10 Favorite Places to Hike (+ Where to Apres Hike)
I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to live and work in many different parts of the West in my life. Doing seasonal work is exciting in that you do get to live in places most people only get to visit and really immerse yourself in the local mountains. During my time in the West though I've loved them all I have come to love more spots more than others. I am always excited to experience a new place, but some places keep me coming back again and again. So I have decided to compile a list in no particular order of my 10 favorite places to hike and I have also included the best spots to partake in apres hike. For those unfamiliar you may have heard the term apres ski which is the act of going to grab a beer/drink with friends after a day on the slopes. Well, apres hike is that same concept but after a hike instead. Like many who enjoy the outdoors I am also a fan of craft beer, I have worked in breweries and find the community of a brewery to be the perfect place to enjoy an apres hike. So having said that, all of the apres hike spots on my list are breweries where both quality of the beer and the brewery's vibe were taken into account while determining my favorite spots. Without further ado, take a look at my list for my 10 favorite places to hike and where to apres hike afterwards.
Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington
In far northern Washington on the border of Canada lies what may be one of the most enchanting hiking destinations in the country, maybe even the world, the Mount Baker Wilderness. Mount Baker is a stunning 10,786 foot glacier crowned volcano that can be seen easily from Seattle on a clear day despite being a 3 hour drive north of the city. The region is chalk full of stunning hiking trails that range from easy family friendly dayhikes to immersive multi-day backpacking trips. What makes this area so special aside from being drop dead gorgeous is the easy access. A winding paved road makes its way from Bellingham up through the lush temperate rainforest ending at Artist Point, a stunning overlook of Mount Baker, icy Mount Shuksan, and the surrounding North Cascades. Along the route numerous trailheads dot the road which does make the area very popular. However, even with all the crowds there is a lot of opportunity for solitude and with so much explore I always find myself coming back here.
What makes Mount Baker even more special is after the hike heading back to Bellingham (one of the best adventure towns in America in my opinion) for some truly stunning beer at Aslan Brewing Company. They have two locations in town (and a third in the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle) one of which is their main brewery that has an amazing food menu to boot (might I suggest the Bison Burger). Whether it's hazy IPAs or rice lagers everything they make is crisp, smooth, and well balanced. Aslan is an essential visit for the craft beer fan and one of my personal favorite breweries I've ever been to!
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Ah, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, 400,000 acres of pure Cascadian bliss! Lush old growth forests, craggy granite peaks, and hundreds of pristine sparkling alpine lakes made this special wilderness area one of my most frequented hiking spots when I lived in Seattle. With easy access from Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass, Leavenworth, and Cle Elum there is a lot to explore with portions of the wilderness being only an hour from downtown Seattle! For this reason the Alpine Lakes obviously sees heavy traffic especially with the PCT running right through the heart of the wilderness, but despite the crowds I have always been able to find solitude you just have to know where to look.
After a long day on the trail head back to Seattle for an apres hike at one or both of my favorite breweries in Seattle, Fremont Brewing in Fremont (obviously) and Optimism Brewing in Capitol Hill. These two breweries make exceptional beer with just about anything they put out being a winner. In a city full of great breweries this is saying something! In addition, these two breweries may have the best taprooms in Seattle. Fremont Brewing offers a large outdoor patio overlooking Lake Union and downtown Seattle. It is a local favorite even in the cold rainy winter. Optimism on the other hand is in the heart of Capitol Hill (home of the city's vibrant nightlife), easy to access from public transit, this massive open warehouse style taproom is perfect for getting together with a big group of friends for a chill Friday night or after a day of hiking in the Alpine Lakes.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
They say good things don't come easy, that may in fact be North Cascades National Park's motto. Located in northern Washington this large national park requires some serious investment to experience the best the park has to offer. Only one road cuts through the park and little of what the park offers can be seen in the steep forested valley the road passes through. For those willing to put in the effort North Cascades is among the best parks in the country. Enchanted forest, raging rivers, and an endless sea of toothy glacier crowned peaks, it doesn't get much better. One backpacking trip into the "American Alps" as they are often called and you are sure to be hooked for life!
After a challenging backpacking trip into this unforgettable wilderness head east to the charming town of Winthrop, WA for an unpretentious brewery with world class beer. Old Schoolhouse Brewery is well...in an old schoolhouse, right in the middle of Winthrop. Located along the Methow River with a large outdoor patio in summer, Old Schoolhouse may be the most unexpected brewery I've been to. The people are friendly, the food is good, and man oh man the beer is stunning! Juicy cloud like hazys, aggressive hoppy West Coast IPAs, and crisp refreshing lagers that match any brewery I've ever been to. This small brewery in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere has no business being this good and that is what I love about Old Schoolhouse!
Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
I told myself when I made this list they were in no particular order, no rankings, just my 10 favorite places to hike. Well, the Ansel Adams may very well be my all time favorite place I've ever hiked. The Sierra in California are one of a kind like nowhere else on Earth. An impressive mix of geographical and geological forces have come together to create this special mountain range. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Ansel Adams Wilderness near Mammoth Lakes, California. This wilderness is home to the mighty Minarets, a sub range featuring a unique blend of igneous and metamorphic rock rising to impossibly jagged peaks. Beneath the Minarets lie dozens of stunning alpine lakes each more scenic than the last with a maze of trails for hikers and backpackers to enjoy. A permit system keeps the area feeling wild despite its popularity and it is a place I see myself returning again and again.
This brings me to our next apres hike spot, June Lake Brewing in June Lake, CA. This is a particularly special brewery to me as it is where I was first introduced to craft beer while I worked at June Mountain as a liftie. After a long day of work my friends and I would find ourselves grabbing a beer, playing fuseball, and devouring some of the insanely good Hawaiian food from the local food truck, Ohanas. Those were some of the best days of my life! Nothing wrong with mixing some good quality beer with a little nostalgia, eh.
Montana de Oro State Park, California
Not every hike has to be some extensive wilderness excursion, sometimes you just want to take a stroll in nature. Montana de Oro State Park on California's Central Coast is that place for me. Located a short 20 minutes from San Luis Obispo, this coastal state park is a paradise. A generous network of trails ranging from paved boardwalks to steep singletrack hug the dramatic cliffs and rolling coastal hills. You can explore the tidepools at low tide or climb high into the hills with wide expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and nearby Morro Bay. You can walk among a eucalyptus forest or traverse a coastal plain riddled with wildflowers in the early spring. A yearround escape with easy access for those living nearby. A coastal California wonderland!
The Central Coast of California is no stranger to excellent beer, but one of my favorite breweries in San Luis Obispo has got to be Bang the Drum Brewery. With a great selection of beer it is only made better by having an awesome open air taproom with massive patio allowing visitors to take advantage of those beautiful sunny California days. A laid back, welcoming environment makes this brewery among the best on the Central Coast and one not to be missed!
Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon
For the geology nerds out there, the volcanism on display in the Three Sisters Wilderness is impressive to say the least! Located in central Oregon near the iconic adventure town of Bend lies a chain of three massive stratovolcanoes known as the Three Sisters. These commanding peaks are completely protected within the boundaries of the sprawling Three Sisters Wilderness, a world class playground for hikers and backpackers. The terrain here features some of the best examples of volcanic activity outside of Hawaii with old lava flows strewn among the landscape (some of these flows are less than 1,000 years old). The trails here are feats of engineering as they wind through ancient old growth forests, pleasant wildflower filled alpine meadows, as well as expansive fields of lava rock that would be simply impossible to traverse without an established trail. It certainly holds the award for most unique place I've ever hiked and I can't wait to return!
After a long day in the volcanic wonderland return to Bend for some good times and good beer at Boss Rambler Beer Club. New to the heavily saturated brewery scene in Bend, Boss Rambler has quickly taken off as a fan favorite with a fun inviting atmosphere in the taproom in addition to conjuring up some of the juiciest, haziest IPAs in Oregon. If you're looking for a quality New Age brewery look no further than Boss Rambler!
Mount Hood, Oregon
If you are noticing a trend with my favorite places to hike being in the vicinity of volcanoes then you are correct. There is something just so unique and magical about being in the presence of these ancient giants. Mount Hood in Oregon is no exception. The tallest peak in the state at over 11,000 feet, this iconic volcano is full of excellent hiking and backpacking opportunities for all abilities. While the slopes of the peak itself offer great hiking (the Timberline Trail for example), I have always preferred trails in the vicinity of the peak itself (like the image above) where you can get a wide, yet up close view of Hood's majesty. There is also the nearby Columbia River Gorge that despite becoming absurdly busy in the past few years still offers a delightful hiking experience, especially during the spring wildflower season.
It was a tough call where to choose the best apres hike for Mount Hood. Do we go to Portland for brewery heaven (Great Notion, Breakside, Modern Times, to name a few) or head to Hood River for even more brewery heaven. Well, it was a tough call but you really can't beat pFriem Family Brewers in Hood River for a clean crisp organic beer after a long day or days on the trail. Located right on the Columbia River this excellent brewery is a PNW classic with fresh organic beer that is both traditional and modern. Be aware however the secret is out so the challenge is getting a spot in the taproom. Plan ahead, it will be worth it!
Cape Perpetua, Oregon
The Oregon Coast is absolutely full of little hidden gems and wonders over its 360 mile stretch between Washington and California. Unfortunately most of the coast has been severely fragmented by over logging and commercial build-up so it is a challenge to find long hikes or especially backpacking options here. However, that isn't to say there isn't fun spots to hike. One of my favorites is on the central Oregon Coast, Cape Perpetua. This rugged stretch of the Oregon Coast with easy access from Highway 101 has a nice variety of hiking options. At low tide you can head down the Captain Cook Trail to the tidepools where can see the impressive Thor's Well, a hole in the rock above an undersea cave where waves crash into the cave walls sending water shooting out of the hole like a geyser. For a different experience take the steep trail up to an overlook above Cape Perpetua with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged coastal hills. What sets this area apart however is two small wilderness areas (Cummins Creek + Rock Creek) that provide a rare glimpse into untracked old growth coastal rainforests that are a relict of what this coastline used to be before human settlers moved in.
