Thornburg Conservation Park & Insurrection AleWorks

Heidelberg, PA

There’s nothing quite like a good local hike. A place that you can pop over to on a weeknight for some quick nature time. Even better when there’s a great brewery nearby too! J and I are super lucky that the Thornburg Conservation Park is very close to our home! I love to walk the grassy trails in the Conservation Park area and then add on Johnson’s Trail along Chartier’s Creek. This is a really nicely maintained trail that runs in between the creek and the railroad trails almost all the way to Carnegie. It’s very quiet and peaceful and the perfect place to unwind on a Friday after work!

THE HIKE: Thornburg Conservation Park and Johnson’s Trail

Length: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 75 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, nature walks, biking, leashed pets (Note: no pets on Wednesdays or Sundays)
Parking: Lot for about 10 cars at entrance.
H&H: 4/5

The Thornburg Conservation Park was built on the site of the Former Crafton golf club. This 9-hole course opened in 1923 and operated for decades until the family sold the property in 2001. After a years long legal battle, the Borough of Thornburg was able to crowdsource the funds to purchase the nearly 40 acre park and turn it into the beautiful place that it is today! 

There are two main sections to this greenspace. First is the Conservation park which features about 2 miles of flat trails laid out in the grid. The park is perfectly located at a bend in the Chartiers Creek so it is bordered on two sides by the water. The trails are wide and grassy, separated by large areas of trees and shrubs. This is a great park for family walks as the ground is very flat and there’s no difficult inclines. This is also a great park for birdwatching and I’ve even heard of people seeing bald eagles along the Creek! 

The second part of the park is Johnson’s Trail which follows along the Creek towards Carnegie. This trail is not maintained by Thornburg. Quite honestly, I wasn’t able to find out any information about who originally made the trail or maintains it now but I wish I could give them a shout out because it’s a very nicely cut trail. There are several small bridges made of railroad ties over stream crossings that are very solidly made. Due to the nature of the area, the trail can get a bit muddy so use caution! I really loved exploring this trail but don’t be surprised if it seems dirty. Because it’s on the creek’s floodplain, trash often gets washed up along the shore. I’d love to organize a cleanup day soon, who’s with me?! 

Johnson’s trail is about 1.5 miles one way and leads all the way to the railroad tracks near Carnegie. I’ve heard rumors about wanting to extend this trail into Carnegie and eventually meeting up with the proposed Panhandle Trail extension into Carnegie. I’ll keep you posted on this project because I’m highly intrigued! Johnson’s Trail is a simple out and back but I found it to be quite beautiful and extremely peaceful. It was surprisingly remote for being in the middle of suburbia and I just felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders while walking along the water. 

I especially recommend this park to locals of the Crafton, Thornburg, and Carnegie areas. It’s so great to get out in your own backyard! But of course, this is a great place for anyone wanting to explore the greenways of Allegheny County. Afterwards, may I suggest a trip to our favorite local brewery? 

THE BEER: Insurrection AleWorks

Address: 1635 E Railroad St, Heidelberg, PA 15106
Distance from Trail Head: 4.8 miles, 12 mins 
Food?:  Full Menu
Details: Covered Patio, No Pets
H&H Rating: 5/5

Insurrection AleWorks has been our local brewery ever since it opened in 2015! They’ve now got two locations, the original taproom with a full menu in Heidelberg and the weekend taproom in the Strip District. I’ve been to both locations, but I will always love the original taproom. Fair warning though, it’s a VERY popular little place and tables can be hard to come by! Although their menu is delicious, we usually just grab a corner to have some beer instead of waiting for a table. 

I know I say this all the time, but Insurrection makes exceptionally good beers. They are for certain in my top 5 favorite Pittsburgh breweries, if not my top 5 overall! They always make a really wide range of beers, but I feel that their pale ales and IPAs are really where they shine. I have to give honorable mention to their dark beer offerings too. They don’t make a whole lot of dark beers, but their Dark Star Crashes has got to be one of my all time favorite oatmeal stouts. On this particular visit, my favorite beer of the night was actually the ONIP. This was originally a Russian Stout but to show support for Ukrainians, they re-named it the Ukrainian Anti-Imperial Stout and are donating $1.00 from every beer sold to Red Cross efforts in Ukraine. Way to go Insurrection! Nothing like supporting a great cause while also having a delicious beer. 

