Rachel Carson Trail & Acrospire Brewing Co

Glenshaw, PA

Last weekend it was finally time for us to tackle the (in)famous Rachel Carson trail. This trail spans 45 miles so it’s great for tackling in sections. Many sections. For our first trek, we did a 3 mile (6 mile out-and-back) section of the trail starting in North Park and turning around at Route 8. This trail is not for the faint of heart and you WILL get your feet wet! If you’re ready for a more challenging hike without going too far outside of the city, this hike is perfect for you! Afterward, grab a beer from Acrospire Brewing’s to-go only production facility. If the weather’s nice, enjoy your beverage in their outdoor biergarten!

THE HIKE: Rachel Carson Trail (North Park to Rt. 8)

Length: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 660ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2.5-3 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Running, Leashed Pets
Parking: Large gravel lots throughout North Park
H&H: 4/5

Okay, so like I said, the Rachel Carson Trail spans just over 45 miles in northern Allegheny County, meandering between North Park and Harrison Hills Park. The trail is named, of course, for the renowned conservationist Rachel Carson, who was born in Springdale, PA. An offshoot trail actually leads to her childhood home! I can’t wait to check that out on a future hike. There are no shelters along this trail so it’s intended for day use. However, if you’re feeling up for a challenge, once a year the Rachel Carson Trail Conservancy hosts an endurance hike where hikers have 15 hours to do 34 miles of the trail. Definitely something I’d love to work up to! 

One thing I really love about this time of year is that there’s enough daylight after work to squeeze in a hike! J and I are really lucky to work close to each other, so we made sure to pack our hiking clothes and some dinner and head out right after work! The Rachel Carson Trail runs through a large part of North Park, but we choose to start at the Beveridge shelter. There’s a large gravel lot in this area by the baseball fields. The first part of this trail is quite wide and downhill. There’s a quick road crossing and then you’ll hit your first stream crossing. And yes I said first because you’ll be crossing a lot of streams on this hike! Some have some stepping stones but I guarantee that you will get your feet wet. Nothing up to the knee though, unless you make a big mistake! 

For the most part, I LOVED this trail. It was woodsy and I loved the challenges of crossing streams and climbing up ridges. However, there was a glaring part that kept this from being a 5 star hike. At the 1 mile point, you leave the woods and have to walk along the railroad tracks and then follow along the guardrail of a road to reach the next section of the wooded trail. I totally get that this trail runs through urban areas so it can’t be woods the whole time. But walking along the train tracks and the road felt a little dicey to me. Thankfully it was only for a short time and the fantastic woods really made up for it! 

As always with hiking, it’s important to remember that, as hikers, we’re just visitors in nature’s home. Always keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like this little snake we saw! He’s just a common garter snake, but it’s important to know that we do have venomous snakes in this area and it’s best to give all wildlife the space they need! 

This will definitely be just the first of many trips on the Rachel Carson Trail for Hikes & Hops! Do you have a favorite section of this trail??

THE BEER: Acrospire Brewery Company

Address: 1650 Butler Plank Rd, Glenshaw, PA 15116
Distance from Trail Head: 6.4 miles, 16 mins 
Website: http://acrospirebrewingco.com/
Food?: BYOF
Details: Outdoor seating only & dog friendly
H&H Rating: 4/5

I really need to start venturing north of the city more often because there are so many breweries! Acrospire grabbed my attention since it’s so close to North Park! It was the perfect place for us to stop by in the evening. At first, I was worried because I didn’t realize they only did to-go sales. However, they have a nice outdoor space where you can sit and enjoy draft pours. Just be aware that there’s no covered/heated seating for those not so nice days! Acrospire seems to be quite the popular place with the locals, as we saw so many people coming to get growlers and 4-packs for the weekend. I love seeing a community really embrace their local brewery. 

On our visit, we stuck with mostly pale ales since we were craving something refreshing after our sweaty hike. My favorite of the night was the Kaleidoscope which balances a deliciously fruity flavor with some solid NEIPA hoppiness. J really liked the West Coast IPA which had a very strong pine-y flavor. I’m so glad we made it out to Acrospire and I’m looking forward to what the future brings for them. They just announced future plans to open a new production facility and taproom!

Our Beer:

  • Swamp Thing – West Coast IPA – 7.2%
  • Serendipity – IPA – 7.2%
  • Kaleidoscope – New Zealand IPA – 6%
  • Hear no Evil – Ginger Wheat Beer – 5.4%

SUM UP: The Rachel Carson Trail is a 45 mile point to point trail that runs across northern Allegheny County. It’s well known for its challenging terrain and many stream crossings. This hike tackled a small portion of the trail starting in North Park and turning around at Route 8. There’s plenty of parking at the trail head and leashed pets are welcome! After your trek, head over to Glenshaw to sample the brews at Acrospire! They’ve got a surprising variety of taps for a small operation and everything is expertly made. They don’t have a taproom, but you can get drafts to-go and sit outside on their patio! Keep an eye out for their upcoming expansion and taproom!

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!

Robin Hill Park & Cobblehaus Brewing Company

Coraopolis, PA

In the midst of house hunting and unpredictable weather, it’s been hard to get out and hike! Thankfully we were able to snag this fun little hike in between rain last weekend. I’ve passed Robin Hill park a ton of times (we even looked at having our wedding there), but I never knew that there were so many trails to explore! We were able to get a great trek in and then relaxed at Cobblehaus Brewery in Coraopolis. They had an Irish Red Ale that was perfect for the St. Paddy’s Weekend!

