Ricketts Glen State Park & Back Mountain Brewery

Dallas, PA

Last weekend, J and I were lucky enough to be in the Wilkes-Barre area for a wedding and got to do one of my bucket list hikes: Ricketts Glen. This incredible hike features over 20 waterfalls, with the tallest plunging nearly 100ft. In just under 5 miles, this loop will stun you at each turn with gorgeous views. Be prepared for some serious inclines though! The waterfalls definitely make it worth it! This is a great hike to pack a lunch and have a picnic at the midpoint. After you’re done basking in nature’s glory, head over to Back Mountain Brewing for a refreshing draft in a cozy local taproom. Sounds like an autumn dream to me!

THE HIKE: Ricketts Glen Waterfall Loop

Length: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 873 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot at trailhead – fills up quickly
H&H: 5/5

Ricketts Glen is one of 124 state parks managed by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. It covers over 13,000 acres in Northeastern PA, including sections in Luzerne, Columbia, and Sullivan counties. This area was originally the tribal lands of the Susquehannock and Lenape peoples. The area’s namesake Colonel R. Bruce Ricketts bought land in this area for logging. While the land was being clear cut for logging, the cascading waterfalls along the creeks were discovered. Colonel Ricketts left  some preserved areas around the Glen and even built trails so people could admire the natural beauty of the area. Eventually in the 1920s, Ricketts’ heirs sold the land to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and plans were put in place to create a new national park. World War II put a halt to that and eventually the park opened in the 1940’s as a state park. Many of the named waterfalls in the park pay homage to the Native Americans that once lived on the land

This Falls Trail Loop is by far the highlight of the Ricketts Glen State Park, which not only means that it is gorgeous but also that it is very popular. If you go on a weekend, expect to share the trail with many visitors. The parking lot can also fill up, and the rangers will direct you to overflow parking at the Lake Jean Beach, which will add a few tenths of a mile to your journey. Thankfully, we were able to squeeze into the main lot on a sunny Saturday morning. These trails are very clearly marked as it follows along the creek but I was surprised that the loop wasn’t one-way. I’m been seeing a lot more popular hiking areas designating a specific flow of traffic in their parks but not here! We ended up going counterclockwise (keeping to the right) which meant that we saw waterfalls right away but had to turn around to see them. It often felt like we were fighting the flow of traffic, although people were walking both ways. The path is mostly rocky steps which can be slippery and narrow at times, so you’ll find yourself waiting a lot for others to pass before you can have a turn. Were I to go back, I would rather start out going clockwise so that the hike ends with the last big ascent to some of the waterfalls. However, the nature of the split creek along the trails means that no matter which way you start, you have to go down and then up! 

I found this to be a moderately challenging hike but it would be difficult for some. There are a lot of steps that could be tough on the knees. A lot of older hikers had poles to help steady themselves on some of the more treacherous parts. This hike was also very popular for people with dogs, which I was a bit iffy on. I love dogs, but I get frustrated with people who aren’t used to taking their dog for hikes and it isn’t well trained enough for a busy path. Overall, I would just plan for some extra time on this hike because you won’t be moving very fast, plus you’ll want to stop at every corner to take pictures! 

THE BEER: Back Mountain Brewery

Address: 1174 Twin Stacks Dr, Dallas, PA 18612
Distance from Trail Head: 23 miles, 30 mins 
Website: http://backmountainbrew.com/
Food?: Snacks & Food truck
Details: Outdoor seating, dog friendly outside
H&H Rating: 4/5

After leaving the park, head along PA-118 towards Wilkes-Barre. This brewery is a bit further from the trailhead than I usually do, but the drive is so gorgeous, definitely worth it! We were treated to a beautiful display of fall foliage along the winding highway! Back Mountain Brewing Company is nestled in an old mill turned commercial property. The microbrewery offers up around 8 different brews at a time as well as pub snacks. There’s also usually a food truck on the weekends! The taproom space is very eclectic, with a mashup of old industrial and patriotic vibes. The owners traveled the world when co-founder Clay Cadwalader was enlisted in the army. After retirement, Clay undertook a brewing and distilling apprenticeship and brought his knowledge back to his hometown in Dallas, PA to start a brewery. Back Mountain officially opened their doors in August 2021 and has quickly become a friendly, local spot for the community to come together. They offer a lot of events throughout the week, including a hopping trivia night! 

