Cunningham Falls State Park & Olde Mother Brewing

Frederick, MD

The Holiday season always gets so busy!  Thankfully we were able to squeeze in this hike right before Christmas before taking some time off. And I can’t imagine a town that exudes holiday cheer more than Frederick! We always have to do some holiday shopping here because there are so many cute local shops. And not to mention the plethora of amazing breweries! For this hike, we trekked out to Cunningham Falls State Park which is only about 20 minutes north of Frederick. While some of the other trails in this area get pretty busy, the lesser trod Bob’s Hill was perfect for a quick hike before shopping. But don’t let the mileage fool you, this is no easy 4 mile nature walk. The straight up incline really kicked our butts! It was just what we needed before a season of eating, drinking, and good cheer!

THE HIKE: Bob’s Hill (Cunningham Falls State Park)

Length: 3.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,115ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Trail use: Hiking and leashed pets
Parking: Large parking lot at trailhead. $3 per vehicle for MD residents ($5 non-resident)
H&H: 4/5

Cunningham Falls is a beautiful state park in Frederick County about 20 minutes north of Frederick. It often gets overshadowed by the nearby Catoctin National Park, but it is definitely worth a visit especially if you want to avoid the crowds! This area is known for its rocky terrain and fantastic views of the valley. Other spots in the Cunningham Falls and Catoctin parks have fantastic overlooks and waterfalls, but Bob’s Hill is a delightfully unrated view. 

I really love hiking in the winter. As long as there is no dangerous ice or snow, I love how peaceful the woods are and how little signs of life still poke through the grays and browns. I was shocked by the lime green moss sprouting at the bases of trees and the bright flush of mushrooms along a downed tree. The forest is only resting in winter, not dead. 

I had to take a break halfway up! This incline is no joke!

This hike was a great challenge for us and the trail runners along the way really humbled me! The first mile or so of this trail is a strenuous incline so be prepared with plenty of water. The dampness of the day and the leaves made some rocky spots a little treacherous. Take your time and place your feet carefully. The summit of Bob’s Hill is split into two overlooks, the north and south. Definitely check out both as they give different views of the area. I slightly preferred the South overlook since it gave a further view of the valley. The north view had some fun rock scrambles but the trees are so tall that you can’t see out. 

This is an out and back trail so you’re mostly retracing your steps. However, near the end of the trail, we took a detour to follow the Catoctin Trail down to the creek. It was so beautiful here and I wished we had the energy to continue along the trail! Be prepared though, if you take this trail, you have to cross the creek and you almost certainly will get wet!

Overall, I really enjoyed this trail! I loved getting my heart pumping and being one of the only people on the trail. Plus, if you have some time, go to the other section of the park and check out the Falls. They really are spectacular!

THE BEER: Olde Mother Brewing

Address: 526 N Market St, Frederick, MD 21701
Distance from Trail Head:  13 miles, 17 mins 
Food?: BYOF
H&H Rating: 4/5

Olde Mother had been one of my favorite breweries since I moved to Maryland. Whenever we visit Frederick, we almost always take a walk off the main drag to visit Olde Mother. They have a great tap room with cozy seats and a huge back space for events or overflow seating. The staff is always super friendly and ready to help you choose a beer. We were feeling pretty festive and had to try the Gingerbrute. I’ve been noticing Olde Mother making some sweeter beers and this was definitely one of them! I love ginger flavors but this was a bit sweet for me. Others sitting at the beer really loved it though! My favorite of the day was the No Magician Hats, a Cranberry Cinnamon Sour that just felt like Christmas Eve in my mouth. It really reminded me of one of my favorite Maryland beer of all times: A Feast of Fools, a collab with Hysteria and Olde Mother. If any of the brewers happen to be reading this, please make that beer again! I would buy an entire case of it! 

There are a lot of breweries to choose from in Frederick, but I am always drawn back to Olde Mother. They make consistently good beer in  a variety of styles. You can always find a good dark beer as well as a solid IPA, which is really what I want from a brewery. Plus, I love the small town vibe here, with the bartenders knowing most of the patrons. They didn’t have it this time, but if you can ever snag some Queen of Swords, I highly recommend it! It’s one of my favorite pale ales. 

Our Beer:

  • The Creeper – American IPA – 6%
  • Gingerbrute – Gingerbread Imperial Brown – 8.4%
  • Callisto – Oatmeal Stout – 6%
  • No Magician Hats – Cranberry Cinnamon Sour – 6%

SUM UP: Cunningham Falls is a state park in Frederick County located about 20 minutes north of Frederick. The Bob’s Hill trail is a moderately difficult out and back trail that is quite an incline up to a viewpoint of the valley. There is a large parking lot at the trailhead, but have cash ready to pay the entrance fee. Afterward, head into downtown Frederick and grab a brew at Olde Mother Brewing. They boast a solid lineup of beer with something for every taste. Feel free to bring snacks or a meal to enjoy with your beer! Afterward, be sure to wander into town and check out the local shops. If it’s during the holidays, check out the holiday boats along the canal.

