As winter slowly creeps up on the Greater Philadelphia area, local trails are calming down after a busy autumn, and seasonal beers are popping up on shelves everywhere. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of the quiet season, and head to the hills for a brisk, invigorating hike. There's nothing more refreshing after a long trek than a deliciously spiced winter warmer. We've made your job easier by selecting five Philly winter hike and brew pairings. So pack your cooler, grab a few friends, and head to the trailhead this weekend for a winter hiking adventure.
1. The Appalachian Trail and Tröeg's Mad Elf
One of the coolest things about living in Philly for trail enthusiasts is that the Appalachian Trail is only 90 minutes from the city. This 2,200-mile trail is just about as epic as hiking gets on the east coast, and the Pennsylvania section offers plenty of hikes for every skill level. Some even call it "Rock-sylvania" thanks to its reputation for being the most rocky state on the AT, but that makes the stunning vistas and sweeping views even more worth it when reaching summits along the way.
Pair a hike on the AT with local brew Tröeg's Mad Elf, and you'll forget your sore legs thanks to this red-hued brew's blend of cherry, honey, cinnamon, and ginger spices in this winter ale. There's a reason this beer is at the top of our list—at 11% ABV, it's one of the strongest and most popular holiday beers out there, and it's readily available at most beer distributors and bottle shops in Pennsylvania.
2. Wissahickon Valley Park and Weyerbacher Merry Monks
Wissahickon Valley Park is one of the easiest hiking spots to reach in the area, especially during the winter when mountain hiking seems intimidating. The park offers more than 50 miles of approachable, yet challenging trails, and is often fairly empty of visitors during the winter. Head to the park during the first snowfall for a positively magical outdoor adventure all while in the boundaries of Philadelphia.
Follow up your hike with Weyerbacher's Merry Monks—a flavorful Belgian Tripel with notes of banana, pear, and spice. This isn't your typical winter brew since it lacks the traditional holiday cinnamon and nutmeg, but it's especially tasty after a long hike or run despite it's 9.3% ABV. Local brewery Weyerbacher delivers a crisp winter beer without the fuss in this surprisingly strong Belgian Tripel.
3. French Creek State Park and Sly Fox Christmas Ale
If you're in the mood for a little history and miles of trails, head to French Creek State Park and its neighbor, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. The two parks sit directly next to each other about an hour Northwest of Philadelphia, and offer plenty of options for winter adventure seekers. Check out this 9-mile hike through both parks, which passes by the scenic Miller's Point and historic Hopewell Furnace.
Warm up after your hike with a Sly Fox Christmas Ale, which is brewed just down the road from French Creek in Phoenixville, PA. This is an unmistakable holiday brew, with a heavy cinnamon and nutmeg flavor and subtler ginger aftertaste. Fun fact: the cans are 5.5% ABV, while bottles are 6.5% ABV.
4. Lorimer Park and Victory Winter Cheers
Leave the city behind and head to Montgomery County's Lorimer Park , where you can find a plethora of trails to suit your fancy. Hike up to Council Rock and take in the view of the Pennypack Creek below, then play on the well-groomed trails at the south end of the park. Make sure to check out the Fence Line trail, which offers sweeping views of neighboring Fox Chase Farm.
Recover from your hike with Downingtown's own Victory Winter Cheers, a frosty wheat beer with notes of banana, clove, and citrus. This is a go-to for anyone looking for an easy to sip, local brew, coming in at 6.7% ABV.
5. Pennypack Park and Evil Genius' Santa!! I Know Him!
Pennypack Park is often called the smaller cousin of Wissahickon Park. The park is roughly 1600 acres, and runs from Pine Road down to the Delaware River following the Pennypack Creek. Take the whole family on a hike through the park's side trails, or take a bike ride on the paved Pennypack Trail running the length of the park.
Afterwards, try one of the area's smaller batches of holiday brews in West Grove's own Evil Genius Santa!! I Know Him! Aptly named after a famous line from the popular holiday film, Elf, this brew has unique seasonal flavors of rose hips, chamomile, black currants, and dark Belgian candy syrup.