Overall, Insurrection is a fantastic local brewery where you’ll feel like family. They’ve got a cozy taproom with good food and good beer! And if you’re just in for a beer, might I suggest grabbing some takeout from Brick N Mortar just down the street. These guys make some of the best sandwiches ever and you have to try their homemade tortilla chips. Insurrection and Brick N Mortar is honestly my favorite date night combo!

Our Beer:

  • Casting Hypnotic – NEIPA- 6.5%
  • Buddha’s Intelligent Design – Imperial Stout – 8%
  • Finsternis – Bavarian Dark Lager – 5%
  • ONIP – Ukrainian Anti-Imperial Stout – 9%

SUM UP: Thornburg Conservation Park is a large greenspace located just outside of the city limits, off of Route 60 in Thornburg Borough. It’s open for hiking, birdwatching, and leashed pets, although pets do need a permit and are not permitted on Wednesdays and Sundays. The wide, grassy paths make this a great spot for families or an easy nature walk. Off the park is Johnson’s Trail which meanders along Chartier’s Creek for a peaceful hike. Afterward, grab a beer and food at Insurrection AleWorks in Heidelberg which always has some high quality brews. If you go soon, try the ONIP Anti-Imperial Stout which they’re donating some proceeds toward Ukrainian relief.

South Park & Spoonwood Brewing

South Park, PA

‘Tis the Season for frigid hikes! That wind chill can be killer out there, but it doesn’t stop us crazy people from a ramble in the woods. This week, we’re heading south of the city to feature a hike in Bethel Park. South Park is a HUGE park that has something for everyone! We did the White/Buffalo Ridge Trail and I highly recommend you have a trail map because there are very few signs or blazes on the trails and it’s easy to get turned about. After your hike, there are several local breweries to choose from! We went with an old favorite, Spoonwood Brewing which has excellent beer and pretty spectacular pizza!

THE HIKE: South Park – Buffalo Ridge Trail

Length: 6 miles (We did 4.5)
Elevation Gain: 800 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2.5-3 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Mountain biking, Leashed pets
Parking: Large lots throughout park
H&H: 3/5

South Park covers a huge 2,000 acre space in Bethel Park. It has something for everyone, including an ice rink, pool, golf course, skate park, picnic shelters, and miles of paved and natural trails. South Park is one of the nine parks managed by Allegheny County Parks and it is the second largest. The land for the park was acquired in the 1930s and the park has been a local favorite ever since! It used to be the site of a huge county fair that attracted over half a million people. Another fun history fact is that the Oliver Miller Homestead, where the first shots of the Whisky Rebellion were fired, is also located within South Park. There’s a small house museum dedicated to this historical event. 

South Park is a pretty big place so we had a bit of a hard time figuring out what trails to tackle. There aren’t too many detailed trails on AllTrails (my go-to trail app). According to the County website, there are several different paved or wooded trails. We wanted to get a decent workout in so we opted to combine the Buffalo Ridge Trail and the Red and White Loop from AllTrails. The day we went out hiking was bitterly cold so we had a feeling that we wouldn’t be making it the whole 8 miles. So we parked in the middle of the park near a trail entrance. Well we thought it was near a trail entrance. We quickly found out that the trails in South Park could use some TLC. There are few, if any, trail signs and almost no blazes. We had to rely heavily on the AllTrails App to find the Buffalo Ridge trail. Even once getting to the right place (after several false starts), I had to have my phone out almost constantly to make sure that we were going the right way. Usually I don’t mind just finding my own way but in a park this size, I didn’t want to end up 4 miles away from our car when it was 20°F!