Like Old Schoolhouse Brewery in the tiny town of Winthrop, WA, there is a brewery sitting just minutes north of Cape Perpetua that has no business being as good as it is. Yachats Brewing + Farmhouse in the tiny coastal community of Yachats (pronounced Yah-hoots) is my favorite brewery on the Oregon Coast. With a beautiful taproom that looks more like it belongs in Portland than in this tiny town of 553 people, Yachats offers world class beer and even more exceptional food. Their menu is ever changing offering farm to table eats with modern culinary twists. My first time going I had the Kimchi Grilled Cheese which was to die for. Not to mention a large and interesting tap lists with beers such as a "Pre-Prohibition Pilsner" and a "Foeder Fermented Mixed-Culture Wild Ale" just name a few. Next time you find yourself on the Oregon Coast, give Yachats a try you won't regret it!
Glacier National Park, Montana
This may be the most well known and obvious spot on my list, but man oh man the hype is real people. Glacier National Park is home to the most impressive mountains in America no question about it. These mountains are large, intimidating, and absolutely gorgeous. The park itself is also a geographical and biological wonder. Geographically the park is hope to the "Triple Divide" where water from a single peak will flow towards the Atlantic Ocean on one side, another side will flow to the Pacific, and another will flow north to the Arctic Ocean. This is where the park gets the nickname "The Crown of the Continent". In addition, the park's flora and fauna is interesting as well. The park's western half is very wet and mild with vibrant old growth forests containing hemlock and western red cedars just like you'd find in the PNW. Crossing over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, the park's eastern half is a different world being much colder and drier. Here the environment is much more similar to that of the Rocky Mountains with lodgepole pine dominating the slopes, eventually giving way to wide open prairie grasslands at the eastern entrance. It is an incredible mosaic of environments in just a few short miles.
Whitefish, Montana is a premier outdoor town about 40 minutes from the park's western entrance. It is also home to Bonsai Beer Project, a wonderful little spot at the edge of town that is a perfect place to relax after hitting the trail. The inside of the taproom is a bit tight, but in summer they offer as massive outdoor lawn space with tables to sit and enjoy those perfect Montana summer days.
Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado
Location, location, location. Seattle provided great access to an number of stunning wilderness areas, but my new home here in Colorado has opened the door to even easier outdoor access. While I spend most of my time in Rocky Mountain National Park, the park's next door neighbor the Indian Peaks Wilderness has quickly made its way onto my list of favorites. While the Rocky Mountain National Park is great, it is usually quite crowded. The Indian Peaks on the other hand tends to be visited mainly by locals which makes it typically quiet on weekdays (weekends are another story). This incredible wilderness area is close, in fact I am looking out my window as I type this at the exact peaks in this photo above. The ease of access on top of being just absolutely gorgeous makes this an easy pick for a go to hiking destination for me. The craggy granite peaks with the lush vibrant alpine meadows and numerous pristine lakes make the Indian Peaks unbeatable in my opinion. A true Colorado classic!
Like Seattle or Bend finding a perfect apres hike spot is challenging since there are so many great options. One in particular I have recently stumbled upon is Wild Provisions Beer Project in Boulder, CO. A project of 4 Noses Brewing that specializes in Czech style lagers and Wild Fermented ales this brewery is an excellent spot to apres hike. The taproom is sleek and modern, it reminds me a bit of Optimism in Seattle despite being much smaller. The beer from both Wild Provisions and 4 Noses is interesting and tasty to boot. A newer brewery I suspect will be a major player in the massive beer scene in the Denver area over the coming years.
Bonus: Olympic National Park, Washington
Okay, I originally didn't put Olympic National Park on the list because I couldn't think of a good spot to apres hike, but at the end of the day Olympic National Park in Washington must sit on this list as it will always be a top spot for me to return to. I mean this gigantic park is nearly 95% designated wilderness with big mountains, enchanted forest, and unspoiled rugged coastline. I can't get enough of it! Its massive size makes it quite simple to lose the crowds despite being in relatively close proximity to Seattle. It offers rare opportunities to camp on the desolate beaches within the park, witness some of the largest and oldest trees on Earth as well as be provided with some of the wildest views I've ever seen. On a clear day from one of the numerous peaks you can see the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver Island, the Puget Sound, downtown Seattle, Mount Rainier, the San Juan Islands, and beyond in one mid blowing 360 degree view. This list would simply not be complete without Olympic!
As far as apres hike I found this a good opportunity to include a few more Seattle breweries worth checking out. In the Ballard neighborhood there is an area that is chalk full of breweries all within walking distance making for a relaxing Saturday afternoon activity with friends. A few breweries I recommend in Ballard are Rueben's, Stoup, Urban Family, Great Notion, and the Lagunitas Beer Sanctuary. All of these fine breweries you really can't go wrong with so whether you make the long drive back to Seattle to apres hike or save it for another day you bound to have a good time. Don't miss these great spots!
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