Raven Rocks & Bear Chase Brewery

Bluemont, Virginia

We’ve got another birthday hike for you! My birthday is at the very beginning of October and to celebrate I wanted to try out a new hike and brew combo (big surprise). We went all the way out to Bluemont, Virginia to do Raven Rocks along the Appalachian Trail and to stop at Bear Chase Brewery right across the road. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate! We had excellent weather, good beer, and a fantastic hike. Cheers to another year around the globe.

THE HIKE: Raven Rocks via Appalachian Trail

Length: 5.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,535 ft
Difficulty: Difficult
Time: 2.5-3 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: small lot so plan accordingly
H&H: 5/5

Raven Rocks is a popular section of the Appalachian Trail in Bluemont, Virginia. It was a bit out of the way for us Maryland folks, but totally worth it! We started at the trailhead right off Harry Byrd Parkway/ VA 7. Although we were lucky to snag a spot, this parking lot is pretty small and there is NO STREET PARKING. You will get towed! As an alternative, you can park at the Snickers Gap Lot which adds 0.4 miles at either end of the hike. I was uneasy about parking here since it requires walking across the divided highway. If you park there please use EXTREME caution when crossing the road! 

Most of this trail is fairly moderate, but there are a couple really rocky spots combined with elevation increases, so I’ve bumped it up to a Difficult rating. This was definitely a hike where I wished I had a walking stick or hiking poles at times. I really loved the challenge though! Sometimes a nice nature walk hits the spot, but other times I love scrambling over rocks and getting my heart rate up! Also I loved seeing all of the mushrooms and acorns along the trail. Despite the warm October we’ve been having, it felt a little like fall! 

After a lot of winding up and down the trail (they don’t call this the Roller-Coaster for nothing) we made it to the overlook. It was so impressive and such a peaceful place to stop. We’ve seen a lot of rocky overlooks during our hikes, but I never get tired of them! This was quite a roomy overlook so there’s plenty of room even on a busy day. We relaxed for a while and eventually decided to head back down. Make sure you have really good shoes for this hike because some of the downhill is more difficult than going up! Close to three hours after we started, we made it back to our car. We had worked up quite a thirst and were so lucky that Bear Chase Brewery was so close! 

THE BEER: Bear Chase Brewery

Address: 33665 Bear Chase Ln, Bluemont, VA 20135
Distance from Trail Head: 0.9 miles, 3 mins
Website: https://bearchasebrew.com/
Food?: Full Menu, No outside food
H&H Rating: 4/5

Bear Chase Brewery is located off VA 7 and is the perfect stop for hikers. In fact, the AT runs right behind their facility so you could add to your Raven Rocks hike to go to the Bear’s Den overlook. Or even further to Buzzard Rocks. The possibilities are endless! We stuck with Raven Rocks and then drove to the brewery since I really wasn’t into crossing that huge highway. 

Bear Chase Brewery is a farm brewery located on a massive 35 acre property that offers plenty of places to relax with a handcrafted brew. For a pretty penny, you can even rent out the Bear Chase Manor for you and 13 of your closest friends! There’s also plenty of on-site restaurants and food trucks so you’ll never go hungry! Just note that no outside food is allowed. We weren’t expecting this and had to eat our packed lunch later on! We really enjoyed the views and atmosphere at this brewery. As an apartment dweller, I relished being able to kick back in an adirondack chair and take in the rolling hills as I sipped a decent beer. We only had one round here since we had a long drive ahead of us and we both thought the Mornin’ Sunshine was the best of the two. It had a really refreshing hop taste that was balanced by something fruity, guava maybe? Definitely hit the spot after our hike. Overall, I liked this brewery but I thought it toed the line of being, dare I say, too commercial? It felt a bit like one of those places that puts more into the location and the atmosphere than their actual product. But hey, I only tried two beers so I can’t be certain on that! 

Our Beer:

  • Mornin’ Sunshine – American IPA – 6.7%
  • Oktoberfest Marzen – Marzen – 6%

SUM UP: Raven Rocks is a popular section of the Appalachian Trail in Bluemont Virginia. It has a small lot which fills up quickly. There is another parking location but it involves crossing a divided highway so be cautious. The trail itself is very rocky with lots of ups and downs. Wear good shoes and bring plenty of water. The 5.7 mile out-and-back trail has a turn around point at a beautiful overlook that’s a perfect place to have a snack and relax. After your hike, check out Bear Chase Brewery, a newer farm brewery only 0.9 miles up the road. It’s a huge facility with lots of food options and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. May I suggest the Adirondack chairs overlooking the valley? If you have time, there are so many other breweries to check out in the area! We’ll definitely be back.