THE HIKE: Robin Hill Park Loop

Length: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 400 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, nature walks, leashed pets
Parking: Lots of parking. May fill up when house is rented out for events
H&H: 4/5

Robin Hill Park is a 140 acre park found in Moon Township right off of Thorn Run Road. It is maintained by the Moon Township Parks and Recreation. It’s most well known for the gorgeous Georgian Manor onsite that is used for weddings and other events. The house was built in the 1920s by the Nimick Family and was left to the Township in 1971 to be a place for “Nature Lover’s”. But this beautiful house is only one part that this park has to offer! Surrounding the house are meticulously maintained gardens that look especially gorgeous in Spring. Sady, we were a few weeks too early to catch them in their prime! Also on the property is a log cabin from the 1800’s. This cabin originally was home for a family about 7 miles away from what is now Robin Hill Park. It was carefully dismantled in the late 1970s and brought to its new location by the Moon Township Historical Society. It was originally built in 1825 for the Coventry family who lived there for 50 years before it passed along to the next family, who stayed there for three generations. 

I bring up the log cabin not just because it’s a really cool piece of history, but also because it’s where our hike begins! The best way to find the majority of the trails at Robin Hill is to start on the 0.6 miles Log Cabin Trail that starts just behind the cabin. You’ll pretty quickly find yourself in the peacefully quiet woods with not much activity around, except for the birds and chipmunks! Robin Hill trails are a little hard to follow since there are several short trails that you have to link together to get a decent hike in. There are trail signs through but not all of the trails are well blazed so you sometimes have to guess where you are. However, it’s not a huge park so I wasn’t too worried about getting woefully off track. I generally think we took the following trails: Log Cabin → Christmas Fern → Ravine → Thorn Run (Turn around), Thorn Run → Ridgeback → W Beech → Manor House and parking lot. All together it came to about 3.5 miles. There were a couple dicey spots to be aware of though! Firstly, one of the trails looked like it was freshly cut and not in a good way! It seemed like someone had come through with a backhoe to clear out so the trail was very wide without proper drainage. Also the Thorn Run trail follows a small creek which was beautiful but the trail often meandered over the creek without bridges or easy stepping stones. Since it wasn’t very cold, I didn’t mind getting my feet wet but I know J disliked the frequent crossings. 

Overall, I really appreciated how quiet this area was. We only saw one other group of people out and it was easy to find space for ourselves. I would really like to come back here when the greenery is coming in! I can’t wait to not walk through boring brown woods anymore! I also think this would be a fun hike to get younger kids interested in the outdoors without being too strenuous. Just be prepared for some pretty muddy boots at the end!

THE BEER: Cobblehaus Brewing Company

Address: 1021 5th Ave, Coraopolis, PA 15108
Distance from Trail Head: 2.3 miles, 6 mins
Website: http://www.cobblehaus.com/
Food?: BYOF or Food Trucks
Details: No Pets, Indoor Seating Only
H&H Rating: 4/5

I’ve always had a soft spot for Coraopolis. I went to high school in the area and I’ve always hoped the business district would take off. When I heard there was a brewery going in, I had high hopes that this meant a new era for Main Street! Now several years later, it’s so nice to see how Cobblehaus has become a staple of the community. I love how they support the nearby restaurants by encouraging their patrons to get dinner delivered to the brewery. Also Coraopolis has some really great little antique and thrift shops if that’s your thing! Anytime I’m in town, my mom and I have to stop in Off the Avenue for some unique finds. Also if you finish up your hike and beer isn’t your thing, I highly recommend the Anchor and Anvil coffee shop. They do great lattes and breakfast sandwiches! 

Okay so back to our brewery. Cobblehaus has been making their old-world styles since 2017. In fact, their tagline is “Old World styles, New World Twists”. This a great place for anyone that craves those old European-style beers like Belgian Tripels and German Hefeweizens. I don’t usually seek out those robust Belgian styles, but J loves them! I also really wanted to get my hands on the DogHaus Red, a collab between Cobblehaus and our friends at BrewDog Pitt. I’m glad we made the trip because the DogHaus Red definitely was my favorite brew of the day! J also really liked the Denny Got Evil. It has a very subtle spice in the aftertaste. 

Cobblehaus is a really unique venue because it has a bunch of separate little rooms in addition to the main taproom space. I think the building used to be a doctor or dentist office and they’ve kept all the original exam rooms which now make for cozy spaces if the bustling taproom isn’t to your liking. Also be sure to check out Thursday Trivia Night, it’s a fan favorite and the place can be packed! 

Our Beer:

  • Lucky Me – Belgian Tripel- 9.9%
  • Denny Got Evil – Black Cherry Habanero Brown Ale – 6.6%
  • Secret Society – Belgian Dubbel – 7.1%
  • Fireside Charmer – Doppelbock – 8.2%
  • DogHaus Red – Irish Red Ale – 5.5%

SUM UP: Robin Hill Park is a small park in Moon Township that boasts surprisingly peaceful trail systems along a small stream. There are plenty of small connector trails if you’re only looking for a short stretch of the legs or for a longer afternoon hike. The trails are fairly flat with a few sections of steep inclines, so I would rate it moderate overall. Be careful in the Spring, the trails can be rather muddy! Afterward, head down the road to downtown Coraopolis and check out Cobblehaus Brewing. They focus on old world style, so if you like doppelbocks or Belgian tripels, this is the place for you! Order some food from a local restaurant and stay a while!