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!

Frick Park & East End Brewing

East Liberty, Pittsburgh, PA

The other weekend, we got to bring a furry friend on our hike! And what better place to bring a dog than Frick Park. This park is absolutely huge with miles and miles of paved and natural paths. There’s also a good sized dog park which our four-legged companion was a huge fan of! We Pittsburghers are very lucky to have such beautiful urban parks and Frick Park is the cream of the crop! Afterward, keep back and relax at the ever popular East End Brewing. Their huge patio is the perfect place to bring your pooch after a nice long walk.

THE HIKE: Frick Park Loop

Length: Variable – 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 500 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Running, Mountain bikes, Leashed Pets
Parking: Large lot at the Frick Environmental Center
H&H: 5/5

Okay so don’t get too excited, J and I did not get a dog! We were watching our friends’ sweet dog, Shiloh, while they were out of town. He’s a great walking companion and definitely had much more stamina than us! We knew that Shiloh loves the dog park at Frick Park so it seemed like the perfect place to do our weekend hike!

Frick Park was established by the bequest of Henry Clay Frick after his death in 1919. He stipulated that 151 acres of land near his Clayton Mansion (now the Frick Arts & Historical Center) should be given to the City of Pittsburgh to create a park. More land was added to the park and when it finally opened in 1927, it became the largest of the City’s regional parks.

Frick Park is very unique because of its sloping, wooded spaces that have remained relatively undisturbed, creating a rich habitat for plants and animals. This park is very popular with a variety of outdoor enthusiasts, including bikers, cyclists, and hikers. In addition to the nearly 20 miles of trail, Frick Park also boasts several playgrounds, ball fields and courts, and the previously mentioned dog park! 

For our hike, we parked at the Frick Environmental Center which is one of the few park entrances with a parking lot. If you go to another entrance, there’s usually street parking available! We were intending to follow the Frick Park Loop from Alltrails, but we mostly just let Shiloh lead the way. If you do follow this loop, be aware that it was impacted by the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse, so you will have to avoid that area. The main trails we took were the Clayton loop, Falls Ravine, and Riverview Trail. Frick Park is surprisingly woodsy and there are so many trails that it’s easy to get away from the crowds. We did a nice balance of wider trails and a few more secluded wooded tracks. Hiking with our furry nephew is always an adventure because he’s a hound so every little chipmunk or squirrel immediately puts him in hunting mode. Thankfully after 4 miles and a trip to the off-leash area, he was finally too tired to do much more than bark half-heartedly at the squirrels. I definitely think they were laughing at him. 

After a day in Frick Park, what better place to rest and relax than East End Brewing? Let’s check it out! 

THE BEER: East End Brewery

Address: 147 Julius St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Distance from Trail Head: 2.1 miles, 6 mins
Website: http://www.eastendbrewing.com/
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Outdoor seating & dog friendly
H&H Rating: 5/5

East End Brewing has been a staple in the Pittsburgh brewing scene since it opened in 2004. Their location in East Liberty/ Larimer has a large taproom as well as plenty of outdoor seating. And no need to pack snacks, their in-house kitchen (delightfully dubbed East End Chewing) offers up the perfect doughy companions to their hoppy beers. We noshed on a pretty amazing soft pretzel! Since we had Shiloh with us, we were so happy that this brewery is proudly dog friendly! We set ourselves up in a corner, made sure to bring a blanket and Shiloh was out for the count. Honestly, I couldn’t blame him. After the top notch brews and aforementioned carbs, I would have happily dozed off. Petition to get East End to install hammocks? Or how about a BYOH (Bring Your Own Hammock) event? I digress…

Anyhow, let’s talk beer. Guys East End is good. Like real good. It was super hot the day we went so I stuck with some lighter beers (both in ABV and flavor) but that didn’t stop J from getting the Belgian Tripel. The man loves his Belgian brews! I honestly cannot say enough good things about the Watermelon Gose. I would be happy drinking that the entire summer, it’s just such a dang good porch beer! Also I really liked the Wheat Hop, it was super fruity and refreshing. I brought some home to my wheat beer-loving mom and it definitely got her stamp of approval!  

Another project of East End that I’m loving is their “You Are Here” Series. To celebrate 15 years in the brewing biz and to honor the neighborhoods of the the Burgh, they are making 90 different beers for the 90 neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. Here’s what they have to say about the project:

“We’ve been thinking a lot lately about our last 15 years of brewing beer in Pittsburgh, what it means to be a “local brewery”, what it means to brew beer for locals to enjoy, and how people become connected to this notion. Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods, each with their own identities, and fiercely loyal populations.
So to celebrate the wonderful diversity of neighborhoods that is Pittsburgh, we’ve decided to brew a brand new beer for each and every one of them. And yeah, that’s a long list. We went through a lot of back and forth with a lot of people on the number until finally the good folks at the City of Pittsburgh came to our rescue with the Official Number: 90.”