Prettyboy Reservoir & Farmacy Brewing

Reisterstown, Maryland

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: Maryland has its own slice of the Pacific Northwest. Don’t believe me?! Well you need to take a trip up north of Baltimore to hike along the Gunpowder River leading into the Prettyboy Reservoir. The hike itself is called Hemlock George Extended Loop and it’s probably some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen in Maryland. Be prepared for rock scrambles, inclines, and a bit of overgrown trails. And after all that, a cold one at Farmacy Brewery will taste pretty refreshing!

THE HIKE: Hemlock Gorge Extended Loop – Prettyboy Reservoir

Beginning of the trail is a little overgrown

Length: 6.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 920 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: ~3 hours
Trail use: hiking, leashes pets
Parking: gravel pull off road
H&H: 3.5/5

This trail is one of Maryland’s best kept secrets. The area along the river is some of the most lush, beautiful places I’ve ever seen in Maryland. I’m not joking when I say you’ll think that you’ve suddenly been dropped in the Pacific Northwest!

To access this trail, park along Gunpowder Road in the gravel pull off. The trail begins across the road. It’s a little overgrown so look closely for the entrance! After hiking up the hill, there’s a small cemetery. That’s how you know you’re on the right track. The first two miles of this hike were absolutely my favorite part. The views were incredible, we had the place nearly to ourselves, and I LOVE scrambling over big rocks! I highly encourage you to take as much time as you can along this trail. We could have spent the whole day taking picture after picture. 

The rest of trail mostly looked like this. Nice but nothing compared to the gorge.

The rest of this trail was frankly rather boring which is why my rating isn’t very high. After you complete the loop along the river, walk along the road for a bit to another trailhead. This is actually a fireroad, so while it’s wooded it’s still a very wide trail with some long grasses. After the amazing sights of the gorge, this section was a bit of a letdown. Finally you leave the fireroad and take a smaller, more woodsy loop which was more pleasant. It was a really good stretch of the legs with some inclines to keep the heart rate up! It’s very quiet and we heard so many birds and even saw a snake! No pictures since I yelped and then took off at a brisk pace. 

There were a couple small stream crossings

I would suggest doing this trail in reverse so that you end with the amazing gorge. Or if you don’t care about distance, just do the gorge loop. It’s about 2 miles. I think if I were to go back, I would do the gorge trail loop twice and maybe explore around a little more! Also take a good look at the map before you get on the road since this is in a remote area with limited cell service. If possible, download the offline version of the trail map and make sure you have a decent idea of where to park. It was very quiet the day we went, but the parking area is small so it could fill up quickly

THE BEER: Farmacy Brewing

Address: 3100 Black Rock Rd, Reisterstown, MD 21136
Distance from Trail Head: 13.2 miles, 19 mins
Website: https://www.farmacybrewing.com
Food?: Food Truck or bring your own!
H&H Rating: 5/5

Farmacy Brewing seriously wowed us! So full disclosure, this was not our first choice for a beer after our hike. We stopped at another place and frankly did not have a good time so we decided to check out Farmacy. And thank god we did because Farmacy Brewing was just what the doctor ordered! I don’t know about you, but I LOVE farm breweries. I love sitting outside away from it all and I especially love when beer ingredients are grown onsite. Well we hit the jackpot here because not only was there ample outdoor seating (even live music!) but every single beer on tap had a homegrown ingredient. Farmacy brewing is part of Willowdale farms, a working farm that also houses horses. In fact, the taproom is built into an old horse stable!

Beet Beer!

We also had an amazing experience with the staff. Usually, I like to pick my own beer but this day the beertender was chatting with us about hiking and what we like to drink and asked if he could pick our beers. We loved everything we got and it was nice because we tried things that we wouldn’t usually seek out! While everything was delicious, my two favorites were the Beetbox, an IPA dry-hopped with beets and the Chestnut Avenue, a cold IPA which means that it’s an IPA brewed like a lager. So it had all of the juiciness of a NEIPA without the thickness! All the beers we had were amazing. Even though it was quite the drive for us, we will definitely be back!

Our Beer:

  • Chestnut Avenue – Cold IPA – 7.2%
  • Eager Tessie – Saison – 6.2%
  • Beetbox – IPA – 7.2%
  • Raid the Bag – Double IPA – 9%

SUM UP: The Hemlock Gorge trail is part of the Prettyboy Reservoir Cooperative Wildlife Management Area, owned by the City of Baltimore. To access the Hemlock Gorge trail, park off Gunpowder Road. The first 2 miles is a gorgeous loop along the river gorge which is one of the most beautiful spots in Maryland. The rest of the hike is a simple yet peaceful wooded walk. Afterward, go to Farmacy Brewing located on a working farm where every beer made has a homegrown component. The farm is quiet and peaceful and the staff are happy to chat about the beer. We never wanted to leave! Be sure to say hi to the horses before you head out