Island NWR is easy from either Hilton Head Island or Bluffton on the mainland. There’s only one entrance right off 278 (Wm Hilton Pkwy) which leads to a large parking lot. Be aware that there are no bathroom facilities on the island so plan accordingly! Although we decided to walk the trails, the wide gravel and mown paths are great for biking as well. Biking is probably the best way to see the entirety of the island’s nearly 14 miles of trails. However, do remember that this is South Carolina so it’s likely to be hot, extremely humid, and very buggy. Please bring plenty of water! 

We went on a pretty muggy day so we didn’t make it quite as far as we hoped. When first leaving the parking lot, there’s only one main road to take. This is a wide gravel path that is fairly busy with cyclists and families. This road leads to the Ibis Pond where, true to its name, there are hundreds of wading birds. After this pond, there are a few directions you can go and you will likely leave the crowds behind! We didn’t see another person until we came back to this main road. 

My biggest complaint about this hiking area was the mown grass paths. When we went, the grass was quite high and it made me pretty uncomfortable despite my long pants. I was probably overreacting, but I didn’t like the idea of not being able to see critters in the long grass. So we did our best to keep to the gravel paths when possible. Despite the paths being quite flat, I was surprised how quickly we tired out. The heat and humidity is no joke! We wanted to make it to Shell Point Beach, but the distance was quite a bit further than I realized and we eventually turned around. Next time, I’d like to bring our bikes and try to see more of the island! 

Tiny crab!

THE BEER: Side Hustle Beer Co.

Address: 144 Arrow Rd Unit A, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Distance from Trail Head: 9 miles, 13 mins 
Website: http://www.sidehustlebeerco.com/
Food?: BYOF, Occasional Food Trucks
Details: Outdoor seating only, pets welcome
H&H Rating: 5/5

Side Hustle Beer Company is South Carolina’s smallest brewery! It’s so small in fact, that they don’t have an indoor seating area. It’s just a small counter where you can get draft pours and cans to go and then enjoy your draft on the outdoor patio. Honestly, with how gross and sweaty we were after the hike, it was probably for the best that we sat outside! 

As its name implies, Side Hustle is a small venture between friends who decided to start a small side venture to bring good craft beer to Hilton Head. And man are they succeeding! We were pleasantly surprised by how good the beer was here! Everything was refreshing and well made, I couldn’t believe that it came from such a new and tiny company. I particularly loved the Porch Pineapple, it was probably the best summer beer I’ve had in a long time!  We also loved the atmosphere. The patio was full of plants and games and it was delightful to see people swinging by on their bikes to pick up a six-pack. It definitely had the feel of a local favorite. 

Upon researching for this blog post, I learned that Side Hustle has been acquired by a larger branding company that also owns some local restaurants and the popular Burnt Church Distillery. I hope that this is a good move for the business! They recently announced that they will be moving to a larger facility with indoor seating, a beer garden, and several dining options. I wish them all the best!

Our Beer:

  • Point Break – NEIPA – 7%
  • Porch Pineapple – Wheat Beer – 5.8%
  • Rocket Emoji – Double IPA – 8.3%
  • …And There’s Your BFF – Peach Sour – 6%
  • South Island – Pilsner – 5.1%
  • Refraction – NEIPA – 7.6%

SUM UP: Pinckney Island is a federally protected wildlife refuge located on the South Carolina coast between Bluffton and Hilton Head. It is open to the public for hiking, biking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Be aware of the hot and humid climate as you’re preparing for a visit here. There’s no bathroom facilities but make sure to bring plenty of water and try to stay hydrated. I also recommend long pants and bug spray as the area can get quite buggy. Most of all, remember that it is the wildlife’s home and you’re just visiting! After your hike, head onto Hilton Head Island to visit Side Hustle Beer Co. This is a small neighborhood venture that offers up some of the best beer in the region! Bring a picnic or order some take out and hang out on the patio for a while! You won’t be disappointed.

Sunrise at Sea Pines
Our Eco-Kayak Tour! We saw lots of birds and oysters!

Cove Mountain Preserve & Pizza Boy Brewing

Enola, PA

While in Harrisburg for a quick weekend, we managed to squeeze in another short hike! We stopped at Cove Mountain Preserve which is on the other side of the Susquehanna river from the capitol. This nature preserve sits at the end of a suburban neighborhood and seemed very popular with families, as it should! We did a short 1.5 mile loop to the State of Liberty lookout. We ended up nearly running the last bit cause we heard some rumbles in the distance. I am not a fan of being in the woods during a thunderstorm! Thankfully we made it back to the car and took refuge at Pizza Boy Brewing which is a place I’ve been wanting to check out for years. True to their name, the pizza was awesome and the beer was delicious. Be prepared to make some hard decisions though, they had nearly 100 beers on tap!

