By Mike Unger
Whether you drink beer or not, breweries are a great way to experience and support the communities along our National Scenic Trails. Breweries are the perfect place to meet locals, learn about a community, and support small businesses.
The following are my favorite breweries in some of my favorite trail towns:
Pacific Crest Trail
Mammoth is my favorite PCT town. Conveniently located near Motel 6 (the most affordable lodging in town), Mammoth Brewing is the perfect place to recover after completing the bulk of the High Sierra. But be careful – at over 8,000’ in elevation, Mammoth is the highest elevation brewery on the PCT. The poutine fries are highly recommended.
Thunder Island Brewing
Cascade Locks, Oregon
PCT Days at Thunder Island Brewing
Thunder Island recently opened a beautiful new pub and brewing facility a short walk from the Bridge of the Gods where the PCT crosses the Columbia River, which at 150’ is the lowest elevation of the trail. There is a “buy a pint for a hiker” program to provide a little trail magic. Thunder Island is the perfect place to rest and rehydrate for the long climb back up to the crest of the Cascade Mountains.
Snoqualmie Pass, Washington
At approximately 250 miles south of the Canadian border, Snoqualmie Pass is the last on-trail town (but it’s not much of a town), and Dru Bru is the last brewery before the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. The large, heated outdoor seating area is perfect for smelly hikers and their gear. Don’t linger too long in town; Fall can come early in the North Cascades. At Dru Bru, the beer flows like the tears of a late-season northbounder.
Continental Divide Trail
There are a lot of great breweries in Colorado, but Soulcraft is an excellent brewery in what I consider one of the best trail towns in the country. It’s a bit of a hitch to get to Salida, so I recommend taking a zero-day in town so you can visit the brewery twice.
Little Toad Creek Brewing and Distilling
Silver City, New Mexico
Silver City is a perfect trail town. It’s convenient to the trail, compact, full service, has an excellent outfitter, and a great brewery. Little Toad Creek, about 150 miles from the CDT’s southern terminus, is the perfect place for northbounders to rest their feet after negotiating the New Mexico boot heel or southbounders to toast the final stretch of the 2nd longest National Scenic Trail. Little Toad also distills their own tequila and has excellent margaritas.
Lazy Hiker Brewing
Franklin, North Carolina
If you’ve hiked into Franklin, North Carolina, congratulations. You have either 1) hiked more than 100 miles north from Springer Mountain, Georgia, or 2) almost finished the AT. You are not a lazy hiker, and you have earned a cold beer from Lazy Hiker Brewing and a zero-day. You can also pack some of their cans back out on the trail because AT hikers tend to carry too much weight anyway.
As the host of the annual AT Trail Days, Damascus is perhaps the most famous trail town on the Appalachian Trail. I stumbled upon Damascus Brewing in an industrial area when walking to the grocery store to resupply. The outside looked cold and uninviting, but the inside was warm and friendly. The beer is excellent, and there is a fascinating obsession with beavers.
Northbound hikers will likely have sore feet from the rocky Mogollon Rim section of the AZT. So be sure to stop and rest your feet at That Brewery on the short walk from the Arizona Trail to Pine. I recommend their flagship beer, the Arizona Trail Ale; 5% of the proceeds is donated to the Arizona Trail Association.
Dark Sky Brewing
Flagstaff has several excellent breweries, but only Dark Sky Brewing shares space with Pizzicletta, a wood-fired pizza restaurant. This is certainly the best brewery and pizza combination on the Arizona Trail and perhaps any National Scenic Trail.
Pacific Northwest Trail
Port Townsend, Washington
The PNT is a wild and remote trail stretching from the Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean. There are no breweries until the route reaches the Puget Sound area. So, when you step off the ferry in Port Townsend, I recommend you turn left and walk the short distance to Propolis Brewing. It’s perfect for a barrel-aged sour or farmhouse ale while you coordinate your Olympic National Park permits.
Don’t do this
Remember, you are an ambassador for future hikers. Be courteous and respectful:
- You and your gear probably smell. Sit outside or away from others if you haven’t cleaned up.
- Ask permission before bringing your pack into an establishment or charging a device.
- Tip well.
- Don’t overindulge.
About the Author
Mike Unger is an avid hiker, cyclist, and urban walker from White Salmon, Washington. He has hiked all the trails and had beers at all the establishments discussed in the article. Mike is also a contributing writer for Treeline Review.