Epic Trails to Epic Taverns

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If you’ve been following our Trail to Tavern series, you now have dozens of ideas for exciting days on the trail, paired with unique and convenient pubs. We’ve covered a variety of major cities like San Francisco and Chicago, as well as our original hometown of Telluride, Colorado. But it’s also nice to dream once in awhile, so here we’ve collected a few epic trails paired with epic taverns.

First, let’s define epic, because the word can certainly be over-used. In this case, we’re concerning ourselves with very long or very difficult trails, and the unique restaurants and bars near them. We’ve asked our friends at RootsRated for a few domestic as well as a few more exotic trails for you. While these trail to tavern duos may not be quite as easily-accessible as the previous pairings, we hope these give you a few additions to your adventure travel wish list.

The Doyle Hotel on the Appalachian Trail

Why not start with any long-distance hiker’s ultimate bucket-list item, an Appalachian Trail thru-hike? We’re assuming you’re familiar with the AT, but RootsRated editor Ry Glover offers a colorful account of his AT thru-hike that’s worth a read. Hikers have two major decisions to make before beginning: whether to start in the North or South, and whether to go for speed or relax and enjoy all the side trips and towns you’ll find along the way. Answers to both of these questions may ultimately be dictated by your budget and timeline, but no matter how you choose to enjoy the trail, you shouldn’t miss the Doyle Hotel.


Gerry Dincher (mods made)

Located in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, where Susquehanna and Juniata rivers come together, the Doyle has a reputation for being hiker-friendly. In fact, Glover includes this spot as one of the seven places where AT thru-hikers must stop. His description says it all: “It’s legendary. Run by one of the friendliest couples you’ll ever meet, the building is ancient with a lot of character, the food is greasy with a lot of calories, and the beer is plentiful with a lot of, er, drinkability. This is a hotel that was originally built in the 1770’s and where Charles Dickens once stayed, so while you’re sipping your Yuengling (be sure to call it a ‘lager’), try to appreciate this place for what it’s become: a weary, old building where weary, old hikers can come together and collectively find a little life and rejuvenation.”

Tour de Mont Blanc + Poco Loco in Chamonix, France

Now let’s head a little farther afield, to France. The Tour de Mont Blanc seems consciously designed for those of us who want to take this “trail to tavern” idea to the next level. In fact, our writer Matt Guenther cites the food along the way as one of the top reasons to hike this route. There are more than 50 places to stop along the way, so no matter what pace you choose to hike this 105-mile circuit of Mont Blanc, you’ll always have a convenient resting point.

Matt Guenther
Matt Guenther

Since we’re choosing one place to feature, Poco Loco in Chamonix takes top honors. Guenther said that he returned to this place, known for its generous and delicious hamburgers, a few times during his trip. It might be surprising to hear us recommend a burger place that sounds more like a Mexican joint in France, but Tripadvisor reviewers agree; this is the #1 restaurant out of 174 restaurants in this little ski town. The tiny restaurant serves affordable burgers and fries, and has great vegetarian options as well.

Hiking Telescope Peak in Death Valley + Beer at Panamint Springs Resort

Seasoned hikers know that the desert often holds amazing surprises–from unexpected oases teeming with life to once-in-a-decade superblooms when the desert explodes with color and life. One of the most rewarding hikes in the desert southwest takes hikers through several ecosystems and up to the highest point in Death Valley.

Telescope Peak towers above Death Valley National Park
Telescope Peak towers above Death Valley National Park. Rob Hannawacker.

Hiking to the top of Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park yields amazing panoramic views and a sense of accomplishment after seven difficult, uphill trail miles. You’ll gain 11,300 feet from the desert floor to the highest point in the park. This very remote hike in an already remote park will take you off the grid. You’ll pass landmarks like the historic charcoal kilns and Arcane Meadows, where Death Valley got its name. According to William L. Manly’s book about his party of 49ers traveling west in the California gold rush, “ours were the first visible footsteps, and we the party which named it the saddest and most dreadful name that came to us first from its memories.” After struggling through weeks of being lost and hungry in the Great Basin and Death Valley, one of the women in the party turned back over her shoulder and said, “goodbye Death Valley.”

Luckily, the return trip is all downhill, and today’s visitors to this forbidding wilderness have a man-made oasis in the form of a bar, motel and cabins right outside the park. Well stocked with what our writer Krista Diamond calls an “incomprehensibly massive beer selection,” and providing a place to stay and refuel, you’ll find the Panamint Springs Resort on highway 190 on the way back out of the park if you’re headed west.

Rainbow Rim Trail + Roughrider Saloon

We have to throw one in for the mountain bikers, and this one’s truly epic. As part of Kaibab National Forest, this trail operates under different management from the neighboring National Park lands. As a result, unlike all other trails along Grand Canyon’s massive rim, the Rainbow Rim Trail allows mountain bikes. While avoiding the crowds and tour buses, you’ll get spectacular panoramic views into the canyon. The higher elevation of the Kaibab plateau makes this North Rim trail relatively more wooded and full of wildlife compared to the more-visited South Rim. The most difficult part of this adventure? Attempting to balance your workout with the constant temptation to pull over and take yet another photograph of the stunning views into the canyon.


FX Gagnon/Alta Expedition

End your day’s adventure with drinks at the Roughrider Saloon. Absorb some of the Teddy Roosevelt stories and learn how this game preserve eventually became a national park, or just get your cocktail to go (they actually do that). Just a few steps away, you’ll find beautiful sunset views over the canyon. It’s worth noting that the Saloon also serves coffee and basic breakfast fare in the morning.

Echo Summit to Donner Pass (PCT) + High Camp at Squaw Valley

You’ll get extra credit on this hike, after which you’ll have experience with two iconic trails: the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) and the Tahoe Rim Trail. The 64-mile section from Echo Summit to Donner Pass will take backpackers about six or seven days depending on pace. Since the trail has snow cover in winter, we recommend a spring or fall hike. As RootsRated writer Jill Sanford explains, “epic granite slopes and sparkling alpine lakes make this 64 mile stretch of the PCT between Echo Summit and Donner Pass one for the record books.”

Donner Pass Summit on the PCT in California
Donner Pass Summit on the PCT in California. Bruce C. Cooper.