We both had mixed feelings about this park. At times the trail was very woodsy and peaceful but then suddenly you would have to cross a road. We had to cross the main road twice and it was very busy, making it pretty dangerous to cross. Overall, it was pretty easy to get lost and the trails intersected roads far too much for my liking. However, we did manage to see some nature, including a pileated woodpecker and some fungi! Oh and Justin found a tree friend. 

I would recommend South Park more as a place for a picnic or for playing sports. It’s trails are poorly marked, difficult to find entrances to, and often suddenly spit out onto a road. Either way, I’m glad we came out here if only as an excuse to go to Spoonwood!

THE BEER: Spoonwood Brewing Company

Address: 5981 Baptist Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
Distance from Trail Head:  1.7 miles, 4 mins 
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Outdoor seating, but no pets
H&H Rating: 5/5

A lot of breweries make good beer. Not so many have a stellar food menu too. Thankfully, Spoonwood excels at both! They’ve been churning out beer and pizzas since 2015 in Bethel Park. Since then, several other breweries have joined the ranks in the South Hills, but Spoonwood continues to be a very popular place! In fact, we had a hard time getting a seat on Sunday afternoon! 

Spoonwood has a huge space inside and a nice patio out back too. A centerpiece of the space is the huge pizza oven that churns out so many delicious types of pizza. We split a BBQ chicken pizza that pretty much changed my life. It was made with in-house smoked chicken (oh yeah they have a whole range of smoked meats too!). It’s so refreshing to go to a brewery and get delicious, handmade food. I’m all for a food truck, but sometimes your girl needs some table service! The one bad thing about the full kitchen though is that your four legged friends have to stay home 😦 

Okay onto the beverages. One of our reasons for heading to Spoonwood (aside from it being amazing) is that they were participating in East End Brewing’s Day of Gratitude. We love a barleywine so we definitely had to try it. It was smooth and full, almost like a boozy syrup. We only got a taster and savored it all evening. Spoonwood had a really good tap list and we tried to get a variety of things. My favorite of the night was the Fruit of Another which was a ginger-lime pale ale. What an interesting combo! It worked so well and was refreshing with a wintery twist. J loved the chili pepper pale ale Secret Alphabet. It seriously left your lips burning, but we liked it! In the dark beer world, we got the Strategic Cocoa, which reminded me of a chocolate covered pretzel. Another unique beer was the Espresso Change-o, an IPA with a coffee aftertaste! 

We had a fantastic time at Spoonwood. The food was amazing, we loved trying out all of the unique beers, and the atmosphere was great. We 100% will be back here, fingers crossed that we can snag a table! 

Our Beer:

  • Fruit of Another – Pale Ale – 5.8% 
  • Gratitude – Barleywine – 11.5% (Guest Tap: East End Brewing) 
  • Secret Alphabet – Pale Ale – 6% 
  • Strategic Cocoa – Brown Ale – 6%
  • Espresso Change-o – IPA – 6.5%

SUM UP: South Park is a large park south of the City of Pittsburgh and is managed by the Allegheny County Parks Department. There are tons of things to do here to satisfy every type of person. There are many miles of trails but we had a hard time finding them! Trails were not well marked and signage was nonexistent. If you go, be sure to have a map handy as it is easy to get lost. After we were done freezing out in the woods, we went to Spoonwood Brewing which was by far the best choice of the day. We had delicious pizza and really tasty, unique beer. I wish we could have hung out all evening!

Assateague Island National Seashore & Sinepuxent Brewing Company (BONUS: Burley Oak!)

Berlin, MD

It’s road trip time! J and I took a ride across the Bay Bridge and over to Worcester County. I’ve always wanted to visit Assateague Island but never wanted to deal with the humidity and the Ocean City crowds. My solution? Go to the beach in January! It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I absolutely loved being at the beach in the winter. It felt like we had the whole world to ourselves and we saw the wild horses almost as soon as we parked! It was a magical day and I highly recommend checking out your favorite summer haunts in the off season!