THE HIKE: Cove Mountain Preserve – Statue of Liberty Viewpoint

Length: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 250ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time:  45 minutes
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Large gravel lot at trailhead
H&H: 4/5

Cove Mountain Preserve is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by volunteers from the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club. The Nature Conservancy purchased the land in 2017, making it the first nature preserve owned by TNC in Central PA. This important purchase actually creates a 14-mile stretch of protected land along the Kittatinny Ridge in Central Pennsylvania. This ridge forms a 185-mile stretch of rugged mountain from the Mason-Dixon Line to the Delaware River Gap. According to The Nature Conservancy, this ridge is critical to the biodiversity of Pennsylvania because it provides a forested “superhighway” for animals to escape from the effects of changing climates. 

Cove Mountain Preserve itself is a very well-maintained area with about 3 miles of trails. There are several small, interlinked trails that are color coded. We took the Green and Yellow trails to make a loop out to the Statue of Liberty viewpoint. This was about 1.5 miles of moderate hiking that wound through pawpaw (!) groves and has some small rock scrambles. There was a really cool spot where the trail squeezed through a break in the glacial rocks. It was fittingly called the Boulder Squeeze! A HUGE shout out to the folks with the SATC for making these trails, the green trail was absolutely beautiful, especially all of the rock work! Having done some trail building myself, I know moving rocks like that is no small feat! 

Okay, so you might be wondering if I’ve lost my mind talking about the Statue of Liberty. No, you can’t see all the way to the Big Apple from this trail. But there is a miniature replica of Lady Liberty on a rock in the Susquehanna. I had never heard about this until this trip and I needed to know more about it! And what a story it is. SO in 1986, a local man wanted to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Statue of Liberty by making a “prank” replica of it. He built it out of plywood and venetian blinds and, along with some co-conspirators, installed it on an old bridge piling in the middle of the night. It caused quite a stir and even a few traffic jams on the neighboring highway! Surprisingly, despite its flimsy construction materials, the statue remained in place until 1992 when it was blown off the pedestal and destroyed. However, people had become quite attached to her over the few years that a collection for a replacement was set up. Over $25,000 was raised and a replica was made of steel and fiberglass. Nearly 11 years after the first statue was built, a helicopter placed Lady Liberty back on her pedestal. It wasn’t until 2011 that a local lawyer Gene Stilp finally came forward as the mastermind behind the original statue. Wow what a story! 

We were very impressed with this little nature reserve and I would definitely recommend a visit! And if you go soon, check out those pawpaw groves, you might be able to catch a fresh fruit. 

THE BEER: Pizza Boy Brewing/ Al’s of Hampden

Address: 2240 Millennium Way, Enola, PA 17025
Distance from Trail Head: 6.8 mi, 12 mins
Website: http://www.alsofhampden.com/
Food?: Full Menu – PIZZA
Details: Outdoor seating but no pets
H&H Rating: 5/5

Pizza Boy Brewing has been on my radar for a while as I’ve seen a few more of their beers popping up on draft around the Burgh. But I especially remember them from some of their delicious collabs with local fav East End! I’d really liked everything I’ve had from Pizza Boy so I was especially excited to be able to go to their brewpub. 

Upon visiting Pizza Boy, I was surprised to learn that the Pizza actually came first! Al’s of Hampden is a pizza restaurant that has been run by Albert Kominski since 2002. It wasn’t until 2011, that the brewery got started. The name makes a lot more sense now! The brewery quickly became popular, soon outgrowing their old location. The team was able to upgrade to a large facility in Enola PA where they have a full menu as well as take out, and over 100 beers on tap! They have a huge variety of Pizza Boy beers, as well as other local favorites and standard domestic pours. There really is something for everyone at Pizza Boy! 