For the “tavern” part of this pairing, you won’t want to miss High Camp at Squaw Valley resort, where you can rest and enjoy a dip in their hot tub. Order a craft beer or a cocktail and enjoy the view provided by the 8,200’ elevation. You’ll definitely be paying resort prices, but it’s worth it for the location. Visitors who aren’t doing the backpacking route can also pay for a gondola ride up to High Camp, and go for an out-and-back day hike. In fact, all of the trails listed here would make for great day hikes as well.

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Matt Guenther.

How to Have an Awesome Microbrew Tour in Jackson County

Innovation Brewery

 

Loaded with more microbreweries than any other southeastern state, North Carolina is rightfully recognized as one of the country’s booming bastions of craft beer. While Asheville’s heavily concentrated collection of microbreweries may have made the town North Carolina’s capital of craft beer, one of the state’s most singular beer trails is just west of the city, in mountain-rippled, stream-laced Jackson County.

Jackson County features an eclectic trio of breweries around Sylva.
Jackson County features an eclectic trio of breweries around Sylva. Photo Courtesy of JCTDA.

The Jackson County Ale Trail makes for a compact, craft-brew loaded pub crawl. The scenic, mile-long route winds through picturesque Sylva, showcasing the town’s closely concentrated but eclectic trio of breweries—including Heinzelmännchen Brewing, Innovation Brewing, and the newly opened Sneak E Squirrel. The trail’s taprooms serve everything from time-tested classic ales, to outdoor-inspired seasonal brews, to experimental flavor fusions with limited release, guaranteeing Sylva’s collection of craft breweries will proffer a pints sure to satisfy even the pickiest palates.

The ale trail’s first stop is the Sneak E Squirrel, the most recent arrival to Sylva’s craft brewing scene, opening last year in a creatively repurposed car dealership. The tap list at the newly minted microbrewery is largely driven by inspired interpretations of classic European-style ales, punctuated with inventive fusions like the Pepper Squirrel Habanero IPA.

The Sneak E Squirrel features creative interpretations on classic European-style ales.
The Sneak E Squirrel features creative interpretations on classic European-style ales. JCTDA.

The Sneak E Squirrel’s breadth of beers includes options like the 221 Sneak E, a traditional English bitter; the Clockwork Zombie, a Belgian wit style beer infused with hints of cherry and pomegranate; and the full-bodied Parrot Porter. The whimsical hangout includes barroom treasures like billiards and ping pong, and you’ll find the place scattered with assorted board games, including rarities like Star Trek Catan. The brewery also dishes up an imaginative menu, with elevated munchies like fried green tomatoes and truffle fries. Specials include the likes of Riblettes served with Bananas Foster and playful plates like the Pork Belly BLT and the Fat Elvis—a sandwich loaded with bacon, peanut butter and fried bananas. Best of all, the menu even includes suggested beer pairings for every dish.

For artsy ale enthusiasts, the Sneak E Squirrel is also the perfect place to pick up an original work. The brewery showcases the work of local artists—offering an array of unique pieces for sale, with displays changing every two weeks to highlight different contributors.

After the Sneak E Squirrel, mosey along to the Heinzelmännchen Brewery in downtown Sylva, the second stop on the ale trail, and the town’s longest-standing microbrewery. Heinzelmännchen’s German-born brewmaster Dieter Kuhn has been crafting Bavarian-inspired beers at the location since 2004, alongside his wife and brewery co-owner Sheryl Rudd.

Heinzelmännchen is Sylva's oldest microbrewery.
Heinzelmannchen is Sylva’s oldest microbrewery. Photo Courtesy of JCTDA.

The brewery’s cozy and casual taproom serves well-rounded collection of ales, with offerings like the Ancient Days Honey Blonde Ale, a crisp, pilsner-style beer infused with locally harvested honey; the rich Black Forest Stout, flavored with notes of roasted coffee and caramel; or the hearty but highly drinkable Middleworld Brown Ale, with a flavor profile distinguished with slight traces of toffee.

Heinzelmännchen’s beers can also be interspersed with samples of the brewery’s nostalgia- inducing offerings—non-alcoholic root beer and autumn red birch beer, also available both by half-gallon or the keg. To round out the authentic Bavarian beer hall experience, the brewery offers locally made soft pretzels served with Asheville-produced Lusty Monk mustard.

Behind the scenes at Innovation Brewing.
Behind the scenes at Innovation Brewing. Photo Courtesy of JCTDA.

Finally, cap off the Jackson County brewery crawl at the ale trail’s third stop, Innovation Brewing. Boasting the lengthiest beer list of Sylva’s three breweries, Innovation Brewing has more than 30 different options on tap, pouring everything from beloved year-round mainstay brews to experimental ales and rotating seasonal options. The extensive beer selection at the three-year-old brewery includes constants like the Afternoon Delight Blonde Ale, the Hoppy Camper IPA, and the Nitro Irish Stout, mingled with rarities and seasonal brews like the Nitro Coffee Blonde, the Orange Berlinerweiss, and the Beet and Basil Pale Ale.

Aside from the beers, the beloved Sylva-based food truck Cosmic Carryout is also reliably anchored in the brewery’s outdoor beer garden on a daily basis. The laidback location also regularly hosts live music, featuring shows on Saturday nights. Earlier this year, the environmentally conscious brewery also took an ambitious step to reduce the location’s energy footprint by mounting 100 solar panels on the location’s rooftop.

Originally written by RootsRated for Jackson County Tourism Development Authority. Featured image provided by Nick Breedlove.

Great American Road Trips

 

Roadside diners, Main Streets, purple mountains majesty, local radio stations, amber waves of grain…. We love a good summer road trip. It’s the perfect mix of nostalgia and nomad, where rubber meets the road meets the boiled peanut hawker on I-40. Saddle up your trusty 4-wheeled steed (or 2-wheeled, if you’re gutsy), and hit the open road. Here are a few of our favorite Great American Road Trips:

The Ultimate New Mexico Road Trip

New Mexico, a land of desert, green chile, sand dunes, hot springs and caves doesn’t get nearly enough credit. The ‘Land of Enchantment’ is a bona fide mecca for exploration, discovery, scenic (and dull) stretches of highway, UFO’s, and endless adventure. This 7-day road trip itinerary takes you from Denver to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, a stopover in gorgeous Taos, to the natural hot springs of Jemez Valley, over to White Sands National Monument, down to otherworldly Carlsbad Caverns National Park, then back up to Santa Fe via Roswell – because what’s a trip to NM without a trip to UFO country?

