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!

Boyce Mayview Park & Recon Brewing at Hastings

Upper St. Clair, PA

Guys, I dunno about you, but this is the hardest time of year to hike. The ground is either frozen or muddy and there aren’t too many trails that are safe to hike! We still made it out to Boyce Mayview Park last weekend and we encountered some seriously sloppy trails. We stayed away from the lowland trails and just tried to take our time. Be careful when hiking and remember that a muddy trail might not be the safest trail! After a really nice long time in the woods, we headed to Recon Brewing at Hasting, a brand new South Hills extension of the Butler-based brewery.

THE HIKE: Boyce Mayview Loop

Length: Variable (We did 4.5 miles)
Elevation Gain: 482 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, mountain biking, leashed pets (Note: pets are not allowed on the Wetlands trails) 
Parking: Large lots throughout park
H&H: 4/5

This is another of those parks that I can’t believe was so close to my home growing up and I never went to it! Boyce Mayview park is located in and maintained by Upper St. Clair Township, just south of the City of Pittsburgh. This nearly 500 acre park came to be in the mid-90s when Upper St. Clair purchased the Mayview Farm which happened to be directly next to the existing Boyce park. The combined parks now offer a variety of activities, including a community recreation center, ball fields, and pavilions. The large majority though is undeveloped except for miles of trails so despite being in a densely suburban area, these woods feel miles away from it all. 

When planning this excursion, the first thing that struck me was the lack of information! There were hardly any trails on AllTrails and the trail map had it very hard to tell which paths were paved. And several local travel pages mentioned how difficult it was to find your way around here. Expecting another disappointing day in the woods, we ventured out to Boyce Mayfield Park. Thankfully for us, we easily made it to the parking lot and trailhead off of Boyce Road. The lot was pretty full but we managed to squeeze in. From there, we found the trails to be very clearly marked with colored posts and even stone markers complete with printed trail names and arrows. I’m not sure if this was a recent project but we were very impressed with how well the trails were marked! Even so, be aware that to get a decent hike in, there’s not just one trail to follow. You’ll have to combine several to make a decent loop!

This park was so unique because it offered so many different types of habitats. There are wetlands, fields, creeks, rugged woods, and more! I honestly couldn’t have spent a LOT more time here if the trails hadn’t been so muddy. The big highlight of our loop was the unexpected waterfalls! On a whim we followed the signs for the mid-falls and it was so much bigger than I was expecting for a local park. Plus we had the place to ourselves so we could enjoy the peaceful water flow. I also really loved the Between Two Worlds trail which was up on a ridge overlooking Chartiers creek on one side and an open field on the other. The creek was such a thing of beauty, particularly at this time of year with the thaw causing rushing waters. It felt so far away from the world. We had both been feeling stressed lately and this hike was exactly the reset we needed.  

THE BEER: Recon Brewery at Hastings

Address: 1401 Hastings Cres, Bridgeville, PA 15017
Distance from Trail Head:  1.4 miles, 4 mins 
Website: https://www.reconbrewing.com/hastings
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Outdoor seating but no pets inside
H&H Rating: 5/5

Recon Brewing at Hasting is a brand new taproom for the Butler-based Recon Brewing. I have to be completely honest, I was a bit wary of checking this one out. It’s located in a brand new housing development and I frankly thought it was not going to be very good. But folks, I have to eat my words because this beer was SO GOOD! The taproom is pretty small so we did have to wait a few minutes for a table. There’s a small attached restaurant that serves pub fare so don’t be surprised if people are hanging out longer than at a typical brewery. 

We were very happy to be joined by my parents for this brewery! We love going out with them because we do a “wheel of styles” where everyone orders a different beer and we pace them around so everyone can try something new. So no, J and I did not single handedly have eight beers, I promise! Like I said earlier, I was really impressed with the beer at Recon. There was a wide variety of styles and there wasn’t anything that I disliked. All four of us have very different tastes and there was something for everyone! My favorite of the night was the headliner IPA, BRC. It was a smooth, slightly sweet IPA with a really nice balance of hops. Dangerously easy to drink

My only complaint about this space was that it needed an entryway. It was a bustling little brewery and the door was constantly opening, sending a freezing whoosh of air into the room. Not exactly ideal! Oh well, at least winter is on its way out. Right? Right??

