Elk Neck State Park & Elk River Brewing Co.

Elkton, MD

Despite how much we hike, J and I are camping newbies. Thankfully we have awesome friends who showed us the ropes at Elk Neck State Park. While braving the autumn chill and sudden rain showers, we managed to fit in a little hike and hop. The Beaver Marsh Trail in the state park is a short hike that offers beautiful woods and water views. It’s fairly flat so it would be a really great hike for families. We enjoyed the sprawling woods full of pawpaw trees and the lovely views over the Elk River. Back up the peninsula in the town of Elkton, there’s Elk River Brewing, aka the cutest brewery ever™. And while you’re heading up there, why not stop at Chesapeake Bay Coffee Co for a delicious donut? Sounds like the perfect fall day to me! 

THE HIKE: Elk Neck State Park – Beaver Marsh Trail

Length: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 170 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time:  1 hour
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot, entry fee for day use
H&H: 3/5

Elk Neck State Park is a small park in Cecil County, Maryland with about 8 miles of hiking trails. While it might not have the most trails around, it offers 250 campsites, a beach, canoe/kayak launches, and fishing piers. It’s really got a lot going on despite its small size. Since a number of the trails were closed due to tornado damage from 2019, we opted to do the Beaver Marsh trail which looped around the central marsh in the park. Despite only doing 2.2 miles, I was impressed with the variety of scenery we encountered on this hike. We ambled through thick woods, walked along the marshy beaver pond, and ended with a stroll along the river beach. This was the perfect trail for hikers of all abilities and definitely would be ideal for a family. However, our group of four avid hikers found the trail just a tad lacking. I think we would have opted for a longer trail if we were just in town for the day. But since we were spending the weekend camping and canoeing, the shorter hike worked for us. 

Be aware that this hike is best done in the fall or spring as the marshy conditions come with a lot of bugs when the humidity rises. It also could be a pretty muddy trek so I would definitely recommend having hiking boots. Entry to the park is free if you are camping but be aware that there is a fee to access the park at other times. It is $3 per vehicle on weekdays and $3 per person on the weekends for Maryland plates. Out of state vehicles must pay $5 per car on weekdays and $5 per person on weekends. Make sure to have cash as you will be leaving your fee in an envelope at the entrance. There is an additional $10 (in state) or $12 (out of state) fee for using the boat launch

THE BEER: Elk River Brewing Company

Address: 112 E Main St, Elkton, MD 21921
Distance from Trail Head:  14 miles, 25 mins 
Website: https://elkriverbrewing.com/
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 5/5

After our hike, we headed up the peninsula to the main street of Elkton where we found quite possibly the cutest brewery ever. Elk River Brewing Company has been on Main Street for three years and it really has established itself as the place to be. There’s cozy outdoor seating in front of the building where you can kick back in Adirondack chairs or you can stay inside and enjoy the homey décor. Much of the décor and signs inside are all handmade, which the crafter in me really appreciated. On weekends, the biergarten in back of the property is always hopping with live music, fire pits, and an outdoor biershed. Honestly, why can’t this brewery be closer to me?! It has everything a gal could want! 

While they don’t have their own kitchen, Elk River Brewing highly encourages you to BYOF or order from the local restaurants. We brought some snacks, had some delicious brews, and spent the Sunday afternoon playing Trivial Pursuit. I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing afternoon! We were very impressed with the range of beers that Elk River offered. Often you find that a brewery excels only in IPAs or they’re just known for their sours. We honestly liked everything we had at Elk River! Since it was starting to feel like fall outside, I was quite pleased to see some maltier offerings on tap. My favorite of the day was the Queen’s Imperial Red which was a delightfully strong beer that didn’t have the heady-ness that often comes with a high-ABV. It was well-balanced with a delicious malt flavor. Overall we were very impressed with Elk River and wished that it wasn’t over an hour (and several toll booths) away from us!

Our Beer:

  • Octoraro Red – Irish Red Ale – 4.8%
  • Susky River Stout – Stout – 7%
  • Gracie Browne – Brown Ale – 5%
  • Queen’s Point – Imperial Red Ale – 8.1%

SUM UP: Elk Neck State Park is a small park in Cecil County that offers hiking, camping, boating, fishing, and swimming. It’s located on a peninsula with the Chesapeake Bay on one side and the Elk River on the other. The Beaver Marsh trail was a short, easy hike that would be good for all hikers, especially families. There was a lot of variety in the landscape and the trail ended at a pretty beach overlooking the river. It’s also a great spot for canoeing or kayaking. After hiking, head into town for a coffee and delicious seasonal donut at Chesapeake Coffee Company. Afterward, continue north into Elkton to visit Elk River Brewing Company on Main Street. They make delicious beer in a friendly, homey environment. You might just have to stay for a second round!