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Carlsbad Caverns, NM. John Fowler.

Quintessential Colorado 

To many, Denver is the true gateway to the West. Like so many early frontiersmen, who reached the western edge of the High Plains and gazed upon the Front Range in both terror and excitement, the Mile High City (Denver) still acts as the ultimate springboard for Colorado adventure. Combine the glory of the open road with the solace of the mountains on this 7-day journey from Denver over some of the nation’s most scenic highways. Head south out of Denver to the Collegiate Peaks, through the Sawatch Range to Crested Butte, marvel at Gunnison National Park, sip wine in Grand Valley, float the Yampa River, relax in Steamboat Springs, hike Estes Park (and a drink at The Shining‘s Stanley Hotel) and watch the sunset over the Flatirons on Day 7. Are we there yet?
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Black Canyon and Gunnison River, CO. Terry Foote.

Light Out From Seattle 

One of the best things about Seattle is how many beautiful places are within easy reach, but some of the Pacific Northwest’s most amazing areas are far enough from Seattle that they require a whole weekend (at least) to explore them. Take the North Cascades National Scenic Highway (Hwy 20) east toward Methow Valley. Take a ferry across the sound and start up the Olympic Coast for a weekend of clamming, hiking and camping on the beach if you’ve got a good sleeping bag. Sneak across the Canadian border to Squamish to hike to the top of Stawamus Chief. Fill up on oysters and embrace Washington’s surf culture (yes, they have one) in the Westport. Take a week off and connect all 4 weekend getaways into one great road trip.

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Shi Shi Beach on the Olympic Coast, WA. Scott Neilson.

American History in Pennsylvania

You can’t help but feel patriotic when you roll through the Keystone State. Surrounded by 6 states and with the great Appalachian Mountains running right through the middle, there’s no shortage of Americana in PA. For history buffs and lovers of all things kitsch, start in the City of Brotherly Love – birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution, and the resting place of the Liberty Bell. People-watch in Franklin Square and hit up the nation’s oldest bars for a cold one. Head out of the city on Route 30 for a scenic drive through the little farm towns that make up the fabric of the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside (“Dutch” refers to the German culture brought over by Protestant immigrants in the 17th century). Lancaster County is the seat of Amish Country and home to the Lancaster Central Market; pop in on Fridays for local shoo-fly-pie and chicken corn soup. Hop back on the 30 toward Gettysburg. Spend a few hours exploring the battlefields. Hook up with the Appalachian Trail via Caledonia State Park and spend a few nights camping on the great AT.

Lancaster_County_Amish_03Amish buggy in Lancaster County, PA.

Hidden Gems of the Midwest 

What’s a road trip without a pit stop at the “World’s Largest” roadside attraction? Luckily, the land of 1,000 lakes also seems to have a thousand pit stops. What the Midwest lacks in elevation, it more than makes up for with quirky, memorable sights and attractions. Here are 11 detours you should add to any trip through Middle America. Native American effigies, massive waterfalls, manicured gardens, the National Mustard Museum and even the American Gothic house. Smile for the camera!

Dinosaur

Not actually in the Midwest, but how about that Cabazon Dinosaur?! Say “Cheese!”

The 5 Best National Parks for Car Camping

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When it comes to camping in the outdoors, it really doesn’t get much better than the national parks. Home to some of the country’s grandest and most treasured natural landscapes, the national parks are simply loaded with gorgeous places to pitch a tent or hang a hammock beneath the stars. And if it’s ease you’re going for, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more convenient method than car camping.

With car camping, you can reap the same benefits of getting away from it all with a fraction of the hassle and way better food. Just pack the car with a tricked out sleeping system, fill the cooler (bring the good beer), and some good company. You’ll be in the mobile lap of luxury. And some national parks are just too big not to have a car; you need to drive across and see all that the park has to offer (like the TWO deserts that converge in Joshua Tree National Park). Camping, road trips and the National Parks go together like red, white and blue. So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite great American parks to hit the road (and then then hay):

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cades Cove Loop Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Cades Cove Loop Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Kevin Kelley

 

At over half a million acres, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves some of the most beautiful forest lands in the East. The park straddles the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, making it a convenient diversion for many East Coast road trips. While there are a number of beautiful campsites throughout this large park, the campground at Cades Cove is our pick for top car-camping destination.

As one of the most popular gateways to the park, Cades Cove will be crowded, especially in the warmer months. However, a trip to this area provides a fascinating window into the history of Appalachian culture and serves as basecamp for some of the best day hiking trips in the park.

From your campsite, explore some of the most famous park locations, such as Rocky Top, the inspiration for the well-known University of Tennessee fight song. While that’s a strenuous and fairly long day hike (nearly 14 miles), there are great short options as well. The five-mile hike into Abrams Falls is perfect for the entire family, and offers a nice swimming hole to cool off on a hot summer day. And then you can’t forget about cycling the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop; the campground store even offers bike rentals if you don’t have the space to bring your own.

2. Big Bend National Park

Stargazing in Big Bend National Park.
Stargazing in Big Bend National Park. Keith Yahl

 

As the old song goes, “The stars at night / are big and bright / deep in the heart of Texas” and nowhere else in the Lone Star State is that more true than in Big Bend National Park. Big Bend was named as a dark-sky park by the International Dark-Sky Association in 2012, making it one of the few places in the United States that is almost completely free of artificial light pollution. You’ll get blazing views of the Milky Way, thousands of stars and planets, satellites, shooting stars and even the faintly glowing clouds of distant nebulae.

Big Bend is open year-round, with the best camping opportunities in the cooler winter months. There are three established campgrounds in the park, each offering a different perspective. Rio Grande Village is the largest, with 100 sites (43 of which can be reserved) tucked in a cottonwood grove close to the Rio Grande River. Cottonwood Campground is a small 24 site first-come-first-serve area that sits in a shady retreat in the desert. And finally, there is Chisos Basin Campground, perched over 5,000 feet with 60 campsites, 26 of which can be reserved. Chisos has the best access to the hiking trails, including the Window Trail, one of the most popular in the park thanks to its access to scenic canyons and ancient rock formations.