Our Beer:

  • BRC – IPA – 7%
  • Immaculate – NEIPA – 6.5%
  • Witchin’ Brew – Farmhouse Ale – 6.7%
  • Burly Joe – Oatmeal Stout – 5.7%
  • 14 Leatherheads – Amber Lager – 5%
  • We Got the Wheat – Wheat Beer – 6%
  • Hastings Brown Ale – Brown Ale – 5.1%
  • Fixed the Newel Post – Porter – 7.6%

SUM UP: Boyce Mayview is a large township park in Upper St. Clair that has a surprising amount of wooded trails, in addition to ballfields and a recreation creation center. There are many different trails to choose from so have a map handy to help plan your route. Everything is very well marked though! This park is impressive for its variety of landscapes including creeks, wetlands, fields and waterfalls. Some trails can be difficult so make sure to have proper footwear! Afterwards, head over to the brand new Recon Brewing at Hastings for some really delicious beer. And if the menu there isn’t what you’re looking for, walk over the Over the Bar (OTB) Bicycle cafe for some mouthwatering fare.

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK: Cascade Canyon & Snake River Brewing (BONUS – Grand Teton Brewing Company)

Jackson, Wyoming & Victor, Idaho

It’s finally time to share our biggest Hike & Hop yet! We saved the best for last in our Yellowstone/ Grand Teton adventure. This incredible hike starts at Jenny Lake, travels up to the breathtaking Inspiration Point and finally travels into the Cascade Canyon Valley with stunning views of the Grand Teton peak. This hike completely blew me away and I already want to go back and do it again! There are plenty of opportunities for extending or decreasing the mileage while still getting in a fantastic hike. After this all day trek in the woods, Snake River Brewing in Jackson, Wyoming really hit the spot. And to round out the day, we drove back through Idaho and hit up Grand Teton Brewing in Victor.

THE HIKE: Grand Teton National Park – Cascade Canyon

Length: 9.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,096ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 4 -5 hours
Trail use: Hiking only
Parking: Very popular spot so Jenny Lake parking fills up quickly
H&H: 5/5

Although most of our trip was in Yellowstone, we decided to add a day trip down to Grand Teton after hearing so many people raving about it. We got up before dawn to drive down through Yellowstone. It was truly a magical experience with the park so quiet and full of mist swirling in the sunrise. We even saw the most majestic elk emerging from the woods to stand in the early morning light.

We had a lot planned for a single day and made several stops before our big hike to take in the scenery. Guys, if you’ve never seen the Tetons, they are real mountains. The kind that stay snow-capped all year round. I could not wait to hike them! The only problem was, when we got to the Jenny Lake parking lot it was packed. Not a single spot anywhere. So we had to make a brash decision and go to the next trailhead to park. At first, I was disappointed, knowing that this would add a good 2 miles to our hike but as soon as we set out, I quickly swallowed my disappointment. The trail was so peaceful with very little traffic that we were really able to enjoy the beauty around us. And much to my surprise, we saw two moose in the distance within 10 minutes of starting out! 

This trail follows along the shore of Jenny Lake and offers incredible views of the stunningly blue lake. I really loved this part of the trail, despite it not being part of our original plan. However, once we made it to the main trail, we had to share the way with a LOT more people. The first main viewpoint is Hidden Falls, which were lovely but could easily be skipped if you can’t spare the extra miles. It’s a really popular spot that was overrun with people taking a lunch break when we visited. The next stop is Inspiration Point which, while just as popular, is so beautiful that you just have to do it! The path to get up there is quite steep and not for the faint of heart. The steps are cut into the hillside and can be quite difficult for anyone unsteady on their feet or who have a fear of heights. As you’re going up, make sure to turn around and see the Grand Teton veering up behind you! After Inspiration Point, it’s time to head into the valley. The terrain will suddenly change from rocky and rugged to lush and green. And the trail will be noticeably quieter as the majority of people turn around at Inspiration Point. As you head into the valley, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. This is a very popular place to see moose and bears! We weren’t so lucky but the stunning views made up for it! 