Pizza and beer has got to be one of my favorite combos and it just hits different after hiking! I can only speak to how delicious their pizza was, but they also have a full pub menu, including subs, soups, and salads. The pizza definitely reels you in, but you’ll end up staying awhile for the taplist. And mostly because that’s how long it will take you to read it! Seriously, this place has so many beers that it was nearly impossible to choose. We actually went back the next day for another round of tasting! My favorite of the weekend was the Permission Slip, which was so crisp and refreshing with a nice hop profile. And I would be remiss if I didn’t call out the delightful Paw Paw Pale Ale. Pizza and pawpaw beer, I think I was in heaven! 

Our Beer:

  • West Shore IPA – IPA – 6.5%
  • Citrus Flip – IPA – 6%
  • Sunny Side Up (Bourbon Barrel Aged) – Coffee Stout – 9.5%
  • Starlit Morning – Pale Ale – 5.5%
  • Permission Slip – India Pale Lager – 5.7%
  • Puncheon Rogerd – Wild Ale – 6.3%
  • Hop Vision Cashmere – IPA – 6%
  • Engineer of Dreams – NEIPA – 6.2%
  • Keystone – IPA – 6.6%
  • Paw Paw Pale Ale – 5.5%

SUM UP: Cove Nature Preserve is a small hiking area just north of Harrisburg in central PA. It offers several miles of trails with clearly marked trail blazes. The trails are fairly flat with some moderately rocky terrain. This is a great spot for beginner hikers or families especially since the trails are well-maintained and have low foot traffic. After your stroll, head over to Pizza Boy Brewing for the classic pizza and beer combo. Get ready to make some tough decisions though. Between the lengthy tap list and robust menu, you’ll have a tough time choosing!

Peter’s Mountain & ZeroDay Brewing Co.

Harrisburg, PA

Well it looks like I have to eat my words from last week because here’s another Appalachian Trail hike! We went to Harrisburg last weekend and got to have another excursion in Rocksylvania. This time we tackled Peter’s Mountain Ridge, just north of the capital. The hike starts out a bit dicey with a dash around a street and railroad then takes you straight up, up and up! This hike is not for the faint of heart. Thankfully there are plenty great breweries in the area to quench that thirst you’ll work up! Some friends of ours introduced us to ZeroDay Brewing in the heart of Harrisburg. They had great brews and a full menu if you’re famished after those rock scrambles!

THE HIKE: Peter’s Mountain via Appalachian Trail

Length: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 974 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2-2.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Park in commuter lot across road
H&H: 3/5

As with all of my posts about the Appalachian Trail, I like to start out with a bit of a background on the trail just in case some people are new to hiking! The Appalachian Trail (or AT for short) runs for about 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine and is very popular with backpackers and day-hikers alike! The AT stretches for almost 230 miles in PA, from the Mason-Dixon Line to the New Jersey border. The PA section is affectionately called Rocksylvania for its extremely rocky terrain in central PA. Throughout the whole length of the trail, it is marked by white blazes, so you can always find your way! 

Now that we’re back in PA, I have a dream of doing the whole PA section in day hikes (not a backpacker here!). So far I think we’ve gotten about 4 miles out of 230. Clearly we’re making strides! See what I did there…

Okay back to last weekend’s hike. Since we were in town for a concert, we wanted a hike that wasn’t too far from our hotel and that we could tackle in about 2 hours. Peters Mountain was the perfect choice, being a 4 mile loop and only about 20 minutes north of downtown Harrisburg. The ascent to Peters Mountain starts at the Clark’s Ferry Park n Ride where you’ll have to cross a large street and train tracks to get to the trail head. We didn’t love this part but the road wasn’t too busy so the sprint across traffic was doable. Just keep your fingers crossed that a train isn’t coming by because you might be waiting for a while! From there it’s up up up. Follow the white blazes for the AT as you go along switchback, quickly gaining elevation. The highway noise is quite loud and you can hear it most of the way up the hill. It was quite off-putting at first but eventually it faded to the background. 

I’ll be honest, this was another tough hike for us! The humidity was pretty high and the majority of the elevation is gained in the first 1.5 miles of the hike. Take breaks when needed and bring plenty of water! I couldn’t believe how quickly we went through our water. One great thing about this hike was how low the foot traffic was! I thought this would be a popular spot on a weekend but we only saw one other couple. I also love the rock scrambles along the ridge of the mountain. I just wish that we had been able to do this hike later in the year. We could only catch glimpses of the vistas through the trees but I can imagine that it’s gorgeous in the fall/winter. 

