Nothing quite pairs as well as a strenuous hike and a post-trek beverage, which is why we’re taking the guesswork out of tracking down a drinking establishment after your hike. Sure, you don’t have to drink after physical exertion but, then again, why not?
We believe in rewarding yourself with a well-deserved libation and snack after a long-day’s ramble through the wilderness. Let’s head all around beautiful Colorado to discover our favorite hiking and drinking combinations, because what better way to explore what the state has to offer than by visiting its natural wonders and manmade watering holes?
Hike – Gem Lake
This 3.3-mile hike is a staple for front rangers and tourists, albeit a little arduous. The jaunt starts just outside of Estes Park up Devils Gulch Road. One plus to this hike as opposed to one of the more popular Rocky Mountain National Park hikes is avoiding those massive summer crowds. After a real thigh-burner, you’ll get some hard-earned views of the park from afar.
Drink – Spirit Hound Distillers, Lyons
Spirit Hound one of my favorite cocktail joints in Colorado, and not just because it’s 20 mins from my house! Tucked next to a gas station on Ute Highway, this place serves up strong, refreshing cocktails alongside a rustic mountain backdrop. The guys over at Spirit Hound have seemingly perfected the Colorado whisky drinking experience, from their down-to-earth cabin vibes to the perfect pours, barrel after barrel. Try a whisky flight or one of their delicious mixed drinks. Enjoy the grassy patio where you might even find an ultra-cool bluegrass band pickin’ strings during the summer months!
Drink picks: Whisky flight! For mixed drinks, my favorites are the Hooch and Hot and Dirty, both crafted with their signature vodka infused with spicy peppers, and the Old Fashioned.
Hike – Mt. Ida
Mount Ida (9.3 miles round trip) is one of the most underrated hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Maybe it’s the hike’s distance from the entrance, pushing you away from the large crowds. Be prepared for a long, winding drive through RMNP, which can add an hour or so of drive time during summer when caught behind gawking tourists. The hike itself is relatively empty most times and offers a great workout in addition to incredible panoramas of nearby Grand and Granby Lakes. Look for the cairns on the way down to find your way, the trail is easily lost through the rock field near the summit.
Drink – Rock Cut Brewery, Estes Park
Nestled at the base of Prospect Mountain is Rock Cut Brewery—a relatively well-kept secret in the area. The taproom has ample seating and their beers are crisp and refreshing after a long hike like Mt. Ida. Sample a few of their flagship beers with their 4-oz. pours.
Drink picks: Altruism Amber Ale
Hike – Walker Ranch Loop
This hike is a fantastic 7.9-mile loop, which you can take either clockwise or counter clockwise. Enjoy beautiful views and the sounds of the river running beside you. The trail is rated as difficult, but is probably more of a moderate rating for anyone in good shape. This is also a popular biking trail so hikers should stay alert and listen for passing bikers.
Drink – Oskar Blues, Longmont
As you head back into town, be sure to stop at the Oskar Blues flagship brewery in Longmont. Unwind after your climb in the Tasty Weasel Taproom. Enjoy the quirky ambiance and maybe even some live music. Expand your palette beyond the tried-and-true Dale’s and try one of their lesser-known ales.
Drink picks: The zesty, fruity Fugli or hydrate with the Beerito Mexican Lager.
Hike – Bear Creek Trail
For a hike right off main street, this 4.5-mile trail to a raging waterfall just can’t be beat. It’s best during late spring or early summer, when the snowmelt pushes the intensity of the breathtaking falls, but I’ve hiked it in August and the falls are still staggeringly impressive. It’s a great hike for all skill levels and definitely a good starter hike in the area.
Drink – Telluride Brewing Company
This brewery is nestled in a beautiful woodland setting, this homegrown brewery is the product of friendship and a love for this mountain community. The taproom is somewhat cozy, so seating may be sparse, but worth standing room only for beers made of crisp, natural Rocky Mountain snowmelt to create the extra smooth taste they’re famous for.
Drink Picks: Bridal Veil Rye Pale Ale, the Tempter IPA and the Face Down Brown Ale.
Hike – Blue Lakes Trail
This beautiful hike is best taken during wildflower season in July, when they are most in bloom. This trail boasts vast meadows, waterfalls and incredible views of the San Juan Mountain Range—and that’s before the real payoff. The hike’s culmination are the lower and upper lakes with their dazzling blue hues caused by glacial runoff. Be sure to hike past the lower lake to get a view from above at the upper lake, around 8 miles. More adventurous souls (with unfatigued legs) can keep on climbing to Blue Lakes Pass to get a view of both lakes from above (11 miles).
Drink – Colorado Boy Pub and Brewery, Ridgeway
You can’t go wrong with pizza and beer after an 11-mile wander, am I right? Off Clinton street in Ridgeway, Colorado Boy has great food, crisp beers and down-home vibes. With tasters as cheap as $1.75, you can try everything without breaking the bank.
Drink picks: Try them all!
Hike – Bald Mountain Trail, Breckenridge
Playfully known as “Baldy”, this 8-mile hike is one of my favorites in the area. While not as busy as nearby Quandary, Bald Mountain offers some incredible views of the Ten Mile Range. As with most hikes in the area, be prepared for strong winds and afternoon storms. Most of the trail is a moderate climb up a wide 4×4 road, until the summit where some scrambling is necessary. Meaning, yes, you can drive the route, but what’s the fun in that? At the top, be prepared for the most spectacular panoramic views of Breckenridge below.
Drink – Outer Ranger Brewing Co., Frisco
On your way home, be sure to stop by Outer Range Brewery—a hip, dog-friendly brewery in Frisco. While they don’t serve food, they have an amazing food truck from Wednesday to Sunday and are also a BYOF establishment, so you can grab your favorite snacks from nearby Whole Foods and nosh on them in the bar. Hang out and play board games in the outdoor yurt or score a table on the patio—spring has arrived, after all!
Drink picks: Outer Range IPA, Open Spaces Saison
Hike – Booth Lake
Another lengthy hike is Booth Lake, located in Vail. With a 3,000-foot elevation gain, this hike is not for the faint of heart. The trail winds through grassy hillsides until you reach Booth Falls, around 2 miles in. From here, the trail continues steeply until you reach the glassy alpine lake.
Drink – Bart and Yeti’s
Escape the tourist crowds with a beer at Bart & Yeti’s. Not to mention the establishment allows dogs and cats, so Fido can enjoy his own post-hike watering hole. This little bar is tucked in the Lionshead Village on Vail mountain and features great food and drink prices (especially for a resort town) and regular live music.
Drink picks: Whatever’s on special!