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
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