Each campground in the park is a comfortable oasis to immerse yourself into the land. When the sun goes down, the artistry of the night sky illuminates the heavens, bathing the living desert in pale shades of blue and green interstellar light.

3. Glacier National Park

Campsite in Glacier National Park.
Campsite in Glacier National Park. Steve Cyr

 

Known as the “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier National Park is a 1-million acre land of soaring peaks, sparkling lakes, diverse and abundant wildlife, and of course tons of recreational opportunities, with over 700 miles of trails spiderwebbing throughout the park and no less than 13 different campgrounds featuring a whopping 1,000 sites—so you’ve got options to say the least!

The park is also so large that most people visit a section at a time, and could easily spend a whole vacation exploring each one. So, a car is essentially a must-have—especially when you throw into the mix the fact that Glacier is home to some mighty impressive roads. Going-to-the-Sun Road, for instance, is a 50-mile drive through the center of the park, and it’s arguably the most scenic road in the Continental U.S. and hits most of the popular spots.

The Many Glacier Campground is probably the most popular campground in the park. As such, sites tend to fill up very quickly. But if you’re able to snag one, you’re in for a real treat. The Many Glacier area is the heart of the park and is simply breathtaking. One of the most popular hikes here is to Grinnell Glacier. The 11-mile roundtrip starts at the Many Glacier Hotel and heads first to Lake Josephine, then through beautiful meadows to a steady 1,600-foot climb to the glacier viewpoint. Like most other places in the park, the scenery is breathtaking, but it’s also the chance to see a glacier before they all melt.

4. Yellowstone National Park

The perfect setup for Yellowstone National Park.
The perfect setup for Yellowstone National Park. Mia & Steve Mestdagh

 

Yellowstone is the gold standard when it comes to America’s National Parks, thanks to its dreamscape of geothermal features and photogenic wildlife. Camping in the park can be an intimidating prospect because–let’s face it–you don’t want to miss anything! There are 12 established campgrounds in Yellowstone: 5 of which allow reservations (1,700 total sites) and 7 of which are first-come, first served (450 sites). The Yellowstone camping information website has all the information you’ll need, including a very handy chart showing at what time of the day the first-come, first-served sites fill up (in most cases, by about 6:45 am).

Reservations and planning ahead are a given for a place as busy as Yellowstone. If you’re coming from the northern side of the park in Montana, Mammoth Hot Springs Campground is one of the best locations to set up a tent near the namesake calcified, odiferous hot springs (and amazingly, it’s open year-round). Norris Campground is centrally located in the park near the Norris Basin, home to many hot springs and geothermal features. If you’re interested in the Yellowstone Lake area, Bridge Bay is your best choice. Madison Campground is the closest spot you’ll find near Old Faithful (about a 20 minute drive). And for the southern end of the park and the West Thumb Geyser Basin, check out Grant Village Campground.

5. Joshua Tree National Park

Car camping in Joshua Tree National Park.
Car camping in Joshua Tree National Park. Mark McKnight

 

Probably due to its proximity to the Los Angeles culture machine, Joshua Tree National Park –or at least the namesake tree–has been uniquely influential on pop culture. Bands as diverse as the Eagles, U2, and Selena have recorded near the park. A single visit is enough to understand why this area inspires so much creativity. The cartoonish rock formations at Jumbo Rocks Campground contrast with the dramatic silhouettes of the eponymous Joshua trees. As one of the most popular campgrounds, you will want to show up early (well before sunset) to claim a campsite.

While the park is known worldwide as a rock climbing destination, there are plenty of activities for the entire family. If you’re new to rock climbing, there are guides available. The short but strenuous uphill hike to the top of Mount Ryan affords a 360-degree panoramic view of the entire park, and is highly recommended. A four wheel drive vehicle is required to complete the fascinating 18-mile Geology Motor Tour, an overview of the park’s diverse geological landscape. Don’t miss the brochure kiosk at the start of the tour.

Straddling the Colorado and Mojave deserts, Joshua Tree tends to have very predictable weather, with extreme fluctuations in temperatures from day to night typical of the desert. Be sure to research the conditions before you visit and pack plenty of water. The busy season for this park is opposite most national parks, with visitors flocking to the park in winter and spring, and avoiding the summer heat. If you can handle the heat, you’ll have Jumbo Rocks Campground nearly to yourself during the summer.

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, head north and visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

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Nothing says road trip like a comfy pair of overalls.

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When picking the perfect shirt for long hours in the car, make sure it’s quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and wrinkle resistant.

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by David Sorich

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in New York City

Finding world-class taverns and bars in New York City is easy. It’s finding the trails, which can sometimes be the challenging part. But if you know where to look—and in some cases, if you’re willing to venture outside the city limits just a little ways—there are some surprisingly great places to hit the trail. And when you do, there’s arguably nothing better than sipping on a nice, cold one after your time out in the wild. Here are five tried-and-tested, trail-to-tavern pairings that will be sure to make for a memorable (and refreshing) experience.

1. Bear Mountain | Defiant Brewing Company

Bear Mountain Bridge—views like these are worth running some hills! Ken

 

Hiking in Bear Mountain is one of the most fun trail experiences you can have without going far from the city. Combined with nearby Harriman State Park, there are roughly 50,000 acres of mostly forested landscape and 235 miles of trails between them. With chunks of the Appalachian Trail in the park, plus plenty of other gorgeous single-track trails that are—especially on weekdays—rarely overcrowded, it’s a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively) if you’re used to pounding pavement in the city.

Once you’re done hiking, you can make your trip outside the city even more fun if you swing by the Defiant Brewing Company in Pearl River on your way back into the city after your hike. Pro tip: if you’re not the designated driver home from this adventure, live large and try the O’Defiant Stout—the creamy, dark Guinness-esque beer will not disappoint, and will fill you up even if you did a 20 miler!