THE HIKE: Assateague Island National Seashore – Beach hiking & Short trails

Length: Variable
Elevation Gain: Flat
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Time: Variable
Trail use: Hiking, Biking, NO PETS
Parking: Large lots throughout park, $25 entrance fee, valid for 7 days
H&H: 4/5

A little chilly on the beach in January

Assateague Island National Seashore is located in Worcester County along the Atlantic Ocean. It’s only a few miles away from its much more popular neighbor Ocean City. The island is separated into two sections, the state park and the national park. The state park offers 2 miles of beaches and campsites and is open for a number of activities including swimming, camping, biking and fishing. The National Park side of the Island is 35 miles of preserved beach and salt marsh habitat spanning Maryland and into Virginia. The Maryland side (apart from the state park) is managed by the National Park Service and the US Fish & Wildlife Service cares for the Virginia end (which is called Chincoteague)

The National Park is open all year round from about 7am to sunset. Be aware that there is no road connecting the Maryland and Virginia districts of the island so if you wish to visit both, it’s about an hour drive from one visitor center to the other. On our visit we opted to explore the National Park. The entrance fee is usually $25 per vehicle (which is valid for 7 days and includes both the MD and VA sections) but we used our America the Beautiful NPS pass to get in for free. I know I’ve said this before, but definitely invest in this pass if you think you’ll be going to more than one park in a year. It covers so much more than I realized and we’ve already used it for Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Harper’s Ferry, Great Falls, and now Assateague! It’s only $80 for the whole year. Okay end of my pitch. 

When you first get to Assateague, stop in at the Visitor Center before crossing over the bridge. We were able to get maps, talk to a ranger, and explore some museum displays. It was a great way to prepare us for what to expect on the island. It’s also a great place to use the restroom; there’s only vault toilets on the island! Also you can park at the visitor center and walk over to the park but this would add a few miles to your day and you’d be better off saving your energy. 

Once we crossed over and showed our pass, we pulled into the first beach parking lot. There was rain forecasted for the day and I wanted to get as much done as we could before the chilly day turned into a wet chilly day. We really lucked out because as soon as we parked, we noticed about five horses hanging out in the brush by the beach! I couldn’t believe that we were able to see the horses at all let alone first thing in the morning! They were so beautiful but without a fancy camera lens, we weren’t able to get close enough to take good pictures. But trust me, we saw them! 

Walking on the beach was probably my favorite part of the day. I’ve never seen such a long stretch of sand with no other people anywhere in sight. It really was magical. We did about a 2 mile out and back along the water before it started raining. If you do go in the winter, make sure to bundle up! It was about 40F that day but the wind on the beach made it feel SO much colder. We had on leggings under our hiking pants, sweatshirts, and big winter coats. 

After walking on the beach, I wanted to do some of the small trails along the island. There are three loops all focused on different habitats found on Assateague. We started at the furthest point and worked our way back. Also a side note: there is an Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) area which can be accessed by permit through the NPS. We didn’t pursue this but it sounds really interesting! So we started our hiking at the Life of the Dunes trail which is a short 0.8 mile loop that highlights the dune habitats. It’s full of interpretative signs, viewpoints, and even a walk along the asphalt road from the 1950’s when developers tried to inhabit Assateague. This trail was probably my favorite of the day. Although it was short, it was a completely different world from the hikes we usually do and I loved seeing the different plants and trees. Also walking on the sand is quite the workout! 

Next we did the 0.5 mile Life of the Forest trail which mostly followed a raised boardwalk. The views along this walk were incredible. It looks out over the Sinepuxent Bay and we spent so much time just watching birds swoop around. Next, we explored the Life of the Marshes trails which was also a 0.5 mile raised boardwalk. This was probably the best spot for watching birds and we even saw some horses in the distance. Part of the boardwalk leads right onto a small beach which was so peaceful and had some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen. We got a lot of walking in around Assateague but unfortunately by this time even our winter coats were soaked through so we needed to call it a day. 

