Guys, I can’t believe the trail network around Fox Chapel and O’Hara Township! There’s so much going on but honestly not a lot of good info out there about it. We were confused about what trails were open to the public and which needed a permit to access. SO we started at the O’Hara community park and just worked our way up! This is a great way to check out this area because you can go as long as you want and you don’t have to worry about getting the permit for the Fox Chapel trails. Plus the community park is so close to Old Thunder Brewing in Blawnox which is definitely worth a visit. They’ve got delicious beers in a very cool old post office building. I’ve got your next hiking day planned out!
THE HIKE: O’Hara Community Park & Salamander Trail
Length: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 200ft
Time: 2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, No Pets
Parking: Large lot at community park
This hiking outing is perfect for anyone that needs some time outdoors but doesn’t have the energy or time for a big excursion. Somedays you just need a flat, easy path and this is a pretty good one! Although there are many interwoven trails in the Fox Chapel trail system, I knew that some required permit access. However, it wasn’t very clear from information available online which parking areas were permit-only. IT seems that permits are obtained easily enough by going to the public library to get one, but that does require some advance planning especially if hiking on a day when the library is closed! It also appears that the permits are free, you just need to fill out a form prior to your hike. If anyone has any further info about hiking in Fox Chapel, please let me know!
Because of the confusing permits, we decided to start our hike at the O’Hara Community Park which is a lovely park with playgrounds, sports courts, and a paved walking trail. This is the trail we started on and it’s great for all abilities. You follow the paved path along the small creek and start heading out of the park. The paved trail ends and you head towards the treeline where there is a sign for the Salamander trail. This is a natural wooded path and probably more like the trails you’re used to walking. It runs along a creek for a delightful babbling to accompany your trek. Just remember your bug spray, this area can get a bit buggy! There’s a small loop on this section of the trail so we took the high road on the way out and the lower creekside on the way back.
As you’re hiking along, be aware that the trail crosses over the road a few times. BE very careful on these crossings! After the Salamander Trail, the trail meanders along a road towards towards McCahill Park. This was probably my least favorite section, as I’m not a big fan of hiking along the road. Thankfully, the road was quiet and very few cars drove past. Eventually it turns back into the woods at Scott Park where it continues along the creek. This was a great spot with some benches to sit and have our lunch! Finally we followed the trail to the Riding Meadow Park which was where we decided to turn around. If you like longer hikes, it’s very easy to cross the road here and continue to Riding Meadow. There are a lot more trail systems in this area that will eventually lead all the way to the Audubon Society’s Beechwood Farms. Just make sure to leave enough energy to make it back to your car!
It’s hard for me to rate this trail because on one hand I enjoyed all of the wooded areas where it was quiet and peaceful. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the sections along the road and the final connecting trail to Riding Meadow was pretty overgrown. I always check for ticks after hiking, but I was especially careful this time! This felt more like a nature walk than a hike, which is totally fine as long as that’s what you’re in for! And I do wish the Fox Chapel areas were more accessible. It makes me sad when access to nature is blocked so only certain people can enjoy it.
Just another quick note about these trails. You might have noticed that I omitted the name of the initial trail in O’Hara Park. This trail contains a word that First Peoples consider derogatory and offensive. There are several places that use this word that First Peoples have been advocating for a name change. In fact, a very popular resort in Lake Tahoe recently changed its name to Palisades Tahoe in acknowledgement of the racist and offensive origins of its original name. I hope that eventually this small trail in O’Hara will understand the harmful connotations of its name and make a change!
THE BEER: Old Thunder Brewing
Address: 340 Freeport Rd, Blawnox, PA 15238
Distance from Trail Head: 2 miles, 6 mins
Food?: BYOF & Food Trucks
Details: Outdoor seating but no pets
H&H Rating: 5/5
Okay so Old Thunder Brewing seriously blew me away! As you guys know, I go to a lot of breweries. I’ve been to the good, the bad, and everything in between. But I knew as soon as we pulled up to this venue that it was going to be something good! The Old Thunder Brewing taproom has been open for just over a year, but you wouldn’t know it by walking in! It’s in a converted post office building that has been lovingly updated while keeping much of the original features. It has a huge indoor taproom complete with bar seating and tables, as well as a patio space out front. I think my favorite feature was the original postmaster’s safe that they left on the wall!
We started out with a flight here because after viewing the menu, we knew we wanted to try a little of everything. Old Thunder offers a nice mix of Pale ales/ IPAs along with some traditional styles like their headliner 340 Lager. I think my favorite by far was the False Kingdom which, luckily for me, is another of their headliners! I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for this one at my local beer store!
Old Thunder doesn’t have their own kitchen but they keep an updated list of food trucks on their website and encourage visitors to patronize other local shops by ordering takeout. This brewery also prides itself on being a family friendly place and there were lots of well-behaved kiddos when we went! Overall, I was super impressed with Old Thunder Brewing. It’s not often that you get both really good beer and a super cool building!
- False Kingdom – IPA – 6.8%
- Reasonable Voices – Pilsner – 4.8%
- 340 Lager – Helles – 4.8%
- Big Blox – DIPA – 8%
- Featherweight Queen – Stout – 4.5%
- Character Development #1 – Barleywine – 9.5%
- Steps Ascending – Pale Ale – 5.2%
SUM UP: For this hike, we headed out to the Fox Chapel area to explore the long trail system. Our hike started at the O’Hara Community Park and meandered all the way to the Riding Meadow Park. This is a good trail system for nature walks and you can add as much or as little distance as wanted. Be aware that some areas of the trail require a permit to park. Afterwards, head over to Freeport Road to check out Old Thunder Brewing in Blawnox. You’ll get to have top-quality beer in a converted historic post office. All in all, a great hiking excursion!