2. Prospect Park | Brooklyn Brewery

Beer has dispelled the illness which was in me Daniel Lobo

 

Brooklyn doesn’t really call to mind nature and nice trails, but they do exist…you just have to know where to look. Head to Prospect Park for some on-dirt adventure in the nearly 3 miles of trails found in the park. It’s a place with a similar vibe to Central Park (they were both designed by the same landscape architect), just way more scaled down and with far fewer people. It’s also the best spot around for a need-to-get-on-trail urge when you don’t have time to go out of the city.

Afterwards, Brooklyn Brewery is a staple for any serious beer drinkers in the tri-state area (and you can get it worldwide now!). The brewery itself, with a bar inside, is a sweet place to land post-hike, and since it’s located in Williamsburg, there’s no end to the possibilities for an ultra-hip brunch spot if your hike was earlier in the morning. With a wide range of seasonal brews alternating in and out of the taps throughout the year, there’s no shortage of brew options. But it’s the flagship Brooklyn Lager, which is perhaps the must-drink beer at Brooklyn Brewery.

3. Cunningham Park | Fillmore’s Tavern

Trail running in the city just got a lot more fun with Cunningham Park around. Molly Hurford

 

Cunningham Park, up in Queens, isn’t just for mountain bikers: it’s a great spot for trail runners and hikers as well. And the meticulously groomed and well-signed trails make its 358-acre expanse one of the best kept secrets in Queens. If you’re trail running or casually strolling, be aware that it is a somewhat popular spot for mountain bikers, so listen for bikes behind you. Bonus mileage: if you need to add more miles, you’re just a few blocks from Alley Pond Park, another great park with a combo of paved, doubletrack and singletrack trails weaving through wetlands, forests, and meadows.

And you might need that mileage if you’re going to go two miles down the road to Fillmore’s Tavern—a 102-year-old establishment with a ton of character—to indulge in a a beer or two during their fantastic happy hour, or if you’re planning on having the Tequila Poppers (we won’t blame you if you don’t share them with your hiking buddy).

4. Inwood Hills Park | Hogshead Tavern

Hard to believe Inwood Hill Park is located right in New York City Barry Solow

 

Inwood Hills Park has some of the best trails in the city. Winding singletrack allows great views of the Hudson River and skyscrapers, so it’s a bit of a fairyland vibe where you feel completely alone in the middle of nowhere, but you’re actually totally surrounded by the hustle of the city. The route from the tip of the park down to Hogshead—one of NYC’s top taverns—is (dare we say) epic. You’ll start winding through Inwood Hills, exploring and enjoying some of the serious stairs, before heading through neighboring trails in Fort Tryon as you head south four miles to Hogshead Tavern in Harlem. The selection of craft beer, whiskey, and uber-hip snacks (and brunch, naturally) make this the perfect post-hike destination, especially if you finish thirsty and hungry, and want some incredibly Instagram-able eats and drinks.

5. Sprain Ridge Park | Pete’s Park Place Tavern

Twenty-five cent wings post-hike? Sounds like the best day ever, which is why you should venture north of Manhattan on Mondays to make a visit to the technical trails of Sprain Ridge Park (the terror of mountain bikers, and the training ground for those hoping to compete in more serious trail running events). After you’ve exhausted all of those trails and your legs, you can head to Pete’s Park Place Tavern for beers and wings. It’s the most traditional sports-bar environment out of the taverns we’ve checked out, but the ultra-casual atmosphere is welcoming even if you’re a little bit sweaty, so it’s worth the stop. And again—where in Manhattan will you find tasty wings for 25 cents?

Shop Our Heritage Trail to Tavern Style:

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Want more adventures? Check out the Runner’s Guide to New York City Breweries.

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Thomas Angermann

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in Denver

Ask any longtime Denverite: Colorado’s capital is no mountain town. Newcomers are often surprised at the far-off Front Range, but for the adventurously inclined, this doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of things to do. The Centennial State enjoys trails even in its urban jungle, and—no surprise, from a region with the third-highest number of microbreweries per capita in the country—our favorite recovery beverage is beer. Here are the best trail to tavern pairings in the Denver Metro area.

1. Trail Ridge Road | Great Divide Brewing

Kelso Ridge (Class 3) is an airy scramble to the Continental Divide and the summit of Torreys Peak. For a full day, tag its neighbor, Grays Peak, and enjoy a Great Divide brew at the top. Emma Walker

 

There are plenty of continental divides in North America, but the Great Divide, which runs from Alaska’s Seward Peninsula to the tip of South America, is by far the most prominent. Denverites don’t have to go far to see the point where watersheds go their separate ways: Trail Ridge Road, a National Scenic Byway with killer Continental Divide views, runs through Rocky Mountain National Park—just an hour and a half from downtown. The Front Range also boasts the highest point on the Divide in North America: Grays Peak, which measures up at 14,278 feet. For a true Continental Divide experience, summit this approachable Fourteener, and enjoy a Great Divide Brewing creation—try a refreshing Denver Pale Ale—at the top. Hopefully it’s the only Yeti you’ll see all day.

2. Confluence Park | My Brother’s Bar

Denver’s Highlands neighborhood is truly a confluence, both in the hydrological sense—Confluence Park marks the merging of Cherry Creek and the South Platte—and culturally: you’ll find a wide variety of top-notch restaurants, all within walking distance of one another. The good news is there’s a way to work off those calories first. Ride, run, or walk the gently graded South Platte River Trail, which begins at 88th and Colorado in Thornton and stretches nearly 18 miles to Aurora.

Ready for more? Take a kayak to play in the whitewater park at the confluence, conveniently located just a block from both the Denver REI flagship store and locally beloved Wilderness Exchange. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to My Brother’s Bar—literature buffs will recognize it from Kerouac’s On the Road—for a super-cheap, delicious post-fun burger and great beer. There’s no sign out front, which adds to its mystique as the oldest continually operating bar in Denver.

3. Clear Creek | Golden City Brewery

Paddle (or innertube) Clear Creek Whitewater Park for an adventure experience in the heart of downtown Golden. Emma Walker

 

Signs of spring on the Colorado Front Range: geese return, flowers bloom, and local breweries open their patio doors. Just fifteen miles west of Denver, the city of Golden was established during the gold rush in the late nineteenth century, and today sticks to its motto—“Where the West Lives!”—with easy access to countless recreational opportunities, including Clear Creek, which runs through the heart of downtown. When the weather’s warm, take your kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or innertube (you can rent one just blocks from the creek at Golden River Sports) to the Clear Creek Whitewater Park. If the water’s too cold, head up Clear Creek Canyon, where you’ll have your pick of thousands of sport climbing routes. Your reward is waiting at Golden City Brewery, whose charming patio offers a hearty taste of mountain living. For extra credit, match your beer to the day’s activities with a Lookout Stout or Clear Creek Gold.