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay too long at Back Mountain since we had to get back to wedding shenanigans, but this was a perfect place to come and relax. We wish them all the best in their second year of business! 

Our Beer:

  • Dumbest Hazy – NEIPA – 7.6%
  • Ol’ 76 Stout – American Stout – 6%

SUM UP: Ricketts Glen is a popular state park in Northeastern PA, well known for its unique waterfalls. Along a 4.5 mile loop, you can see 22 named waterfalls, as well as a number of smaller water features. The trail is moderately difficult and does involve a lot of steps and potentially slippery surfaces. This is popular hike so the main lot may fill up on the weekends. After the hike, take the scenic PA-118 to go to Back Mountain Brewing, a newer nanobrewery that focuses on quality beers in a cozy taproom. Head out asap for peak fall foliage!

Cove Mountain Preserve & Pizza Boy Brewing

Enola, PA

While in Harrisburg for a quick weekend, we managed to squeeze in another short hike! We stopped at Cove Mountain Preserve which is on the other side of the Susquehanna river from the capitol. This nature preserve sits at the end of a suburban neighborhood and seemed very popular with families, as it should! We did a short 1.5 mile loop to the State of Liberty lookout. We ended up nearly running the last bit cause we heard some rumbles in the distance. I am not a fan of being in the woods during a thunderstorm! Thankfully we made it back to the car and took refuge at Pizza Boy Brewing which is a place I’ve been wanting to check out for years. True to their name, the pizza was awesome and the beer was delicious. Be prepared to make some hard decisions though, they had nearly 100 beers on tap!

THE HIKE: Cove Mountain Preserve – Statue of Liberty Viewpoint

Length: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 250ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time:  45 minutes
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Large gravel lot at trailhead
H&H: 4/5

Cove Mountain Preserve is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by volunteers from the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club. The Nature Conservancy purchased the land in 2017, making it the first nature preserve owned by TNC in Central PA. This important purchase actually creates a 14-mile stretch of protected land along the Kittatinny Ridge in Central Pennsylvania. This ridge forms a 185-mile stretch of rugged mountain from the Mason-Dixon Line to the Delaware River Gap. According to The Nature Conservancy, this ridge is critical to the biodiversity of Pennsylvania because it provides a forested “superhighway” for animals to escape from the effects of changing climates. 

Cove Mountain Preserve itself is a very well-maintained area with about 3 miles of trails. There are several small, interlinked trails that are color coded. We took the Green and Yellow trails to make a loop out to the Statue of Liberty viewpoint. This was about 1.5 miles of moderate hiking that wound through pawpaw (!) groves and has some small rock scrambles. There was a really cool spot where the trail squeezed through a break in the glacial rocks. It was fittingly called the Boulder Squeeze! A HUGE shout out to the folks with the SATC for making these trails, the green trail was absolutely beautiful, especially all of the rock work! Having done some trail building myself, I know moving rocks like that is no small feat! 

Okay, so you might be wondering if I’ve lost my mind talking about the Statue of Liberty. No, you can’t see all the way to the Big Apple from this trail. But there is a miniature replica of Lady Liberty on a rock in the Susquehanna. I had never heard about this until this trip and I needed to know more about it! And what a story it is. SO in 1986, a local man wanted to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Statue of Liberty by making a “prank” replica of it. He built it out of plywood and venetian blinds and, along with some co-conspirators, installed it on an old bridge piling in the middle of the night. It caused quite a stir and even a few traffic jams on the neighboring highway! Surprisingly, despite its flimsy construction materials, the statue remained in place until 1992 when it was blown off the pedestal and destroyed. However, people had become quite attached to her over the few years that a collection for a replacement was set up. Over $25,000 was raised and a replica was made of steel and fiberglass. Nearly 11 years after the first statue was built, a helicopter placed Lady Liberty back on her pedestal. It wasn’t until 2011 that a local lawyer Gene Stilp finally came forward as the mastermind behind the original statue. Wow what a story! 