What a cool project! I didn’t even know some of these neighborhoods existed, so here’s my challenge to get to know my own city better! As of June 2022, they’re up to 65 neighborhoods. So go check out East End Brewing, and know that you’re supporting a local business that really cares about their roots!

Our Beer:

  • Stanton Heights – Belgian Tripel – 9.2%
  • Wheat Hop – Fruity Wheat Beer – 4.5%
  • Pedal Pale Ale – American Pale Ale – 5%
  • Seedless Watermelon Gose – Sour – 4.1%

SUM UP: Frick Park is a large urban park in the East End of Pittsburgh. While not the oldest park in Pittsburgh, it is the largest and best known for its woodsy trails filled with wildlife. This park is very popular for walking, bike riding, sports, birding, and more! If you like to be outside, this is the place for you! There are miles of intersecting trails for any length of trek. After you’re done soaking up the great outdoors, wander over to East End Brewing for some delicious brews and food in a neighborhood-driven environment. Hikes & Hops like this make me so happy to be back in Pittsburgh!

Raccoon Creek State Park & Coal Tipple Brewery

Burgettstown, PA

This past weekend, we braved the gloomy, damp weather to go for a hike in Raccoon Creek State Park. In case you don’t know, Raccoon is one of the largest parks in the state and it’s only about 40 mins away from downtown Pittsburgh! The park features waterfalls, a lake beach, fishing, and a gorgeous wildflower reserve. I highly encourage a visit during the springtime when the wildflowers are at their peak! After your hike and hopefully lots of pictures of delicate wildflowers, drive to Coal Tipple Brewery (located at Kramer’s Greenhouse), a small local brewery that offers fresh beer and a down home vibe. Also they’ve got a popcorn machine, so really what more could you want?

THE HIKE: Forest and Lake Loop

Length: 4.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 620ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  2-2.5 hours
Trail use: hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Gravel lot with Port-a-Potty
H&H: 4/5

Ah Spring in Pittsburgh! Grass is growing, trees are blooming and it’s…snowing?! Yup, springtime here doesn’t really mean sunshine and daffodils. It means waiting for a break in the chilly rain to finally get a hike in. Luckily, J and I managed to time our trip to Raccoon Creek State Park just perfectly so that we got there right when the rain let up for a few hours. My raincoat has been my best friend on our recent outings! 

Raccoon Creek State Park is one of the biggest state parks in Pennsylvania! At over 7,000 acres, it boasts 44 miles of trail, a 100-acre lake open for fishing, boating, and swimming, and multiple campgrounds and picnic areas. No wonder it’s so popular! While in summertime, Raccoon Creek State Park is quite busy at the lake, my favorite time to visit is during the spring. Raccoon is famous for its Wildflower Reserve which has some of the greatest biodiversity of wildflowers in the whole state. In fact, along just 4.5 miles of trail, there are over 700 species of plants. Wildflower blooms peak in late April through early May and then again in August through early September. 

For our trek, we decided to do a 4 miles loop that incorporates sections of the Lake Trail (blue blaze) and the Forest Trail (white blaze). If you go any time soon, be prepared for MUD. Spring is a very muddy time in the Pittsburgh region and there’s no avoiding mud on the trails. Just remember to wear good shoes and walk through the mud not around it! The Lake trail was by far the muddiest section of this trail but we managed to keep our feet mostly dry! I really liked the Forest trail portion, since it had some elevation changes and it was so cool to see the woods slowly turning green. I would call this a moderately difficult hike since there were some steep inclines and some stream crossings. 

After we had finished our hike, we hopped over to the other side of the park to visit the wildflower reserve. A few years ago, I did a short hike here with my parents and it was a great beginner hike. There’s a lot to see and it’s fairly flat. This time around, J and I only wanted to do a short loop to check in on the wildflowers. It’s definitely a week or two too early for peak blooms but I was so excited at the number of little ones popping out! We took so many pictures and used iNaturalist to try to identify them! So much fun! 