4. Apex Park | Mountain Toad

Golden is chock-full of mountain bike trails and microbreweries, and you can see most of them from North Table Loop. Emma Walker

 

There’s a reason Golden is home to a half-dozen bike shops: it’s a mountain biker’s paradise. It’s a short drive to some of the Front Range’s best singletrack, including Centennial Cone, Mayhem Gulch, White Ranch Open Space, and Apex Park. Apex offers outstanding technical riding, challenging climbs, and fun, flowy descents. Plan ahead—the park enforces directional restrictions, so certain sections of the trails are only up- or downhill depending on the day (check the map on the land manager’s website for details). When you’re ready for a cool down, head to the Mountain Toad—quickly becoming one of Golden’s most popular microbreweries, and featuring local art—to enjoy an Apex Amber on the dog-friendly patio.

5. Red Rocks Park | Roof Top Tavern

Morrison’s myriad boulder problems are a climber’s paradise. Pat Brehm takes a burn on Tendonitis Traverse (V5). Bix Firer

Historic Morrison is nestled in the foothills just south of Golden and boasts some classic Front Range bouldering problems. Quick approaches to an abundance of boulders means the area has an outdoor gym feel—you can get a ton of laps in before you head into town for a beer. Taking a rest day? Check out Red Rocks Park, where you can hike to incredible panoramic views of Denver and the plains, or catch a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Once you’ve climbed the rocks—or the 380-odd amphitheater steps—head to the Roof Top Tavern, which serves local craft brews and spirits on a patio complete with in-table firepits. Like the rest of Morrison, the views here won’t disappoint.

Wear from the trail to the tavern…

WsFlybyNightMsshorts

Women’s Outdoor Joy Tank $35, Viatrix Short $65, Fly-By-Night Jacket $129

Men’s Wonderer LS Shirt $79, Rover Short $75, Motile SS Polo $52,  Transverse Shirt Jac $119

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Emma Walker

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in Chicago

Part of the joy of hiking comes from exploring new places. And certainly part of the growing appeal of microbrews is the enjoyment that comes from trying something unique. So it’s no surprise that the combination of hiking and craft beers is appealing to outdoor enthusiasts who have been known to tip back a pint or two. Here, we’ve created five trail-to-tavern trips in the Chicago area that include a great hiking destination followed by a place to stop for unique, locally brewed beer. So get out of your neighborhood and explore some of the best trails (and beer) the Chicago area has to offer.

1. Tekakwitha Woods Forest Preserve | Stockholm’s Brew Pub

Following the Path of the Fox River, the paved Fox River Trail is one of the great resources for cyclists and runners in the far western suburbs. But if you want to get off the beaten path, take a detour at the Tekakwitha Woods Forest Preserve, which is just off the trail in St. Charles. While the preserve is a relatively small 65 acres, it offers plenty to explore, including an oak tree dating back to 1864. You’ll find mostly oak and maple forests on higher ground, a floodplain forest closer to the Fox River, and a restored prairie in former farm fields.

You’ll also find a network of trails through the fields and forested ravines, but nothing too strenuous. It’s a great place to enjoy wildflowers in the spring, and plenty of wildlife—particularly birds—any time of the year.

After the hike, head just south of St. Charles to downtown Geneva for an excellent beer choice. Stockholm’s Brew Pub offers several house-made beers made in the “Old World Tradition, cask-conditioned and un-filtered, for full balance flavor.” You’ll find about a dozen beers on the menu, usually including the Viking Red Ale, the Downtown Honey Brown, and the Older But Weisser, a Belgian White that’s certainly refreshing after some time on the trail. In addition to the beer selection, Stockholm’s offers an excellent menu for a full meal.

2. Palos Trail System | Granite City Brewery


Sunset singletrack in the Palos Trail System Mark Montri

The Palos Trail System in the Cook County Forest Preserves surrounding Palos Heights offers quite simply the best hiking experience in the Chicago area. And it’s not even close. Near the intersection of I-55 and I-294, Palos features nine significant trails—more than 20 miles worth—with hills, stones, downed trees, slippery surfaces, roots, and creeks. A few minutes away from the parking lot and you’ll forget you’re in the Chicago area.

The Granite City Brewery in Orland Park is just south of the trail system on LaGrange Road and opposite the Orland Grove Forest Preserve. It isn’t locally owned—the restaurant group got its start in St. Cloud, Minn., in 1999—but it does brew its own beer on the premises. And they certainly do a good job, with the four hand-crafted beers on the menu, including The Bennie, a German-style bock that will hit the spot after any hike.

3. Indiana Dunes State Park | Hunter’s Brewing


Exploring the sandy trails at Indiana Dunes State Park Steve Johnson

As the name implies, the Indiana Dunes State Park is best known for its big sandy hills that line the Lake Michigan lakeshore. And yes, you have more than three miles of very nice beach among the 2,182 acres of the park, with a long-distance view of the Chicago skyline on a clear day. But the dunes next to the beach offer some of the most challenging hiking around.

The state park features seven different trails—rated from easy to rugged—which tour the dunes and the adjacent nature preserve. That means that while you can certainly attempt to tackle the towering dunes, you also can explore trails that are more suitable for hiking. Find a trail map on the second page of this pamphlet.

You’d be hard pressed to find an area with more diverse terrain. You have sandy beaches and dunes, hard-packed trails and even boardwalks over marshes in the trail system. The 5.5-mile trail No. 10 is the largest at the dunes, and it offers a big loop that goes out via the nature preserve and back along the dunes and the beach. Trail No. 9 is a 3.75-mile loop inside the preserve, with plenty of climbing.

Located just outside the park in Chesterton, Ind., Hunter’s Brewing is a nanobrewery that features hand-brewed beer from its one-barrel system. You’ll find a variety of small-batch boutique beers in its tasting room, which also offers sandwiches and snacks. With 18 taps, you have plenty to choose from, and guest beer and wines (that is, not made on the premises) are also available.

