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Taste of the Trail: 5 Great Hikes that Culminate in Beer

July 21, 2017
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Outdoor-oriented individuals spend a lot of time appreciating the earth. And I do mean that in the lowercase sense: earth, as opposed to Earth. We love our parent planet too, but today we’re talking terrain. We think about the land we’re traversing. Is it rocky? Muddy? Frozen? Does it slope up or down? How can we enjoy it without compromising the experience of those who will follow?

One of the best ways to appreciate a patch of planet is to raise a pint brewed on the very land you’re celebrating. In some ways the liquid in your glass is the sum of a complex mathematical formula: elevation plus soil composition, subtract last year’s dry spring, then divide by a high concentration of coniferous trees… The characteristics imparted to a crop by the region of cultivation is called terroir. The word is classically associated with wine, but it’s also applicable to foods like hops, chocolate and chili peppers, which are noted for depth of flavor. We all touch, see, smell and listen to nature as we walk, but short of a dramatic, face-first stumble, it’s difficult to really taste the trail. Here are five routes where hiking and beer meet in perfect harmony. (And if you want to have a glass of wine or water instead, go ahead. We won’t tell.)

Pisgah National Forest

Asheville, North Carolina

Purchased from Edith Vanderbilt in 1914, the Pisgah National Forest was one of the first tracts acquired by the fledgling National Forest Service, which was founded in 1911. Comprising almost 90,000 acres entirely within the state of North Carolina, these 10 miles of trails wind through the woods and brush up against Asheville, NC, America’s Mecca of microbrews. The region offers kayaking, SUP sports, and lake and fly-fishing, as well as extensive hiking. Local breweries include Highland, Green Man and Wicked Weed Brewing Pub among many more. The climate in this area is generally warm, but also breezy. Try our adaptable Cool Mesh apparel to stay comfortable. One additional note: North Carolina produces perhaps the most beautiful spring season of any American state. Just as one might target the northeast in autumn, the Carolinas in spring offer temperate weather, vivid sprays of wildflowers and gushingly excited fellow hikers rediscovering their local trails.

Boulder Ale Trail

Boulder, Colorado

Raise your hand if you’re surprised to find Colorado on this list. No one? Alright then. No place in America combines intoxicating nature with natural intoxicants as seamlessly as the mile-high state, and the Boulder Ale Trail proudly owns its motto: “15 miles, 12 breweries, 0 cars.” Noted for being both beautiful and relatively flat (for Colorado, that is) the trail is perfect for families and can be traversed either on foot on or by bicycle. (Commuter or MTB, please. Road tires will not survive.) Boulder Beer and Sanitas are standout locals, as is the Asher Brewing Company, which crafts around 20 organic brews. A classic tank like the essential Tencel will transition easily from trail to table or bar.

Red Cedar State Trail

Menomonie, Wisconsin

I lived in Wisconsin for almost five years, and here’s an interesting fact: Any time you tell another American that you live in ‘Sconie the first thing he or she will always mention is the cheese. This is a little disappointing because while the Dairy State undeniably churns out the curds, it’s the beer that’s the true labor of love. Beer is sacrosanct in Wisconsin. It’s the lifeblood of local culture, and the Red Cedar State Trail in Menomonie, Wisconsin trailheads in Riverside Park, home of Lucette Brewing. (For more on the area, check out Ralf Schulz’s piece on Menomonie.) The modern, open brewery space provides a perfect place to talk over the day’s adventures, and there’s always plenty to discuss because the almost-15-mile trail represents a topography 101 course including prairie, farmland, marsh, forest and numerous unique rock formations. Here’s a tip from a former local: Although famed for frigidity, Wisconsin is punishingly hot and humid in the summer and into late fall. A classic rookie error is toting a down parka into the woods when what you really need is a bikini and a tub of military-grade DEET.

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Old Caves Crater Trail

Flagstaff, Arizona

Perched about 7,000 feet above sea level, this old logging and ranching town has seven breweries, four of which are clustered within three blocks of one another. Mother Road, Wanderlust and Historic Brewing Co. are recent additions to a craft brew scene that already includes Grand Canyon Brewing, Lumberyard and Prescott. Popular area hikes include Humphreys Peak, Red Mountain Trail and the Slate Mountain Trail. Our suggestion is to head for the Old Caves Crater Trail. This moderate, 4.1-mile back section is famed for wild flowers and the caves at its summit, but we also like it because it’s dog- and horse-friendly. (For a comprehensive list of attractions and brewery discounts, see flagstaffaletrail.com.)

South Sister Summit Climb

Bend, Oregon

Central Oregonians get it. They took a look at the Deschutes River and the Cascade Range with their explosive natural beauty and said, “You know what this place needs? Eighteen breweries!” Of course, you don’t have to drink a drop in order to enjoy this gorgeous section of Oregon. The area’s variety is a selling point and ranges from an easy, 3-mile excursion to Farewell Bend, to the potentially life-changing 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail that commences just outside of town. Looking for something between 3 and 750 miles? Try the South Sister Summit Climb between August and the middle of autumn. At about six miles each way, this difficult, 10,000-foot ascent leaves you atop a snowy crater complete with a small, picturesque lake and a soaring view. (Be sure to pack a lightweight jacket like the waterproof Oakham as temps and conditions on the mountaintop change hourly.) There are numerous distractions, but our après-adventure fave is Crux Fermentation, a fairly new arrival. Commanding sweeping views of the range, Crux ties its happy hour to the sunset for spectacular views. (See cruxfermentation.com for current “Sundowner” times.)

Related Links:

8 Things to Pack on a Day Hike https://www.royalrobbins.com/blog/8-things-to-pack-on-a-day-hike/

A 3-Day Adventure Guide to Bavaria, Germany https://www.royalrobbins.com/blog/a-3-day-adventure-guide-to-bavaria-germany/

A Trip Through Menominee Country https://www.royalrobbins.com/blog/trip-menominee-country/

 

 

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