Every year local businesses and organization build light up boats that are displayed on the canal in downtown Frederick

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

Wincopin Trails & Hysteria Brewery

Columbia, MD

This is a great local park that J and I used to do at least once a week when we lived in the area. It’s surprisingly woodsy for being right in the middle of the Columbia suburbs and has trails for all levels. There are a lot of breweries nearby that you could pair with this hike but we went with one of our old standbys: Hysteria Brewing! Hysteria always makes really really good beer and has a fun indoor space. Let’s check it out!

THE HIKE: Wincopin Trails

Length: Variable (up to ~6 miles)
Elevation Gain: 335ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: Variable
Trail use: Hiking, biking, leashed pets
Parking: Medium sized parking lot, overflow on street
H&H: 4/5

J showing off some of the quarry ruins

Wincopin Trails are located off Vollmerhausen Road in the greater Columbia area and are managed by the Howard County Parks & Rec. There’s a medium-sized parking lot but it does fill up quickly since this is a pretty popular spot! You can also park along the road or in the middle school lot up the road. Just be aware this will add an extra 0.5 mile on either end of your hike and there’s a rather steep hill.

There’s a few different trail combos that you can do here. Check the trailhead map before you get started! For some reason this map isn’t anywhere online and only a few of the trails show up on AllTrails. Wincopin trails are built along the site of an old quarry. Much of the trails around Savage run along old mills and quarries which make for interesting ruins. At the Wincopin Trails there are old bridge supports that now make for great lookout spots over the river. All of the trails in this system are clearly blazed and there are directional signposts throughout. The Red trail leads from the parking lot and then branches off into others. The Blue and Green trails go along the river while the Red takes you along the ridge overlooking the river. There are some steep inclines that keep the trail interesting. I’ve done this trail multiple times in tennis shoes so hiking boots aren’t a necessity. This trail is popular so if you want to get away, take the less trod White trail that wanders through the woods overlooking the Middle Patuxent River. It’s a fairly easy hike but with little inclines that keep you on your toes. 

Slightly rocky trail up the hill

This is a great hike to see birds, butterflies, and mushrooms! We always see tons of mushrooms here which J loves. I really like this trail because you can come for a quick walk or stay for a fairly long hike. If you were to do all of the trails including the white out and back, it would likely be about 6 miles. This is also a great one to bring the kiddos on! My only complaint about this park is that in certain areas you can really hear the highway sounds from I-95 which kinda shatters the whole woodsy experience.

The water was a little cold when we went in March!

THE BEER: Hysteria Brewing Company

Address: 9570 Berger Rd suite j, Columbia, MD 21046
Distance from Trail Head: 3.4 miles, 8 mins
Food?: Bullhead Pit Beef in the very next suite!
H&H Rating: 5/5

There are a ton of breweries in Columbia so you could easily turn your post-hike into a brew tour or just pick one of your favorites. Hysteria was one of the first breweries we went to when we moved to Maryland and it has stayed at the top of our list! They have a huge wrap around bar with tons of seating and lots of tables and chairs too. And keep an eye out for their furry mascot painted on the walls! They also have some tables in the back with some pub games like corn hole and bucket toss. New for Covid, they’ve also set up some tables and chairs outside in the parking lot. Because they don’t have their own kitchen, dogs are more than welcome and you’ll usually see lots of four-legged friends. If you’re feeling hungry, Hysteria has a great partnership with Bullhead Pit Beef right next store! Or you can always bring your own.

Okay onto the beer. Hysteria makes my favorite Maryland beer. Like ever. You may have heard of it. It’s a little thing called Trash Panda. Even if you’re not into the Hazy IPA fad, you should really try this one because it’s Ah-mazing! And I might be a little biased because once a year they do “Trash Panda Day” and make at least ten different varieties of their headliner beer and it always falls on my birthday. It’s fate! Hysteria also makes some other really good beers and frequently collaborates with other Maryland breweries. I love me a good collab! Last time we went, we got a really nice crisp lager that really hit the spot after a sweaty hike. J went for the black IPA which is a style that I’m still unsure about but this one was pretty good! I love that Hysteria always has something new and interesting on tap while keeping a few favorites around. You can also find Hysteria beer in stores around Maryland!

Hysteria will always be a favorite for us! We need to check out their new taproom in Pasadena soon!

Our Beer:

  • Be Kind, Please Rewind – Lager – 5%
  • Ultimate Dreamy Teamy – Black IPA – 7.5%
  • Trash Panda – NEIPA – 7.2% → Probably my favorite Maryland beer!


Wincopin trails are managed by Howard County Parks & Rec and are located near Columbia. They are open for hiking, biking, and leashed pets. There’s no fee but the parking lot usually fills up. The trails are nice and woodsy with some interesting architectural ruins and rocky inclines. There are several different trails that can be combined to make a longer hike. Nearby is Hysteria Brewery which allows dogs and has a partnership with the takeout restaurant next door if you’d like food. They make excellent beer and have an eclectic design inside. This is a great option for a weekday hike or if you don’t have a ton of time on the weekend!