THE BEER: Coal Tipple Brewery

Address: 1905 Steubenville Pike, Burgettstown, PA 15021
Distance from Trail Head: 9.3 miles, 13 mins 
Website: http://www.coaltipplebrewery.com/brewery
Food?: BYOF (Popcorn machine!)
Details: Outdoor seating & dog friendly
H&H Rating: 4/5

Coal Tipple is a delightfully tiny brewery located at Kramer’s Greenhouse. They also have an onsite winery (Raccoon Creek Winery) so really this place has got it all! There’s usually only one or two people working and it feels like having a beer in someone’s dining room. I love it! They also have a small window in the taproom that looks out into the brewing garage so you can see the guys at work.

For such a small operation, Coal Tipple has quite the selection of beer!  They had 8 beers on tap with quite a range of styles. We went for the Pit Pony Wheat and the White Hat Stout. I’m not really a fan of this trend of light stouts, but this one wasn’t bad! The Pit Pony was very refreshing and they can serve it with blueberries, if that’s your thing. We also split the Dead Canary which is an American IPA that really packs a hoppy punch. Aside from their beer, another thing I like about Coal Tipple is their popcorn machine! They have complimentary bags of popcorn for their guests which really hit the spot. Every time I come here, I just love to sit back and relax. And if the owners are in, say hello! They’re super nice and love to chat with their guests. And of course, while you’re in check out their farm market, bakery, and plants. Honestly, what more could you need? 

Our Beer:

  • Dead Canary – American IPA – 7.28%
  • White Hat Stout – White Stout – 5%
  • Pit Pony – Wheat – 5%

SUM UP: Raccoon Creek State Park is a large park about 40 mins away from Downtown Pittsburgh. It offers 44 miles of hiking, a large lake for swimming, boating, and fishing, and plenty of sites for camping or picnicking. The Forest and Lake Loop is a 4-mile trek that shows off the best of Raccoon, including a walk along the lakeside and meandering trails through the woods. There are some steep sections, so I’d rate it as moderate. Also in the Spring and Fall, check out the wildflower reserve and see how many different types of flowers you can spot! After your time in the woods, head over to Coal Tipple Brewery for small batch brews in a quaint farm market. You can even pick up some wine and greenery too! This is an ideal spring day trip!

Devil’s Hollow Conservation Area & Fermata Brewing Company

Ambridge, PA

The creek crossing that led to some very damp feet

This is a story of the hike that wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes you just aren’t as prepared for nature as you wish you were! We originally were going to do the Walker Park Trail in Leet Township only to find about 0.5 mile in that there was a large stream crossing with no stepping stones. We went for it, not wanting to give up so soon, and got our feet completely soaked. Not 0.1mile later the trail veered over the stream again and we had to turn around. No trail is worth getting feet completely soaked multiple times in 40F weather! So instead we went up the road to the small Devil’s Hollow area which is managed by the Allegheny Land Trust. It’s a short trail but it was beautifully peaceful and had a great hill that got our blood pumping! And it’s conveniently very close to the newly opened Fermata Brewing in Ambridge!

THE HIKE: Devil’s Hollow Conservation Area

https://alleghenylandtrust.org/green-space/devils-hollow/

Length: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 346 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  45 minutes
Trail use: hiking, leashed pets, trail running
Parking: Small lot for three cars
H&H: 4/5

With all the lingering winter weather (why is it always crappy on the weekends?!) we’ve been finding it difficult to get out and hike! I’m so ready for those warm spring days. This past weekend, we decided to check out a small trail in the Leetsdale area. It had great reviews on AllTrails and looked like the perfect Sunday hike! Well it started out alright, we parked at one of the picnic shelters and used the stepping stones to cross the little creek. The first 0.5 miles traveled along the creek in a very peaceful woods. But then we hit problems. The trail meandered over the creek again but this time there were no stepping stones. The creek had gotten wider and there was no easy place to cross so we just picked a spot and went for it. Annnnnd got wet up to mid-shin on a 40F day. Not ideal. So then a few minutes later when the trail crossed the creek again, we decided to turn around. It just wasn’t the right kind of day for soaking wet feet! 

Easy stepping stone on this crossing, not so later on!

So we went back to the car after only getting about 1.5 miles in and decided to go up the road to Devil’s Hollow Conservation Area. This is a 97 acre area managed by the Allegheny Land Trust and there is parking for about 3 cars at the trailhead. This area was donated to the ALT in 2016 from the Little Sewickley Creek Watershed Association. It’s surrounded by private lands, so be aware that some trails may split off into private property. Try to stay on the main trail marked by ALT signs. 

I really enjoyed this trail! We did the loop counterclockwise which I highly recommend because it starts with a steep incline and ends with a long gentle downslope. I feel like the opposite way would make for a rough descent at the end! This trail does gain over 300ft in elevation in the first 0.5 mile so be prepared! Some areas of the trail were muddy at the very end but nothing impossible to navigate. 