A couple things to note about visiting Assateague: it’s very windy so it will feel colder than on the mainland. The trees are fairly short so there’s no shade on sunny days. In warmer months, the heat and humidity bring out a lot of mosquitoes and biting insects. Finally, make sure to pack water and snacks and don’t leave food out. We kept everything in our car and threw our trash away at the visitor center. Remember to always Leave No Trace!

THE BEER: Sinepuxent Brewery Company

Address: 8816 Stephen Decatur Hwy, Berlin, MD 21811
Distance from Trail Head: 4.4 miles, 7 mins
Food?: Snacks, seasonal juice & smoothie bowls
H&H Rating: 4/5

THE BEER: Burley Oak Brewery Company

Address: 10016 Old Ocean City Blvd, Berlin, MD 21811
Distance from Trail Head: 8.5 miles, 14 mins
Food?: Seasonal Taco Truck
H&H Rating: 5/5

The best part about doing an overnight trip? I feel no guilt in trying out two breweries for one hike! Our first stop was at Sinepuxent Brewing Company which boasts a sprawling outdoor venue as well as an indoor taproom. Honestly I wish it hadn’t been snowing at this point because the outdoor area looked so nice! There were fire pits, picnic tables, games, and animals. This place must be hopping during the summer! Thankfully we got there when we did because the owner wasn’t sure about opening up since the weather was looking grim. Luckily for us we were able to snag a small table and try pretty much everything on tap. Everything was pretty good but I think J’s favorite thing was the popcorn machine. I’ve never met someone who loves popcorn as much as him! My fav brew here was the IPA, it was a solid, no frills kinda ale which really hit the spot! Also I really love their logo. It’s an old seaman with a beard made of hops, so original! 

Later on that evening, we also checked out Burley Oak Brewing Company in Berlin. I was super excited to go here because I had been hearing a lot of buzz about them in the Maryland craft beer world. Their space was rustic and cozy, also with a large outdoor space. It had started snowing so we opted to stay inside. Guys, this place makes so much beer! I honestly had a hard time choosing. Which of course means we have to try as much as we can. My favorites were the Aboriginal Gangster IPA which had the sweetness of a hazy without the thickness, and the Rude Boy which had a delightfully sweet malty flavor. All in all, this was a bucket list trip and I’m so glad we got to check out an incredible hike and have some good brews along the way! And if you’re looking to stay the night during the off season, I highly recommend the Atlantic Hotel. Our room had a claw foot tub! 

Our Beer:

Burley Oak Brewing

  • Bunker-C – Porter – 6.6%
  • Aboriginal Gangster – IPA – 6.6%
  • Rude Boy – Imperial Red Ale – 8.2%
  • Pear Gingerbread J.R.E.A.M – Sour Ale – 4.8%

Sinepuxent Brewing Company

  • Hefeweizen – Wheat Beer – 5%
  • IPA – 6%
  • Double IPA – 8.5%
  • Stout – 8%
  • Pilsner Sin Brew – 4.8%

SUM UP: The beach isn’t just for summer! Assateague Island is located in Eastern Maryland and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Sinepuxent Bay. It offers some of the most unique landscape in the state and is very well known for the wild horse herds that roam freely around. If going in the winter, dress warmly and be prepared to hike on sandy paths. After you’ve had your fill of wildlife, be sure to check out Sinepuxtent or Burley Oak breweries (or both)! Definitely consider staying the night in historic Berlin, known for its small town charm and plethora of antique stores.

Centennial Lake Loop & Sapwood Cellars

Ellicott City, MD

Some days you don’t have the energy for a huge rock your world hike. Some days you just have to take the short and easy route and make sure to stop and smell the flowers. That’s exactly what the Centennial Lake Loop in Columbia was for us. We had been feeling pretty spread thin but still wanted to get outdoors. This is a popular paved path along a man-made lake in Columbia that was quite peaceful and had lots of different trees. We loved taking our time and reading all of the tree labels and trying to spot as much wildlife as possible. The slow down was rejuvenating, made even better by a stop at Sapwood Cellars, one of our favs!