We were very impressed with this little nature reserve and I would definitely recommend a visit! And if you go soon, check out those pawpaw groves, you might be able to catch a fresh fruit. 

THE BEER: Pizza Boy Brewing/ Al’s of Hampden

Address: 2240 Millennium Way, Enola, PA 17025
Distance from Trail Head: 6.8 mi, 12 mins
Website: http://www.alsofhampden.com/
Food?: Full Menu – PIZZA
Details: Outdoor seating but no pets
H&H Rating: 5/5

Pizza Boy Brewing has been on my radar for a while as I’ve seen a few more of their beers popping up on draft around the Burgh. But I especially remember them from some of their delicious collabs with local fav East End! I’d really liked everything I’ve had from Pizza Boy so I was especially excited to be able to go to their brewpub. 

Upon visiting Pizza Boy, I was surprised to learn that the Pizza actually came first! Al’s of Hampden is a pizza restaurant that has been run by Albert Kominski since 2002. It wasn’t until 2011, that the brewery got started. The name makes a lot more sense now! The brewery quickly became popular, soon outgrowing their old location. The team was able to upgrade to a large facility in Enola PA where they have a full menu as well as take out, and over 100 beers on tap! They have a huge variety of Pizza Boy beers, as well as other local favorites and standard domestic pours. There really is something for everyone at Pizza Boy! 

Pizza and beer has got to be one of my favorite combos and it just hits different after hiking! I can only speak to how delicious their pizza was, but they also have a full pub menu, including subs, soups, and salads. The pizza definitely reels you in, but you’ll end up staying awhile for the taplist. And mostly because that’s how long it will take you to read it! Seriously, this place has so many beers that it was nearly impossible to choose. We actually went back the next day for another round of tasting! My favorite of the weekend was the Permission Slip, which was so crisp and refreshing with a nice hop profile. And I would be remiss if I didn’t call out the delightful Paw Paw Pale Ale. Pizza and pawpaw beer, I think I was in heaven! 

Our Beer:

  • West Shore IPA – IPA – 6.5%
  • Citrus Flip – IPA – 6%
  • Sunny Side Up (Bourbon Barrel Aged) – Coffee Stout – 9.5%
  • Starlit Morning – Pale Ale – 5.5%
  • Permission Slip – India Pale Lager – 5.7%
  • Puncheon Rogerd – Wild Ale – 6.3%
  • Hop Vision Cashmere – IPA – 6%
  • Engineer of Dreams – NEIPA – 6.2%
  • Keystone – IPA – 6.6%
  • Paw Paw Pale Ale – 5.5%

SUM UP: Cove Nature Preserve is a small hiking area just north of Harrisburg in central PA. It offers several miles of trails with clearly marked trail blazes. The trails are fairly flat with some moderately rocky terrain. This is a great spot for beginner hikers or families especially since the trails are well-maintained and have low foot traffic. After your stroll, head over to Pizza Boy Brewing for the classic pizza and beer combo. Get ready to make some tough decisions though. Between the lengthy tap list and robust menu, you’ll have a tough time choosing!

Peter’s Mountain & ZeroDay Brewing Co.

Harrisburg, PA

Well it looks like I have to eat my words from last week because here’s another Appalachian Trail hike! We went to Harrisburg last weekend and got to have another excursion in Rocksylvania. This time we tackled Peter’s Mountain Ridge, just north of the capital. The hike starts out a bit dicey with a dash around a street and railroad then takes you straight up, up and up! This hike is not for the faint of heart. Thankfully there are plenty great breweries in the area to quench that thirst you’ll work up! Some friends of ours introduced us to ZeroDay Brewing in the heart of Harrisburg. They had great brews and a full menu if you’re famished after those rock scrambles!

THE HIKE: Peter’s Mountain via Appalachian Trail

Length: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 974 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2-2.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Park in commuter lot across road
H&H: 3/5

As with all of my posts about the Appalachian Trail, I like to start out with a bit of a background on the trail just in case some people are new to hiking! The Appalachian Trail (or AT for short) runs for about 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine and is very popular with backpackers and day-hikers alike! The AT stretches for almost 230 miles in PA, from the Mason-Dixon Line to the New Jersey border. The PA section is affectionately called Rocksylvania for its extremely rocky terrain in central PA. Throughout the whole length of the trail, it is marked by white blazes, so you can always find your way! 