The stairs leading up to Inspiration Point – Not for the faint of heart!
Make sure to turn around and see the Grand Teton soaring behind you!
Feeling pretty inspired at Inspiration Point!

At this point, you have some options. Since we didn’t have all day to hike, we walked for a while into the valley and then turned around to head back. If you want to continue into the valley, you can hike all the way to Lake Solitude and back for a 13.7 mile out and back. To save your legs, you can take the Jenny Lake ferry back and forth from the trailhead; just make sure to check the hours and have cash! Or if you really really want to challenge yourself, you can do a huge 21 mile loop from the String Lake trailhead that encompasses Cascade Canyon, Lake Solitude, and Paintbrush Canyon. This can be done as a backpacking trip too! I’m definitely adding to my backpacking wish list! 

Even though we didn’t do the whole loop, we still had clocked nearly 30,000 steps! Needless to say we were definitely ready for a brew!

Entering Cascade Canyon

THE BEER: Snake River Brewing

Address: 265 S Millward St, Jackson, WY 83001
Distance from Trail Head: 20 miles, 32 mins
Website: https://snakeriverbrewing.com/
Food?: Full Menu
H&H Rating: 3/5

Only about 20 miles away from the trailhead is Snake River Brewing in Jackson. There are several breweries in town so you’ll have plenty of options if this one doesn’t suit you! I was very excited to see so many breweries here since opportunities for Hikes & Hops in Yellowstone were extremely limited! In fact, Wyoming only has 22 breweries in the whole state! 

Snake River Brewing first opened in 1994 so it is pretty established in town as the place to be. That couldn’t have been more clear when we arrived and had to wait over an hour for a table! Thankfully the expansive outdoor space made it a comfortable place to relax and wait. It’s not often that we end up at breweries with a full menu so this was a treat. We both scarfed down an elk burger and were pretty happy with our beers. My only complaint was that the fast paced environment of the brewery made it feel very impersonal and made it hard to relax and have a good time. I think we might have been better off getting dinner somewhere else and having a beer outside here. 

Afterwards, we needed to drive back to West Yellowstone through Idaho. One of my goals is to not only go to every state but also go to a brewery in each one. So, of course, after hiking in Grand Teton National Park, we had to stop by Grand Teton Brewing Company in Victor, Idaho. I LOVED this little brewery. We sat outside and watched the sunset drinking beer made from 100% glacial water! It was the perfect end to such a fulfilling but exhausting day. 

Grand Teton Brewing in Victor, Idaho

Our Beer:

Snake River Brewing

  • Earned It – New England IPA – 6% 
  • Custer’s Last Ale – Pale Ale – 6%

Grand Teton Brewing Company

  • Mail Cabin – Scottish Ale – 6.5% 
  • Black Cauldron – Imperial Stout – 9.5%
  • Amber Ale – Red Ale – 4.8%

SUM UP: The highlight of our Yellowstone/ Grand Teton trip was our hike through the Cascade Canyon. To do this trek, you can park at Jenny Lake and either take the ferry to the trailhead or add on the hike along the shore line like we did. Along the hike, be sure to stop at Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. I rate this hike as difficult because of the rocky climb up to Inspiration Point and the length of the hike. Our favorite part was the hike into Cascade Canyon where you are surrounded by lush forests and snowy mountain peaks jutting up beside you. Keep your eyes open for bears and moose in this area! To cap off your day, check out Snake River Brewing in Jackson for a delicious elk burger and some crisp, refreshing brews. If you still can’t get enough, make the gorgeous drive through the mountain pass into Idaho and watch the sunset at Grand Teton Brewing Company in Victor, Idaho. A perfect day!

Jenny Lake

Shenandoah National Park & Hawksbill Brewing

Luray, VA

I have been wanting to go back to Shenandoah for ages! The only time I’ve been was a quick drive down Skyline Drive with some friends and it was so cloudy we couldn’t see anything. So when some of J’s college friends wanted to do a weekend in Luray, I was game. The only problem is it was cloudy AGAIN! What luck?! So instead of a beautiful overlook, we decided to tackle the White Oak Canyon trail which feature 6 different waterfalls. The full hike is 9.5 miles but we did about a 5.5 mile loop. Afterwards, we headed back into Luray to grab a beer at the local brewery Hawksbill. It was a great spot and we were taught by the locals how to exactly say Luray ending a long debate among us friends. Apparently it’s LOO-ray if you’re a local and Luh-RAY if you’re an out-of-towner. Insider tips!