Trailhead across the railroad tracks
My triumph on finding a pawpaw forest

Be aware that this area is HIGHLY infected with spotted lantern flies. We tried to kill as many as we could but their numbers were just overwhelming. There had to be 100s along the ridge. It was so sad to see how they were destroying certain trees. They leave a gross black sludge around the base of large trees and I can’t imagine how devastating this might be for our forests! Also be prepared for lots of gnats and flies. Summer hiking always seems to mean constantly swatting! Oh and we saw a huge black snake slithering into a tree trunk on our way back down the mountain. Frankly I deserve a medal for not screaming. In fact I was so silent that J was confused why I was suddenly backing up. 

So overall, this hike was just middle of the road for me. I love the switchbacks and rock scrambles, but I hated the bugs, running across a busy road to the trailhead, and the loud highway noises. I think I would have enjoyed it much more if we had been able to see the vistas at the top! Oh well, this just has me excited for fall hiking! 

THE BEER: ZeroDay Brewing Company

Address: 925 N 3rd St, Harrisburg, PA 17102
Distance from Trail Head: 14 miles, 20 mins 
Website: http://zerodaybrewing.com/
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Outdoor seating but no pets
H&H Rating: 4/5

From ZeroDay Brewing’s Facebook page

One of the best parts of doing hikes in central PA is getting to meet up with friends along the way! One of my best friends from college lives in Philly now so we try to split the difference whenever we can. They’re also huge craft beer fans and were more than happy to introduce us to their favorite breweries in the Harrisburg area! One of the places they took us to was ZeroDay Brewing Company. ZeroDay has several locations in the Harrisburg area so be sure you know which one you want to go to! We went to their main taproom location and it had a great vibe. Lots of beers on tap and plenty of seating all around. I love when I go to a brewery and see so many different types of people, all enjoying the same space! 

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what “Zeroday” means. Well little did I know at the time but it’s actually a connection to hiking! From their website Zeroday means “a day taken during a journey in which no miles are logged, usually because the traveler has stopped in a town to resupply, rest and reinvigorate”. The name was actually inspired by one of the founder’s Appalachian Trail thru-hike and they see the name as a reminder to everyone to take a pause and “enjoy some of the side trails like offers because the views are almost always worth it”! Now that’s something I can get behind! 

Zeroday has expanded quite a bit in the years since their founding. Their original taproom is now their production facility and they offer three other bar locations throughout Harrisburg. The location we went to is their urban taproom only a few blocks away from the Capitol and features tacos from the Mexican kitchen La Catrina. They also have two outposts in Harrisburg, one at Broad Street Market where people can enjoy the farmers market and one at the Midtown Cinema which also has a gourmet hotdog menu. 

Also a fun fact, Zeroday’s Head Brewer is a woman named Hannah! What are the odds?!

Our Beer:

  • Pine Palace – West Coast IPA – 6.4%
  • Mango Habanero – Spicy Pale Ale – 6.66% 
  • Sunday Soiree – Mimosa Pale Ale – 5.6%
  • This Pilsner is My Love Language – Pilsner – 5%

SUM UP: The Peter’s Mountain ascent on the Appalachian Trail is a moderately difficult day hike just outside of Harrisburg, PA. There is amply parking in the Clarks Ferry Park n Ride but be aware that you will have to cross a large road and train tracks to reach the trailhead. ON this hike, expect to encounter steep inclines, switchbacks, and some rock scrambles. If you go in the fall and winter, you will have expansive views of the river valley. Sturdy boots are essential and hiking poles might be helpful. Afterward, head back into Harrisburg for a bite and a brew at ZeroDay Brewing. This is the perfect stop post-hike because one of the founders is actually an AT thru-hiker!

Pulpit Rock & 1787 Brewing Company

Hamburg, PA

For this Hike n Hop combo, we trekked all the way out to central PA to tackle a section of the Appalachian Trail! This was our first time on the AT in Pennsylvania and it really showed us why it has the nickname “Rocksylvania”. The descent on this small section in Hamburg, PA was really rocky but the view from the high point at Pulpit Rock was completely worth the sweat! If you have time, definitely turn this into a longer loop by staying on the AT and going to the next lookout point, Pinnacle Rock. After this heart-pumping hike, it’s only a quick car ride to the quaint town of Hamburg where you have a plethora of spots to grab a pint and a snack!

THE HIKE: Pulpit Rock Loop via Appalachian Trail

Length: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 900ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  1.5-2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Large gravel lot at trailhead
H&H: 3/5

Now that we live in Pittsburgh, a trek on the Appalachian Trail is a bit more of an undertaking! The AT runs for almost 230 miles in PA, from the Mason-Dixon Line to the New Jersey border. The PA section is affectionately called Rocksylvania for its extremely rocky terrain in central PA.