Now that we’re back in PA, I have a dream of doing the whole PA section in day hikes (not a backpacker here!). So far I think we’ve gotten about 4 miles out of 230. Clearly we’re making strides! See what I did there…

Okay back to last weekend’s hike. Since we were in town for a concert, we wanted a hike that wasn’t too far from our hotel and that we could tackle in about 2 hours. Peters Mountain was the perfect choice, being a 4 mile loop and only about 20 minutes north of downtown Harrisburg. The ascent to Peters Mountain starts at the Clark’s Ferry Park n Ride where you’ll have to cross a large street and train tracks to get to the trail head. We didn’t love this part but the road wasn’t too busy so the sprint across traffic was doable. Just keep your fingers crossed that a train isn’t coming by because you might be waiting for a while! From there it’s up up up. Follow the white blazes for the AT as you go along switchback, quickly gaining elevation. The highway noise is quite loud and you can hear it most of the way up the hill. It was quite off-putting at first but eventually it faded to the background. 

I’ll be honest, this was another tough hike for us! The humidity was pretty high and the majority of the elevation is gained in the first 1.5 miles of the hike. Take breaks when needed and bring plenty of water! I couldn’t believe how quickly we went through our water. One great thing about this hike was how low the foot traffic was! I thought this would be a popular spot on a weekend but we only saw one other couple. I also love the rock scrambles along the ridge of the mountain. I just wish that we had been able to do this hike later in the year. We could only catch glimpses of the vistas through the trees but I can imagine that it’s gorgeous in the fall/winter. 

Trailhead across the railroad tracks
My triumph on finding a pawpaw forest

Be aware that this area is HIGHLY infected with spotted lantern flies. We tried to kill as many as we could but their numbers were just overwhelming. There had to be 100s along the ridge. It was so sad to see how they were destroying certain trees. They leave a gross black sludge around the base of large trees and I can’t imagine how devastating this might be for our forests! Also be prepared for lots of gnats and flies. Summer hiking always seems to mean constantly swatting! Oh and we saw a huge black snake slithering into a tree trunk on our way back down the mountain. Frankly I deserve a medal for not screaming. In fact I was so silent that J was confused why I was suddenly backing up. 

So overall, this hike was just middle of the road for me. I love the switchbacks and rock scrambles, but I hated the bugs, running across a busy road to the trailhead, and the loud highway noises. I think I would have enjoyed it much more if we had been able to see the vistas at the top! Oh well, this just has me excited for fall hiking! 

THE BEER: ZeroDay Brewing Company

Address: 925 N 3rd St, Harrisburg, PA 17102
Distance from Trail Head: 14 miles, 20 mins 
Website: http://zerodaybrewing.com/
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Outdoor seating but no pets
H&H Rating: 4/5

From ZeroDay Brewing’s Facebook page

One of the best parts of doing hikes in central PA is getting to meet up with friends along the way! One of my best friends from college lives in Philly now so we try to split the difference whenever we can. They’re also huge craft beer fans and were more than happy to introduce us to their favorite breweries in the Harrisburg area! One of the places they took us to was ZeroDay Brewing Company. ZeroDay has several locations in the Harrisburg area so be sure you know which one you want to go to! We went to their main taproom location and it had a great vibe. Lots of beers on tap and plenty of seating all around. I love when I go to a brewery and see so many different types of people, all enjoying the same space! 

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what “Zeroday” means. Well little did I know at the time but it’s actually a connection to hiking! From their website Zeroday means “a day taken during a journey in which no miles are logged, usually because the traveler has stopped in a town to resupply, rest and reinvigorate”. The name was actually inspired by one of the founder’s Appalachian Trail thru-hike and they see the name as a reminder to everyone to take a pause and “enjoy some of the side trails like offers because the views are almost always worth it”! Now that’s something I can get behind! 

