Calvert Cliffs & Ruddy Duck Brewery

Lusby, Maryland

Calvert Cliffs should absolutely be your next hiking trip. While January might not seem like prime beach time, icy beaches are stunning in their own way! Calvert Cliff can get really busy in the summer so I highly encourage you to try something new and check it out in the winter. We went on an absolutely frigid day and I was blown away by how gorgeous the icy beach was. And the best part is you can warm up with a hot meal and a cold brew at the Ruddy Duck in Lusby. What a perfect way to check out Southern Maryland!

THE HIKE: Calvert Cliffs – Orange and Red Loop

Length: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 282 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time:  2-2.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Large parking lots. $5 per vehicle. Often reaches capacity in summer
H&H: 5/5

Calvert Cliffs is a very popular state park that features hiker-only access to a beach. You may have heard about this beach for its fossil hunting! According to the State Park website, over 600 fossil species have been identified on the beach. Fossil hunting is a very popular activity here and is lots of fun for kids and adults alike! 

This park had been on my Maryland hiking bucket list for ages but it had always seemed so far out of the way. I’m here to tell you that no matter the drive, it’s absolutely worth it! We chose to go off-season as the park often fills up in the summer. Be sure to check the State Park’s social media before heading out in the summer to check if the park is still open to visitors! There is an entrance fee of $5 per vehicle ($7 for out of state) and it is cash only. 

The easiest route to the beach is the 1.8 mile Red trail. It’s a fairly flat path which makes it easy to bring a picnic to the beach for the day! If you’re looking for more of a hike, you can follow the loop we did. We started out with the Orange trail which was more moderate and meandered through the woods. It lets out at the beach where we spent a while looking at shells and the awesome ice formations. My favorite spot was a huge driftwood tree that was just covered in icicles. There’s just something so incredible about seeing a place that you usually associate with hot sunny days being covered in ice and snow. We walked back along the Red trail which was an easier route to end with and had lots of boardwalks along the marshy water. Be warned, these trails are probably quite muggy in the warm months! 

Overall I really loved this hike. I’m so grateful for J who insisted that we do this hike even though I wasn’t feeling the long drive. We ended up having a fantastic time and even took a drive through the small town of Solomon’s Island afterward. Not much was open in January but it was still so cute! If you go back in the spring or summer, check out Lotus Kitchen. We heard from a local that it has the best Key Lime Pie in the world. I guess that means we have to come back! No complaints from me

THE BEER: Ruddy Duck Brewery & Grille

Address: 13200 Dowell Rd, Dowell, MD 20629
Distance from Trail Head:  4 miles, 7 mins 
Food?: Full Menu
H&H Rating: 3/5

Less than 10 minutes away from Calvert Cliffs is brewpub The Ruddy Duck. It offers a full restaurant menu along with a tap list of house-made brews. I was excited to check this place out since it’s not too common to find a brewery with a full menu. This was the perfect spot for us after spending a few hours out in the cold. We were able to get a really delicious pizza with prosciutto and shallots which warmed me right up. We sat in the bar area and the waitress was immediately attentive and let us try several different varieties of their beers. Since the water was so wintery, we shied away from the IPAs and other light beers. Thankfully, they had several versions of their Oatmeal Stout available and we took the bartender’s suggestion and did half regular stout and half Coffee Toffee. It was a winner folks! We both found the flavored stouts to be very sweet so adding the regular stout helped to mellow it out. Honorable mention goes to the Hammerhead Red which was a nice malty red. 

Overall, I found this to be a great local restaurant. The service was excellent and the pizza was scrumptious. The beer was just alright but combined with the enthusiasm of the bartender and the delicious food, it was an overall good experience. We definitely felt spoiled by the full menu! Definitely beats the sandwiches and carrots we usually pack as an after hike snack. Shockingly, pizza is more satisfying than carrot sticks. 

Our Beer:

  • Knuckle Dragger – Oatmeal Stout – 5.6%
  • Coffee toffee – Stout – 5.5%
  • Hammerhead Red – Irish Red – 4.8%

SUM UP: Calvert Cliffs is a state park located in Lusby in Southern Maryland. It is a popular summertime destination but it is also quite beautiful in the off season. There is a $5 entrance fee and the park often reaches capacity in the summer months so be sure to check their social media before heading out. It’s a 1.8 mile trail to the hiker-only beach which is very popular with swimmers, sunbathers, and fossil hunters alike. Dogs are also welcome as long as they stay leashed. Afterwards, head to the Ruddy Duck for delicious food and fresh beer made in house. I dare you to try and count all the ducks in the restaurant!

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