THE HIKE: Centennial Lake Loop


Length: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 128 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time:  1 hour
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed pets, bikes
Parking: Large parking lots throughout park, can get busy at times
H&H: 3/5

Howard County in Maryland is well known for having trail systems connecting neighborhoods. Today’s trail loop is one of them, which travels around Centennial Lake. Despite its name, this isn’t really a lake. It’s a dam that’s been created by damming a portion of a branch off the Little Patuxent River. In addition to the waterway, the Howard County Parks and Rec also maintains a large park surrounding Centennial Lake with every outdoor activity you can think of! There are pavilions, boat launches, fishing piers, playgrounds, sports facilities and more. Needless to say, this park is very popular! We went on a surprisingly warm January afternoon and the park was full of families getting their vitamin D. 

The loop around Centennial Lake is a paved path that makes it perfect for an easy walk or for pushing a stroller or wheelchair. It’s definitely a popular place which means the trails can get crowded. This took a while for me to get used to since I’m usually pretty isolated out in the woods. But it was also heartwarming to see so many people enjoying the great outdoors in the depths of winter. We definitely just took it easy and enjoyed all the birds and wildlife. I also really liked that throughout the trail there were labels on the trees with descriptions so that we could learn a bit more about tree varieties. It’s my New Year’s resolution to be able to identify more trees when I’m out hiking!

Overall, this wasn’t my favorite hike since the paved path got a little boring and sharing the trail with so many other people soon became annoying. But I’m still glad that we found a good trail for a day that we were too tired to do a major hike. This would be a great way for people to start getting into hiking or just trying to add some more outdoor time into their life.

THE BEER: Sapwood Cellars

Address: 8980 MD-108 Suite MNO, Columbia, MD 21045
Distance from Trail Head:  3 miles, 6 mins 
Food?: BYOF (Food trucks on select days)
H&H Rating: 5/5

Sapwood Cellars has been making high quality brews since they opened in 2018. Founded by homebrewing friends Scott Janish and Michael Tomsmiere, Sapwood takes a scientific approach to beer-making. Instead of making a wide range of mediocre beer, they have honed their skills to specifically make fresh, hop-forward ales and more funkier barrel-aged sours. 

Like many breweries in Maryland, you’ll find Sapwood tucked into the back corner of an industrial park. They don’t have a kitchen onsite, but you’ll often find a food truck parked out front. If not, you’re free to bring in your own food! The taproom is large but finds a perfect balance of cozy yet spacious. Having a green thumb myself, I particularly love that there are plants everywhere throughout the space. Also around the space is local art for sale, often pieces by the artist who designs the can labels. 

Sapwood’s name harkens back to the two focal points of their production. Sap for the fresh hoppy IPAs and wood for the barrel-aged brews. Sapwood is one of those few breweries where everything is consistently good. Honestly, more than just good! There’s always something that I love on tap. It definitely helps that I’m particular to those fresh IPA flavors! This past visit, the standout for me was the Combo Wombo. I seriously don’t think I’ll ever get enough of Hazy IPAs. I liked it better than the Grapefruit Rings which I was really hoping for more Grapefruit flavor to come out. J was a big fan of The Dragon, the rye double IPA which I actually didn’t mind! The rye flavor was well-balanced and didn’t overpower the IPA flavor. 

I cannot recommend Sapwood Cellars enough. It is definitely in my top five favorite Maryland breweries and it definitely will not disappoint!

Our Beer:

  • The Dragon – Rye Double IPA – 8.2%
  • Grapefruit Rings – NEIPA – 5.9%
  • Unbound – Wheat Beer – 5.1% 
  • Combo Wombo – Hazy DIPA- 6.6%

SUM UP: Centennial Lake is a 3 mile paved loop around a manmade waterway in Ellicott City. It is a popular park that can get busy but has plenty of free parking. It is popular with walkers, cyclists and families. It features wildlife and lots of nature learning opportunities. Close by is Sapwood Cellars, a brewery that specializes in hoppy IPAs and barrel-aged brews. They are consistently making excellent beer and are one of our favorite places in Maryland!

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