Zeroday has expanded quite a bit in the years since their founding. Their original taproom is now their production facility and they offer three other bar locations throughout Harrisburg. The location we went to is their urban taproom only a few blocks away from the Capitol and features tacos from the Mexican kitchen La Catrina. They also have two outposts in Harrisburg, one at Broad Street Market where people can enjoy the farmers market and one at the Midtown Cinema which also has a gourmet hotdog menu. 

Also a fun fact, Zeroday’s Head Brewer is a woman named Hannah! What are the odds?!

Our Beer:

  • Pine Palace – West Coast IPA – 6.4%
  • Mango Habanero – Spicy Pale Ale – 6.66% 
  • Sunday Soiree – Mimosa Pale Ale – 5.6%
  • This Pilsner is My Love Language – Pilsner – 5%

SUM UP: The Peter’s Mountain ascent on the Appalachian Trail is a moderately difficult day hike just outside of Harrisburg, PA. There is amply parking in the Clarks Ferry Park n Ride but be aware that you will have to cross a large road and train tracks to reach the trailhead. ON this hike, expect to encounter steep inclines, switchbacks, and some rock scrambles. If you go in the fall and winter, you will have expansive views of the river valley. Sturdy boots are essential and hiking poles might be helpful. Afterward, head back into Harrisburg for a bite and a brew at ZeroDay Brewing. This is the perfect stop post-hike because one of the founders is actually an AT thru-hiker!

Fox Chapel Trails & Old Thunder Brewing

Blawnox, PA

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
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, No Pets
Parking: Large lot at community park
H&H: 3/5

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! 

Entrance to the Salamander Trail

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 
Website: Oldthunderbrewing.com
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!

Our Beer:

  • 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!

Ohioyle State Park & Bloom Brew

Ohiopyle, PA

Ever since we moved back to Pittsburgh, Ohiopyle has been at the top of hiking wishlist. Only about an hour and half south of Pittsburgh, it’s a perfect day time for these long summer days! Just be sure to get there early as it can get pretty busy. Afterward, as you’re heading back to the Burgh, stop by Bloom Brew in West Newtown for a refreshing pint. Being right on the Yough river with a kayak launch and steps away from the GAP trail, Bloom Brew is an outdoorsy dream!

THE HIKE: Ohiopyle Great Gorge Trail

Length: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 955ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  2.5-3 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Park by natural slides; Go early!
H&H: 4/5

Ohiopyle State Park covers over 20,000 acres of land in the Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania. Its converging rivers and rocky landscape make it a popular destination for hikers and rafting enthusiasts. In fact, the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources estimates that over 1.4 million people visit this park a year! The main draw of the park is the mighty Youghiogheny River that has carved through the landscape, creating areas of plummeting water and deep gorges. 

The name Ohiopyle comes from a Lenapi word meaning “to turn white”, in reference to the foamy water as it cascades over the rocks. In prehistoric times, the area was settled by the Monongahela tribes who disappeared before extended contact with Europeans. As colonists began to settle along the eastern coast, it forced other tribes like the Lenapi, Shawnee, and Seneca peoples, further inland to areas like Ohiopyle. Eventually even these people were forced off the land by the French and Indian War. 

After the war and the following Whiskey Rebellion, industry moved into the Ohiopyle region and trades like lumbering became a major production, followed by mining, tanning, and other smaller industries. With the rise of railroads, Ohiopyle became accessible to tourists, and soon became a popular destination for Pittsburgh travelers, prompting the building of hotels and other attractions. Eventually, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy purchased the land and allowed the trees and land to regenerate. In the mid 1960s, it was sold to the state and has been maintained as a state park ever since! 

There’s no shortage of things to do in Ohiopyle and you definitely won’t be able to see it all in one day! For our day visit, we wanted to do as much as possible so we took a long hiking loop that hit most of the major sights. Following the Great Gorge Loop trail from Alltrails, we parked at the Natural Water Slides parking area which was still fairly empty at 10am on a beautiful Saturday. We left the slides to some more prepared families in bathing suits and hiking along the waters following the yellow blazes. I loved how this trail immediately plunks you in another world full of raging waters and rock scrambles. After heading under the bridge, the trail will meet up with the Youghiogheny River where I highly encourage you to wander out on the rocks to take in the view and watch some rafters taking on the rapids. This first section of trail was probably my favorite. I loved following along the river and then clambering up the rocky path to head towards the famous Cucumber Falls. This waterfall was well worth the hype and we scrambled all the way to the top and even behind the falls! There’s also a parking lot at the top with stairs down for those with limited abilities. 