Because this trail loops along a steep hillside, it creates a really interesting “silent” area. The hills block out any surrounding noises so it feels completely silent as you hike, broken only by squirrels rustling in the leaves and birds chirping in the trees. We didn’t see another person the whole time on the trail! I highly recommend this trail, and if you’re looking for a longer route, just complete the loop more than once! You might find something new along the way. 

THE BEER: Fermata Brewing Company

Address: 918 Merchant St, Ambridge, PA 15003
Distance from Trail Head: 5 miles, 12 mins 
Website: http://www.fermatabrewing.beer/
Food?: Food Truck or Local Restaurants or BYOF
Details: Indoor Seating only (Unsure about pets)
H&H Rating: 5/5

I was so excited to go to this brand new brewery in Ambridge! They had only been open 7 days when we visited and the place was THRIVING. Fermata Brewing Company joins Altered Genius as resident brew masters on Merchant Street in downtown Ambridge. 

The name Fermata is actually a musical term, which is fitting since all of the partners are music lovers! In written music a fermata is a “pause of unspecified length over a note or rest”. This is a fitting name for the brewery because it invites everyone to pause and stay for a while. Fermata wants to be a place of community in Ambridge where everyone is welcome to come and enjoy great beer and great community. Sign me up! Fermata also pays homage to the history of Ambridge and the American Bridge company from which the town gets its name. The brewery incorporates both the fermata symbol and a bridge in their logo as a shout out to their origins. 

One thing I really loved about this place was the immediate sense of chill when we walked in. There were so many places to sit and relax and we felt welcomed by the staff. The decor is so cool, with photos and maps harkening back to the old days of Ambridge side by side with classic music records and memorabilia. I also love that the brewing area is right out in the open! We sat with our beer and watched as the guys cleaned up from a brewing day. How cool to have a front seat to the beer making process? And if you’re a music lover, this is gonna be the place to be! There will be open mic nights, live music and much more so keep an eye on their social media to stay up to date! 

And of course, the most important part: How was the beer? It was pretty dang good! My fav of the day was definitely the Living in the Limelight. It was a crisp pale ale that really hit the spot after working up a sweat out in the woods. I also liked the surprising Cold Brew Collusion, which gave me all the lovely wheat flavors with a smooth coffee finish. Delightful! 

Our Beer:

  • Living in the Limelight – Pale Ale – 5.7%
  • Cold Brew Collusion – Coffee Wheat Beer – 5.6%
  • Wayward Son – Wheat Beer – 5.6%
  • You Too – Dry Irish Stout – 3.9%

SUM UP: Devils Hollow Conservation Area is managed by the Allegheny Land Trust and offers a 1.6 mile loop. But don’t be fooled by the length! This trail has a steep incline that really gets the blood pumping and bumps this up to a moderate hike . This is a low traffic area and there are three parking spots at the trailhead. The trail is so peaceful and quiet plus you can see a lot of birds! After your hike, check out downtown Ambridge’s brand new brewery: Fermata! They’ve got a great beer list in a huge, yet homey taproom. They don’t have a kitchen but they’ve got QR codes for all the local restaurants so you can order in or see if a food truck is on the schedule! This is an awesome addition to Ambridge and keep your eyes open for their music schedule!

South Park & Spoonwood Brewing

South Park, PA

‘Tis the Season for frigid hikes! That wind chill can be killer out there, but it doesn’t stop us crazy people from a ramble in the woods. This week, we’re heading south of the city to feature a hike in Bethel Park. South Park is a HUGE park that has something for everyone! We did the White/Buffalo Ridge Trail and I highly recommend you have a trail map because there are very few signs or blazes on the trails and it’s easy to get turned about. After your hike, there are several local breweries to choose from! We went with an old favorite, Spoonwood Brewing which has excellent beer and pretty spectacular pizza!

THE HIKE: South Park – Buffalo Ridge Trail

Length: 6 miles (We did 4.5)
Elevation Gain: 800 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2.5-3 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Mountain biking, Leashed pets
Parking: Large lots throughout park
H&H: 3/5

South Park covers a huge 2,000 acre space in Bethel Park. It has something for everyone, including an ice rink, pool, golf course, skate park, picnic shelters, and miles of paved and natural trails. South Park is one of the nine parks managed by Allegheny County Parks and it is the second largest. The land for the park was acquired in the 1930s and the park has been a local favorite ever since! It used to be the site of a huge county fair that attracted over half a million people. Another fun history fact is that the Oliver Miller Homestead, where the first shots of the Whisky Rebellion were fired, is also located within South Park. There’s a small house museum dedicated to this historical event. 

