McConnell’s Mill State Park is a perfect day trip from Pittsburgh! It’s only about an hour north of the city and is a great nature retreat. You can visit the popular old gristmill and covered bridge or follow the more secluded North Country Trail along the creek. On this visit, we started out with the easy Hell’s Hollow hike to see the beautiful waterfall and then did a nice out and back section of the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail. Afterward, we headed back toward town and stopped in the lovely town of Zelienople for dinner and a brew at Shubrew. We’ve been spoiled with such a mild winter and that means getting outside as much as we can!
THE HIKE: Hell’s Hollow & Slippery Rock Gorge Trail (NCT)
Length: 6.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 720 ft
Time: 2.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, trail running, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot with port-a-potty
McConnells Mill State Park is located in Portersville, PA in Lawrence County and encompasses over 2,500 acres of land. It included the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, a National Natural Landmark. The unique landscape around the gorge was formed by glacial runoff thousands of years ago, leaving behind boulders and beautiful waterfalls. This is one of those places that’s hard to believe is in Western Pennsylvania!
Hell’s Hollow is a particularly beautiful section of the state park. Despite its name, it’s an easy 0.5 mile, flat trail to view the waterfall. The area’s name actually comes from the nearby old lime kilns that locals thought looked like portals to hell in the nighttime. I highly recommend starting out by checking out Hell’s Hollow and then venturing onto the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail. There’s a lot of parking at the trailhead, although I imagine that this fills up quickly on a nice summer day! To get to Hell’s Hollow, bear to the right and follow the well-marked trail. It’s a simple in and out that follows along a babbling creek. You do have to come most of the way back before you get on the Slippery Rock Gorge trail.
The bulk of our hike was along the Slippery Rock Gorge trail which is also part of the North Country Scenic trail. If you have two cars, I think it would be awesome to leave one car at the main McConnell’s Mill parking lot so that you could do the whole 7.5 mile trek from Hell’s Hollow to the Gristmill. Unfortunately, we just weren’t up for a 15 miles round trip! This hike is definitely a moderate hike with a lot of ups and down and some rocky spots. We found it to be particularly challenging to walk in some of the muddy spots. The joys of winter hiking is that the sunny side of the hill is mushy and the shaded side is still icy! This is a hike that I would recommend crampons in during wintery weather and hiking poles if you’d like some extra balance.
If you have time, be sure to visit the main section of McConnell’s Mill as well! The Kildoo Trail is a particular favorite of mine and is just around 2 miles. Be sure to see the historic gristmill and the covered bridge, both of which were recently featured in the Netflix movie The Pale Blue Eye
THE BEER: ShuBrew
Address: 205 S Main St, Zelienople, PA 16063
Distance from Trail Head: 14.6 miles, 26 mins
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Rooftop Seating, dog friendly outside
Shubrew has been a staple of Zelienople since it first opened in 2013. It offers a nice (delicious!) menu as well as a large list of house-made brews. And if beer isn’t your thing, they also offer a wide selection of cocktails and wine! Subrew has grown quite a bit since their early days 10 years ago. Now, they operate a brewing facility in nearby Harmony, which allows them to brew a lot more and save space in their taproom for more seating! The owners of ShuBrew also operate General Shu’s (located just across the street) which features fast-casual Chinese food as well as a selection of ShuBrew beers! The taproom also features a full menu with some nods to Chinese influenced food, as well as more traditional pub fare. We don’t usually eat out at breweries, but we made an exception for the pulled pork nachos and they were heavenly!
ShuBrew is definitely one of those places we will make a trip to visit and I know we’ll be back again soon! We’d like to visit again in warmer months to sit on the rooftop deck!
Other great spots in the area: The Harmony In (North Country Brewing), Union Brothers Brewing, Burgh’ers Brewery
- Chew on That – Pilsner – 5.6%
- Nut Brown Ale – Brown Ale – 5.4%