Beer and Hike Pairings for Refreshing PNW Adventures

Beer and Hike Pairings for Refreshing PNW Adventures

Words and photos by Brandon Fralic

Hike first, beer later. That’s been our motto since 2013, when my partner and I started a blog about “beer hiking” in Bellingham, Washington. It began as a simple hobby – we’d go for a hike and hit the nearest brewery afterwards for a celebratory pint. In the years since, we’ve sampled hundreds of trail-and-ale pairings, combining 50 of our favorites into a guidebook called Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest.

Sometimes, we pack in a couple of cans to enjoy at the summit, always packing them back out to ensure that we leave no trace. Typically, though, we enjoy visiting nearby breweries whose oft-outdoorsy taprooms feel like an extension of the trail themselves. Whether you prefer to throw your beers in a backpack or save your celebration suds for the brewery, here are a few Pacific Northwest beer hikes to get you started.

Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest. Photo courtesy of Two Beers Brewing.

Seattle, WA: Little Si and Two Beers Brewing

Difficulty: Easy-moderate
Distance: 4.7 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet
Trailhead GPS: 47.487199, -121.753219
Pass Needed: Discover Pass

Our first trek up Little Si had been a long time coming. Growing up in northwest Washington, we’d hiked all over the North Cascades before first setting foot in North Bend. Rather than tackle the overwhelmingly popular (and notoriously crowded) Mount Si, we set our sights on Little Si — a humble 1,500-foot peak in Mount Si’s shadow. This easier route is a good alternative for those seeking a solid day hike located just outside of Seattle.

We hit the trail on a sunny Sunday afternoon, packing in a couple cans of one of our favorite summertime trail beers: Lima Loca by Two Beers Brewing. The trail kicks off with a climb, gaining steadily via switchbacks for the first quarter mile. Shortly after, it mellows out for a bit, winding beneath the forest canopy past moss and fern-encrusted boulders. This lush middle-section offers a welcome respite from the blazing summer heat. After a final push, we found ourselves standing at the summit, gazing over valley views with beer in-hand. Crisp, light, and refreshing, Lima Loca provided the perfect complement to our Little Si summit.

Peering up towards Mount Si from Little Si.

Pacific City, OR: Cape Kiwanda and Pelican Brewery

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.2 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Trailhead GPS: 45.215486, -123.970537
Pass Needed: None

There’s no need to pack any beer on this hike, as Pelican Pub and Brewery sits in the trailhead parking lot at Cape Kiwanda — right on the beach. We climbed the Great Dune for oceanside views, then headed back to Pelican for a pint of Kiwanda Cream Ale at sunset. Because where else can you walk right off the beach onto a sand-sprinkled brewpub floor?

Taking in the view of Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock from the dune.

Here’s an excerpt of the hike from page 23 of Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest:

“What is it about Cape Kiwanda that we find so appealing? Is it the drive-up beach access, Haystack Rock views, and spectacular sunsets? The promise of watching surfers and dory fishermen taking on the Pacific? Is it the Cape itself, changing hues in the sunlight, overshadowed only by the Great Dune? Or is it the Pelican Pub and Brewery that truly makes the Cape, offering beers at the beach from its prime location? For us, all of these factors combined are what make Cape Kiwanda so magical. But you’ll just have to visit to find out for yourself.”

Pacific City Beach, Oregon

Squamish, British Columbia: Sea to Summit Trail and Howe Sound Brewery

Difficulty: Difficult
Distance: 4.6 miles one-way
Elevation Gain: 3,012 feet
Trailhead GPS: 49.671137, -123.163601
Pass Needed: None

Parking Tip: Park at the Darrell Bay parking area across from the entrance to Shannon Falls for access to free all-day parking.

Accessible by both gondola and trail, the soaring Summit Lodge above Squamish, BC is a must-see along the highway from Vancouver to Whistler. We could have ridden the Sea-to-Sky Gondola to the top for easy-breezy beers overlooking Howe Sound, but why not earn those summit brews? 4.6 miles up sounded doable enough, so we hit the trail with plenty of water, climbing steep stairways, crossing waterfall-view bridges and scrambling over rocks. By the time we reached Summit Lodge we were completely spent.

Enjoying the views from the Summit Lodge, Squamish, BC

Thank goodness for Howe Sound’s Sky Pilot Northwest Pale Ale — the mountain-inspired brew made in collaboration with the Sea-to-Sky Gondola. After savoring a summit pint, we took the gondola down (CAD $15 for the download ticket) and popped over to Squamish proper to visit Howe Sound Brewing. Post-hike pizza and pints always hit the spot, and Howe Sound takes this classic combo to the next level by offering an onsite hotel for those who don’t want to leave. We awoke the next morning to Stawamus Chief Mountain views outside our window — inspiration for another day’s explorations.

The Sea-to-Sky Gondola is a great choice for those looking for an easier journey with unobstructed views.

Here’s an excerpt of the hike from page 207 of Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest:

“Sea to Summit Ascent. It’s a sexy trail name, no doubt — alliterative and alluring, the stuff of daydreams. But this trail is no fantasy. Those who set out on Sea to Summit Ascent will climb from 115 feet above sea level to 2,900 feet in 4.6 miles one-way. Perhaps somewhat underrated in terms of difficulty, Sea to Summit Trail gains 3,000 feet over terrain so steep that fixed ropes and chains are in place to assist you.

Yet the payoff is oh-so worth it. Trailside waterfalls gush with snowmelt, and views of Howe Sound improve with every mile. Gondolas pass quietly overhead — a reminder that your hike is only one-way. Fortunately most of the route is under tree cover, providing shelter from the elements. Summit Lodge awaits at the top, with plenty of attractions to keep you busy all day.”

Check out Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest for more information on these trail-and-ale pairings. Featuring 50 beer hikes throughout the PNW, it’s the most refreshing way to discover Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Cheers!

Brandon Fralic and Rachel Wood, authors of Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest.

SHOP THE GEAR USED IN THIS ARTICLE:

CARBON FIBER QUICK-LOCK TREKKING POLES, CORK GRIP


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