Settler’s Cabin Loop & Helicon Brewing

Oakdale, PA

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
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Large lots throughout
H&H: 4/5

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! 

Our Beer:

  • 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!

Patapsco Valley State Park – Soapstone Trail & Heavy Seas Brewery

Halethorpe, MD

We never seem to get enough of Patapsco Valley! This state park is massive and there are so many different areas to explore. When we first started getting into hiking, a friend recommended the Soapstone Trail in PVSP and we went so much! This is a great trail for beginners or someone who just wants a quick hike. It’s got just enough incline to get your heart pumping but only takes about an hour to complete. And to make it even better, Heavy Seas Brewing is less than 5 miles away.

THE HIKE: Patapsco Valley State Park – Soapstone Trail

Trail Map:

Length: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 290 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  1-1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Biking
Parking: Large lot off road
H&H: 4/5

Patapsco Valley State Park is Maryland’s second largest state park, running 32 miles along the Patapsco River. Its 16,000 acres span into Howard, Carroll, and Baltimore counties. The busiest area of the park, Avalon, is where you’ll find Cascade Falls, one of Maryland’s most popular hiking spots. Be aware though, due to its popularity, certain entrances at PVSP hit capacity and have to close. Plan accordingly if you want to visit here in the summer months! 

We always like the Soapstone trail because it doesn’t use the main entrance of the park and we’ve never had trouble parking. The trailhead is right off S. Rolling Hill Road where there is a very large gravel pull off area. This hike is very popular but even on the weekends we’ve always found a spot in this lot. Please note: if you decide to do this trail by starting at the park’s main entrance, there is an entry fee! 

This hike is an easy 3 miles. The first half is taking a meandering path down through the woods. Be sure to add on the Bull Run loop at the 1 mile marker. Then continue down to a joining of two streams. At this point there is a larger stream crossing to get to another parking lot where there are bathrooms. Then, you take the more direct path of the opposite side of the stream to go back up the ridge. This is where you’ll encounter a few steeper spots, but they are very doable. 

This is really a great trail for beginner hikers or anyone short on time. Just be aware that it is a popular trail with both hikers and mountain bikers so be prepared to share the road! And when you’re ready to kick back and relax, Heavy Seas is the perfect spot for you!

THE BEER: Heavy Seas Brewery

Address: 4615 Hollins Ferry Rd, Halethorpe, MD 21227
Distance from Trail Head:  3.5 miles, 7 mins 
Website: /
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 4/5

Heavy Seas Brewing is one of the OG Maryland craft breweries. They’ve been around since 1995 and have been brewing their headliner Loose Cannon IPA since 2004 so they know what’s up. Heavy Seas is one of the largest craft breweries in Maryland, producing over 40,000 barrels of beer in 2020. Despite this huge production, their taproom in Halethorpe had a cozy, neighborhood feel. The main room had wooden tables with a large bar area. There also is a larger second seating area in the production facility with large yard games like jenga, connect 4, and corn hole. We sampled a flight in the taproom and my favorite was definitely the Great’er Pumpkin. It was delicious but really packs a punch! It was just what I needed after a crisp morning in the woods. J’s favorite of the day was the Dark Anchor Porter which is an English style porter so it had a bit more of a hoppiness to the roasty flavor. 

Despite living in Maryland for 4 years, this was our time at Heavy Seas! I’m so glad that we got to try some of the small batch beers in the taproom. We’ll definitely be back soon! 


  • Dark Anchor – Porter – 6.8%
  • Honey Graham Porter – Porter – 8% 
  • Treat – Sour Ale – 7%
  • The Great’er Pumpkin – Pumpkin Beer – 10%

SUM UP: Patapsco Valley State Park is one of the largest parks in Maryland. It has several different areas to hike but one of our favorites is the Soapstone Trail. This is a short hikes that’s great for beginners or for those looking for a quick hike. It’s got some elevation changes so I’ve rated it as moderate. There’s a large parking lot on the side of the road near the trailhead and there’s no entrance fee. Afterward, head to Heavy Seas Brewery only 3.5 miles away to sample some of Maryland’s favorite brews. Heavy Seas is one of the largest breweries in Maryland but you can’t beat getting beer from the source! They have a great neighborhood feel to their taproom that makes you want to stay awhile. Be sure to try either one of their headliners or sample a unique small batch; Heavy Seas has got it all!