4. Kettle Moraine State Forest | 841 Brewhouse


Taking to the trails in Kettle Moraine Forest Amy Bayer

Of course, if you’re talking about beer, Wisconsin should come to mind. If you’re up for a short road trip, the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest also offers some of the best hiking options within two hours of Chicago. The state forest contains more than 22,000 acres in southern Wisconsin, about 37 miles southeast of Milwaukee. For hikers, that means more than 130 miles of trails to explore—with lots of variety. You’ll find hardwood forests, pine plantations, and prairie.

The term “kettle moraine” is actually a geological description that comes from how the area was created. A moraine is an accumulation of rock and soil that comes from a glacier, while a kettle is a shallow body of water formed by a retreating glacier. You don’t need a degree in geology to figure out that this means the area is filled with rolling hills, valleys, and ridges. So you’ll discover some great views, but also have to do some serious climbing. Keep in mind when planning your mileage that these trails can be tough.

Reward yourself afterward with a trip to the 841 Brewhouse in nearby Whitewater, Wis. You’ll find four in-house beers on tap, usually a wheat, amber, IPA, and a stout, plus plenty of other options from Wisconsin craft breweries. Their large menu is solid and filled with pub favorites.

5. Deer Grove Forest Preserve | RAM Restaurant and Brewery

kyiotbsdpe3ukthu4ywz Deer Grove Forest Preserve offers the best hiking trails in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Jeff Banowetz. 

Offering the best hiking trails in Chicago’s northern suburbs, the Deer Grove Forest Preserve features nearly 10 miles of off-road trails in addition to several miles of paved routes that have made this a popular escape. Some have even referred to this as “Palos North,” in reference to the bigger trail system in the southwest suburbs. You don’t have the volume of trails here, but for north suburban residents this is certainly the gem of the forest preserve system.

Located just north of Dundee Road in Palatine, Ill., the Deer Grove Forest Preserve is bisected by Quentin Road, creating east and west sections of the park. The west side is slightly bigger, and has the longest trail, the yellow, which offers a 5.4-mile, uninterrupted loop. You can connect to black and orange trails on the west side and get in a good 10-mile hike without too much repetition. On the east side, which is connected to the west via a paved trail, there’s a 2.6-mile brown loop as well as the 2.6 mile paved trail.

Head east to nearby Wheeling, Ill., and you’ll hit the RAM Restaurant and Brewery, which offers a number of seasonal beers on tap. You can even create your own personal flights served in 10-ounce glasses from its wide selection. The impressive menu has everything from pub staples like burgers and fish and chips to beef short ribs and wild Alaska salmon. Be sure to work up an appetite.

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Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co.

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in the San Francisco, Bay Area

 

It’s a formula that many outdoorsy types swear by: Great hike + great beer afterward = really great day. Fortunately for adventurers in the Bay Area, there are about as many choices for excellent trails in San Francisco and beyond as there are watering holes where you can hoist a pint or two afterward. And what better way to pair quintessentially Northern California trail experiences—routes winding through serene redwood forests, along mountainside paths through grassy meadows, and above the mighty Pacific on beachside bluffs—than with a tasty, California-made craft brew? Here are five sure-to-please trail to tavern pairings in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

1. Tomales Point Trail | Lagunitas Brewing Company

Tomales Point Reyes National Seashore hikingHikers on the Tomales Point Trail. Miguel Viera

Point Reyes National Seashore, the slender finger of land bordered on the west by the Pacific and the east by Tomales Bay, is a hiker’s paradise. It’s only about an hour north of the city, but the rugged coastline, grasslands, and coastal trees, often shrouded in a mysterious layer of fog, evoke the feeling of being worlds away from the urban hustle. Choose from more than 150 miles of hiking trails, but the 10-mile out-and-back to Tomales Point is a solid option both for its scenery and relative ease. Make it up there on a weekday, and the only company you may have are cows and tule elk, 700-pound beasts that roam freely about the enclosed reserve through which the trail winds (their late-summer rut is an unforgettable experience).

However far you go, you’ll still have earned your pints afterward; head to Petaluma and the Lagunitas Brewing Company, a pioneer in Northern California’s craft brewing scene. Perennial favorites include Little Sumpin’ Sumpin Ale and the aptly named Hop Stoopid, as well as a rotating selection of seasonals. Bonus for hikers: The taproom stays open until 8pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and on weekdays, there’s live music, which promptly starts at 4:20pm each day.

2. Dipsea Trail | Sand Dollar

trails to tavern pairings in San Francisco Dipsea TrailThe Dipsea Trail is one of the most iconic in the Bay Area. RootsRated. 

The Dipsea Trail might sound cutesy and quirky, but we guarantee it’s a hardcore hike, with nearly 2,000 feet in total elevation gain and nearly 700 steps to navigate—the latter in just the first mile. Nevertheless, the approximately seven-mile Dipsea is a must-do for any local or visitor, with flowy sections below majestic redwoods, serpentine stretches though mossy green groves, and sweeping views of the Pacific. The good news is that the first half of the hike is roughly all uphill, while the last half is downhill (save for one last grind appropriately named Insult). And when the climbing and descending starts to take its toll, just think of the hundreds of brave souls who run the trail in the Dipsea Race, the oldest trail run in the country.

After emerging from the forest into the hippy enclave of Stinson Beach, head straight for the Sand Dollar, a cozy restaurant that has been serving patrons since 1921. Order up one of the usual suspects (Lagunitas, Scrimshaw) on draft, snag a table on the patio, and toast to doing the Dipsea.

3. Presidio | Final Final

trails to tavern pairings in San Francisco PresidioThe Presidio boasts 24 miles of trails. Picasaweb/JP

As far as urban escapes go, it’s hard to beat the Presidio, a former Army post that boasts 1,500 acres of stunning wilderness, with redwood groves, wild ocean bluffs, and 24 miles of trails that wind through it all. There are options for all kinds of hikers, but a crowd-pleaser is the relatively flat, 2.5-mile Presidio section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Highlights include a piece of artwork called Spire, a 90-foot sculpture made of 38 cypress trunks, old-growth forests, and views of the bay from the serene National Cemetery Overlook. Another popular route is the Crissy Field Promenade, less of a hike and more of a walk (it’s perfect for families) along the waterfront, with unbeatable views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

For your post-hike pint, forgo the attitude of most Marina bars and their patrons and make a beeline to the Final Final, an old-school SF hideout that’s blissfully void of most Instagram-snapping crowds known to swarm in these parts. Instead, there’s plenty of cold draft beer, pool tables, television screens showing games, free popcorn, and solid bar grub to keep you and your hiking buddies happy.