The rest of the hike follows the Great Gorge Trail along quiet wooded trails until it takes a sharp turn up. On this section of trail, we never saw another person and definitely got our workout on the incline! We were a bit disappointed though because the midpoint (turn around) spot was just a confluence of several trails. With all of the incline, we were hoping for a viewpoint! If you do this trail, I would skip the incline and turn around where the trail forks to head to the campground. 

At this point, we added a bit to this route so that we weren’t just backtracking. We got on the Great Allegheny Passage and took the bridge over to the Ferncliff Peninsula. From there we meandered through the trails on the peninsula, coming back on the Ferncliff Trail which borders the river and offers fantastic views of the waterfalls and rapids. This area is very popular though so be sure to be mindful of other hikers! Finally, we walked through the town which would be a great time to stop for lunch either at a restaurant or to have a picnic along the river. There’s plenty of space to relax or take a dip in the water! We also checked out the Visitor’s Center which has some great exhibits about the wildlife and geology of the area. From there, we walked on the sidewalk back to our car. For a big loop of 6.5 miles, we got to see a lot of highlights in Ohiopyle. There’s still plenty left to explore and we’ll definitely be back! 

THE BEER: Bloom Brew

Address: 100 Riverside Dr Suite A, West Newton, PA 15089
Distance from Trail Head: 43 mi, 55 mins 
Website: https://bloombrew.beer/
Food?: BYOF & Food Trucks
Details: Outdoor seating & dog friendly & Kayak Launch!
H&H Rating: 5/5

So guys. There is a much closer brewery to Ohiopyle. It’s brand new and it’s called Yough River Brewing and it’s been on my list for a while since it’s one of the only brewery taprooms in the area! But. It’s good to check a business’s hours before driving 30 minutes out of the way! Sadly for us, they were giving their employees the weekend of July 4th off so we had to come up with Plan B. That just means that we’ll have to come back! 

We decided instead to check out Bloom Brew in West Newton. It was a bit of a drive but it was heading back towards Pittsburgh. Bloom Brew is located behind the Fire Department and has a large outdoor only seating area with covered picnic tables. The day we were there, they had live music and a food truck so we were set! Probably the coolest thing about Bloom Brew is that because they’re right on the Yough River, there’s a kayak/canoe launch onsite! I don’t know how many breweries can say that they’re kayak friendly! 

Bloom Brew has been around since 2014 and by now they really know what they’re doing! They specialize in barrel-aged sours, but offer a wide selection on their taplist. I couldn’t believe that they had 24 different taps! Through local partnerships, they also offer gluten-free beer, cider, mead and wine, so there’s really something for everyone! And you cannot beat this location, I could have spent all day lounging on the banks of the river, enjoying a cold brew. The winner of the day was the Hoptimus Pine which was a hazy DIPA with a perfect balance of hops and sweetness. That 8.5% is a real kicker though! 

Kayak Launch at Bloom Brew! Right on Yough River

Our Beer:

  • Hoptimus Pine – DIPA – 8.5%
  • Raspberry Wheat – Wheat Beer – 4.5%
  • Shweat – Pineapple Habanero Fruit Beer – 6.6%
  • YRT Sabra – IPA – 5.6% 

SUM UP: Ohiopyle is a very popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts of all types. The winding Youghiogheny is highly sought out by white water rafter and kayakers and the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150 mile bike trail, runs through the park. There are 79 miles of trails for all levels of hikers! We combined the Great Gorge Trail with the Ferncliff Peninsula for a “greatest hits” of Ohiopyle. Afterwards, grab a bite to eat in town or stop at Bloom Brew on your way back towards Pittsburgh. If you still haven’t gotten enough outdoors, you can put in your kayak right at the Brewery and spend some more time on the Yough!