THE HIKE: Whiteoak Canyon Trail (Shenandoah National Park)

Length: 9.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,400ft
Difficulty: Hard
Time: 4-5 hours
Trail use: Hiking and leashed pets
Parking: Large lot ($35 per car fee to enter park)
H&H: 4/5

Photo faceoff

White Oak Canyon is a fairly popular trail located in Shenandoah National Park near the Skyland Resort. While it doesn’t lead to an amazing vista like the more popular choices such as Old Rag or Stony Man, this out and back trail features 6 different waterfalls! It also climbs over 2,000ft so it’s not for the faint of heart. There are two way to tackle this trail. Either you can start in Shenandoah using the parking lot off of mile marker 43 on the Skyline drive. If you’d rather hike up first and end with downhill, you can start at the other end by parking at the Lower Whiteoak Canyon Fee Station. Since our group knew we weren’t quite up for doing the full trail, we opted to start at the Skyline trailhead. Just a heads up, cell service is very spotty in Shenandoah so make sure you have your trail downloaded ahead of time! Or just go to visitor’s center at Skyland where a very nice guide gave us a map and some trail suggestions.

I really liked this trail because of the huge rock formations along the water. I’m such a sucker for a good water trail and this was no exception. It really felt like you were in an ancient forest. And despite this being a more popular trail, we really didn’t run into too many people until later on at the main falls overlook. I also really liked how we followed the river from where it started as a small trickling stream until it turned into a beautiful waterfall! While it wasn’t the biggest or most impressive waterfall I’d ever seen, it was still majestic in its own way. We spent a lot of time at the overlook relaxing and taking pictures (and taking pics of each other taking pics). Then it was time to hike back up.

Do you ever start walking and not realize that you’re going downhill until it’s time to turn around? Yeah that’s what happened to us. I was so focused on the beauty and not tripping on rocks that I didn’t quite realize how steep the trail had gotten until it was time to turn around. We really got a good workout! If you decide to tackle this trail, make sure you have plenty of water and are ready for a bit of a challenge! Needless to say, we were quite ready for beer after this one.

THE BEER: Hawksbill Brewing

Address: 22 Zerkel St, Luray, VA 22835
Distance from Trail Head: 21 miles, 35 mins
Website: https://www.hawksbillbrewing.com/
Food?: Bring your own!
H&H Rating: 4/5

Okay okay, I know I said I usually try to keep the brews less than 30 mins from the trailhead. But I hope you’ll let this one slide since more than half of the drive is along the beautiful Skyline Drive in the national park!

Hawksbill Brewing is a small brewery in Luray, Virginia which prides themselves on being grown here and brewed here. They partner with local farms in the county to source the freshest ingredients and even make their Hooray for Luray using their own homegrown Cascade hops! Their beer was pretty good and was all the more refreshing after our exhausting hike. Even better though, Hawksbill was one of the friendliest breweries we’ve ever been to. It had such a great small town vibe and we instantly felt welcome. They had a sizable taproom with bar and table seating, as well as picnic tables outside with a lovely view of the mountains. It was too bad that we had to drive home or I could have stayed here all evening!

OUR BEER

  • Hooray for Luray – IPA – 6.3%
  • Seven Days a Wheat (Watermelon) – Wheat Beer – 5.25%
  • Brown Cow – Milk Stout – 6.1%
  • Cock Your Doodle Doo – Stout – 6.3%

SUM UP: 

Whiteoak Canyon is a difficult hike in Shenandoah National Park that features six waterfalls. It has steep elevation but you’re rewarded with incredible views all along the way. Make sure to bring plenty of water and have sturdy shoes! After you finish up this challenging hike, reward yourself with a cold one at Hawksbill Brewing Company. They have a variety of beer styles with a focus on locally grown ingredients. It’s a proudly local place and you may find yourself chatting with the table next to you. If you’re looking to get out of the city, this is the perfect hike & hop for you!