Sadly, getting onto the AT is now a bit more than a day trip for us! So while traveling out to Eastern PA to visit friends, we decided to squeeze in a small hike along the way! We stopped in Hamburg to tackle a tiny portion of the AT that leads to a gorgeous overlook. 

The trail starts at the Hamburg Reservoir where there is plenty of parking on a gravel lot. No bathrooms though! A couple of reviews on AllTrails mentioned that the lot can fill up early on weekends so keep that in mind! First, follow a gravel road for a bit before hitting the white blazes signaling the Appalachian Trail. This gravel road is a bit of a drag as it is fairly sunny and not too interesting. But we absolutely loved the sections along the AT. As much as I appreciate a quiet walk in the woods, I just love scrambling over rocks and having elevation changes to keep things interesting. Clocking in around 900ft in elevation, the first half of this hike is not for the faint of heart. There’s a lot of switchbacks and rocky inclines so hiking boots are highly recommended and even trekking poles if you’d like the extra support. The view point is completely worth the sweat and black gnats though. The rock is small, but it is just incredible how far you can see. I just wish it hadn’t been so scorching the day we visited! We could barely stand in the sun for more than a few moments. This would be an absolutely stunning view in the fall. 

Just behind the Pulpit Rock overlook are three observatories maintained by the Lehigh Valley Amatuers Astronomical Society. A few of the members were doing maintenance and J had a great time chatting astronomy with them! Unfortunately, this was the last enjoyable part of the hike. The entire rest of the path followed a steep gravel road down the hillside. It was so hard on our knees that we started walking backwards! I would have much rather done an out and back and come back along the AT or continued along to Pinnacle rock. Just make sure you have the energy and supplies for a 10 miler if you choose to continue on! The only positive was the abundance of wild raspberries on the hillside that made for a great snack.

Overall, this trail was definitely still worth it for the incredible overlook. Just be sure to have plenty of water especially in the summer, as the rocky incline will definitely have you sweating! We were glad we made time on our drive out to stop for this hike.

THE BEER: 1787 Brewing Company

Address: 43 S Fourth St, Hamburg, PA 19526
Distance from Trail Head:  3.2 mi, 7 mins
Website: http://1787brewingcompany.com/
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Outdoor seating but no pets
H&H Rating: 3/5

Despite being a pretty small town, Hamburg boasts not one but two brewpubs! Since we had limited time, we flipped a coin and ended up at 1787 Brewing Company. This brewery has been around since 2018 and gets its name from the year that the town of Hamburg was founded. The owner is born and raised in the area and this brewery is a loving nod to his roots. All of the beer names come from local places and people, making this a truly local pub. 1787 Brewing Co. is located right on the main drag in Hamburg and seemed to be a popular hangout. It had a great atmosphere with bar seating in front and more restaurant-style, family-friendly tables in back. There were also some tables out front along the street but it was too damn hot to even think of being outside any longer! As a courtesy to the other diners, we took a spot at the bar far away from everyone else (a hike in 90F definitely doesn’t leave you smelling rosy). 

Thankfully, this bar offered flights so we were able to have a nice sampling of their wares. We tried several of their IPAs and one sour. This was a great pub to relax after a hike and their beer was fairly refreshing. We didn’t end up getting food, but everything looked pretty tasty! Overall, I’m glad we stopped and got to chat with the exceptionally nice bartender who offered some local hike suggestions and well as a good chat about the beer scene in Pittsburgh.

Our Beer:

  • Blue Rocks – Hazy IPA – 7% 
  • Aptitude IPA – American IPA – 6.8%
  • Everlong – Session IPA – 4.2%
  • Let’s Gose – Grapefruit Gose – 4%

SUM UP: Pulpit Rock is a stunning overlook on the Appalachian Trail in Central Pennsylvania. Although the ascent is steep and very rocky, this is a great hike for those wanting to experience the AT without undertaking a huge backpacking trip. The viewpoint is just over 2 miles from the trailhead! Do the incline and rocky terrain, we thought this was moderately challenging. We’d suggest coming back down along the AT as the loop from AllTrails takes you down a gravel road that is unpleasant. Afterward check out one of the brewpubs in Hamburg and give yourself a pack on the back for tackling Rocksylvania!