North Point State Park & Key Brewing Co.

Dundalk, MD

This past weekend, we made it out to Dundalk for the first time! I’ve been wanting to go to North Point State Park to see those amazing views out over the water. And since Maryland can be a wee bit unpleasant near water in the summer (the humidity and mosquitoes are no joke!), we opted to save this for a fall hike. That was a win for us because this park was absolutely beautiful in the crisp late fall weather. This is a great easy hike for those days when climbing a mountain just ain’t gonna happen. Enjoy the peaceful marshlands and relax in a bench by the water and when you’re ready, head over to Key Brewing Co. for a refreshing brew!

THE HIKE: North Point State Park Loop

Length: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 40 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets, biking on some trails
Parking: Large parking lot at trailhead. $3 per vehicle for MD residents ($5 non-resident) off season and weekdays; $4 per vehicle MD residents ($6 non-resident) for peak weekends
H&H: 3/5

Parts of the area that is now North Point State Park used to be an amusement park. The Bay Shore Amusement Park operated for about 40 years and was a popular trolley destination from Baltimore. After the area was bought out by a steel company, it was another 40 years before the land was recovered by the Department of Natural Resources and turned into a wildlife sanctuary. Parts of the old park still exist including the trolley station, a large pier, and a fountain. 

Trail through the wetlands

Because this park is right on the water, the trails are very flat and easily accessible. The first two miles of this hike is the most woodsy and was by far my favorite section. You start out on the Black Marsh trail which leads through the protected wetlands of the area. Please be aware that no bikes are allowed in this area! Throughout the wooded section, there are little educational signs about the wildlife in the area. We learned a lot about the birds of the area! Unfortunately, we didn’t see too many birds for ourselves. 

Moderately spooky abandoned building

After the marshlands, you pass by one of the old park structures. Some people were inside exploring but I don’t mess with creepy abandoned buildings! The trail then leads along the water, offering expansive views of the Chesapeake Bay. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought we were at the ocean! A really unique part of this park is the 1000ft Crystal Pier. It’s super impressive and we really liked walking all the way out to the end. Although it was way colder with no trees to block the wind! Aside from the pier, the latter half of the trail was not my favorite. Some of the path lead along the road and other parts were a mowed path through a field. I find grassy trails boring and difficult to walk on so I much preferred the marshland trail at the beginning. 

Overall, this was a great new park for us. We always love being in new areas and I will never stop being impressed by the Chesapeake Bay. If we went again, I think I would like to go on a warmer day and bring a picnic to have by the water. There are tons and tons of picnic tables so it seems quite popular! Also I believe that you can swim here in the summer? Don’t hold me to that though. Another perk of North Point State Park is it’s only 4 miles away from Key Brewing!

THE BEER: Key Brewing Co.

Address: 2500 Grays Rd, Dundalk, MD 21222
Distance from Trail Head: 4.5 miles, 9 mins
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 4/5

Like many Maryland breweries, Key Brewing is located at the end of a long industrial park. They have a really large, comfortable taproom which offers no-fuss, quality beers. Key brewing is the only brewery in Dundalk and they’ve been a community staple since their opening in 2015. Their name is a tribute to Francis Scott Key, our famous anthem writer and Baltimore native. Key Brewing has a vibe I can get behind: straightforward quality. They want craft beer to be something anyone can enjoy, not something intimidating or elitist. We felt completely relaxed in their taproom full of people watching a football game and a group having a small family reunion. I loved that it felt like a local hangout. 

Key Brewing was definitely an IPA place, which is great because that’s often what I’m craving after a romp in the woods. For me, the winner of the day was definitely the double IPA, Dundalk Calling. It’s big on flavor and is dry hopped with Citra, which I think is pretty much my favorite hops? Like I’m no pro but every IPA that I really like seems to be made with Citra! J liked the Next Stop Rye Porter, which he thought had a really subtle rye flavor that didn’t overpower the classic porter taste. I’m so glad that we stopped by Key Brewing and I will definitely be keeping a look out for their beers in my local market! 

Our Beer:

  • Diamonds and Domes – West Coast IPA – 6.7%
  • Speed Wobbles – Session IPA – 4.6%
  • Next Stop Rye Porter – Porter – 5.5%
  • Dundalk Calling – Double IPA – 8%

SUM UP: North Point State Park is a former amusement park located in Baltimore County on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Now it is a wildlife sanctuary and greenspace offering hiking and biking trails, as well as fishing piers. A highlight is definitely the 1000 ft. Crystal Pier, jutting out into the Bay. Make sure to have cash to pay the park entrance fee! All of the trails are flat with little to no obstacles. Only 4 miles away is Key Brewing Co., Dundalk’s first and only craft brewery. Bring some snacks, enjoy good beer, and stay for the comfy atmosphere!

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 
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!