South Park is a pretty big place so we had a bit of a hard time figuring out what trails to tackle. There aren’t too many detailed trails on AllTrails (my go-to trail app). According to the County website, there are several different paved or wooded trails. We wanted to get a decent workout in so we opted to combine the Buffalo Ridge Trail and the Red and White Loop from AllTrails. The day we went out hiking was bitterly cold so we had a feeling that we wouldn’t be making it the whole 8 miles. So we parked in the middle of the park near a trail entrance. Well we thought it was near a trail entrance. We quickly found out that the trails in South Park could use some TLC. There are few, if any, trail signs and almost no blazes. We had to rely heavily on the AllTrails App to find the Buffalo Ridge trail. Even once getting to the right place (after several false starts), I had to have my phone out almost constantly to make sure that we were going the right way. Usually I don’t mind just finding my own way but in a park this size, I didn’t want to end up 4 miles away from our car when it was 20°F!

We both had mixed feelings about this park. At times the trail was very woodsy and peaceful but then suddenly you would have to cross a road. We had to cross the main road twice and it was very busy, making it pretty dangerous to cross. Overall, it was pretty easy to get lost and the trails intersected roads far too much for my liking. However, we did manage to see some nature, including a pileated woodpecker and some fungi! Oh and Justin found a tree friend. 

I would recommend South Park more as a place for a picnic or for playing sports. It’s trails are poorly marked, difficult to find entrances to, and often suddenly spit out onto a road. Either way, I’m glad we came out here if only as an excuse to go to Spoonwood!

THE BEER: Spoonwood Brewing Company

Address: 5981 Baptist Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
Distance from Trail Head:  1.7 miles, 4 mins 
Website: http://www.spoonwoodbrewing.com/
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Outdoor seating, but no pets
H&H Rating: 5/5

A lot of breweries make good beer. Not so many have a stellar food menu too. Thankfully, Spoonwood excels at both! They’ve been churning out beer and pizzas since 2015 in Bethel Park. Since then, several other breweries have joined the ranks in the South Hills, but Spoonwood continues to be a very popular place! In fact, we had a hard time getting a seat on Sunday afternoon! 

Spoonwood has a huge space inside and a nice patio out back too. A centerpiece of the space is the huge pizza oven that churns out so many delicious types of pizza. We split a BBQ chicken pizza that pretty much changed my life. It was made with in-house smoked chicken (oh yeah they have a whole range of smoked meats too!). It’s so refreshing to go to a brewery and get delicious, handmade food. I’m all for a food truck, but sometimes your girl needs some table service! The one bad thing about the full kitchen though is that your four legged friends have to stay home 😦 

Okay onto the beverages. One of our reasons for heading to Spoonwood (aside from it being amazing) is that they were participating in East End Brewing’s Day of Gratitude. We love a barleywine so we definitely had to try it. It was smooth and full, almost like a boozy syrup. We only got a taster and savored it all evening. Spoonwood had a really good tap list and we tried to get a variety of things. My favorite of the night was the Fruit of Another which was a ginger-lime pale ale. What an interesting combo! It worked so well and was refreshing with a wintery twist. J loved the chili pepper pale ale Secret Alphabet. It seriously left your lips burning, but we liked it! In the dark beer world, we got the Strategic Cocoa, which reminded me of a chocolate covered pretzel. Another unique beer was the Espresso Change-o, an IPA with a coffee aftertaste! 

We had a fantastic time at Spoonwood. The food was amazing, we loved trying out all of the unique beers, and the atmosphere was great. We 100% will be back here, fingers crossed that we can snag a table! 

Our Beer:

  • Fruit of Another – Pale Ale – 5.8% 
  • Gratitude – Barleywine – 11.5% (Guest Tap: East End Brewing) 
  • Secret Alphabet – Pale Ale – 6% 
  • Strategic Cocoa – Brown Ale – 6%
  • Espresso Change-o – IPA – 6.5%

SUM UP: South Park is a large park south of the City of Pittsburgh and is managed by the Allegheny County Parks Department. There are tons of things to do here to satisfy every type of person. There are many miles of trails but we had a hard time finding them! Trails were not well marked and signage was nonexistent. If you go, be sure to have a map handy as it is easy to get lost. After we were done freezing out in the woods, we went to Spoonwood Brewing which was by far the best choice of the day. We had delicious pizza and really tasty, unique beer. I wish we could have hung out all evening!