4. Mt. Diablo State Park | ØL Café and Bottle Shop

trail to tavern pairings in San FranciscoReach the top of Mount Diablo, and you’ll savor unparalleled views. John Morgan

Eager peak baggers in the Bay Area should head right to 3,848-foot Mount Diablo, the highest peak in the East Bay. Though it’s not particularly high, the summit offers gobsmacking views of the Bay Area and beyond, as far as 200 miles away. On a clear day, you may be able to see the Farallon Islands to the west and even as far north as Mount Saint Helena in the Coast Range. A number of routes reach the summit, including a challenging 6.8-mile one-way trip, or the less strenuous one-mile hike on the Juniper Trail from the Diablo Valley Overlook, at the entrance to Juniper Campground.

However you go up, make sure you hit ØL Beercafe & Bottle Shop in Walnut Creek after making it back down. Beer geeks will go bonkers for the head-spinning menu of rare and unique brews available—currently on the draft list are obscure selections including Woodfour Nurple, the Gnome Gruit, and Kleine Stouterd. Hundreds of carefully curated bottles are available as well.

5. Berry Creek Falls, Big Basin State Park | Half Moon Bay Brewing

Half Moon Bay Brewing trails ales hking
A sampler at Half Moon Bay Brewing lets you sample a variety of beers. Emilee Rader.

An easy drive to Big Basin State Park, California’s oldest state park, is more than worth it for the world-class hiking here among the majestic redwood ecosystem. The park features 80 miles of trails, and the approximately 9-mile out-and-back to Berry Creek Falls is a stunner, winding through redwood groves, along a steep canyon, and culminating in the beautiful Berry Creek Falls. One caveat: Heavy rains in early 2016 caused damage to several other waterfall trails in the park, meaning that there might be more traffic than usual on the Berry Creek Trail.

You’ll have to drive a ways to hit any watering hole for your post-hike pint, so go ahead and head north for one of the Bay Area’s most beloved breweries: Half Moon Bay Brewing, located just a stone’s throw from the world-famous Mavericks surf break. Snag a table on the enclosed patio and order up classic favorites like the amber ale or IPA—there are 10 draft selections available year-round, piped right in from the brewery next door.

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Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Scott Mattoon

Best National Parks to Visit in April

With April 20-28 (2019) marking National Park Week, there’s no better time to check out some of our nation’s greatest treasures. Get to your nearest national park, forest, river or lake, or adventure on to one of our favorite National Parks to visit in April…

Joshua Tree
Photo cred: Ann Kathrin Bopp

 

Joshua Tree National Park takes your breath away the first time you see it with your own eyes. Sure, you’ve seen the giant rock cathedrals and Seussical J-trees in pictures, but you can’t fully grasp the awesomeness of these bizarre formations until they’re right in front of you. With hundreds of trails, thousands of official climbing routes and even more unofficial bouldering routes, Joshua Tree lives up to the hype. Though a relatively small national park, it’s the meeting point of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts and offers great variation in ecosystems. Explore the prickly cholla (pronounced “choy-ya”) garden and keep going to check out the ocotillo cactuses (both of which may be in bloom in April), scramble around Jumbo Rocks and make your way into the Fortynine Palms Oasis. You might have some trouble booking a campsite last minute, but there are plenty of first-come first serve sites and designated areas for hike-in backpacking (even as close as .5 miles from your car). Pack up and go, wherever you are.

 

Grand Teton
Photo cred: Makenzie Cooper

 

Grand Teton National Park is something to behold any time of the year, but when the spring sunshine hits the mountains and greets the buds below, there’s nothing like it. Head out to the lake shore trails and enjoy a stroll by Jenny Lake or String Lake. Bradley and Taggart Lakes are mellow lowland hiking options early in the season. And when the sun goes down and you’re left to reflect, best to do it over a killer Jackson Hole burger. Be sure to check road conditions and road status before heading up to Grand Teton. It’s not uncommon for a late spring snow storm to close roads, even after they’ve opened for the season. Be aware of the possibility for inclement weather any time of year. This is the Wild West, after all.

 

Zion
Photo cred: Hunter Wiseley

 

Massive sandstone cliffs, never-ending slot canyons, green and pink vistas—there’s no shortage of “WHOA” in Zion National Park, southwestern Utah’s bragging rights territory. Within its 229 square miles are high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, the Virgin River and its tributaries, 2,000-foot Navajo Sandstone cliffs, and countless waterfalls supporting lush hanging gardens. And all those wonders are magnified when spring has sprung. Like natural springs? They burst from cracks, running to the Virgin River. Like springtime blooms? The cottonwood trees blossom and begin to show some color. Like hiking? Most of the main canyon and the Upper East Canyon are hikeable, but the Kolob Terrace and Lava Point may remain buried in snow until late April or May. Either way, you’ll be busy saying “WHOA!”

Shenandoah
Photo cred: Andrew Nee

 

Just 75 miles from downtown DC you’ll find yourself at the top of Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, overlooking cascading valleys enfolding the Appalachian Trail. Shenandoah is known for it’s gorgeous fall foliage, but trust us – it’s just as spectacular in spring! Bike or drive historic Skyline Drive and rest at overlooks along the route positioned above the sprawling valley. Paddle along the Shenandoah River, take your adventure underground to the nearby Luray Caverns, or lace up your kicks and explore more than 500 miles of trail networks, including the most challenging hike in the area, Old Rag Loop. Whatever you do, catch a sunrise and sunset in the same day—your soul will thank you.

 

Great Sand Dunes
Photo cred: Lionello DelPiccolo

 

Sure the Rockies are pretty great, but one of Colorado’s lesser known National Parks is just as awesome: Great Sand Dunes National Park. The Great Dunes, North America’s tallest sand dunes, rise more than 750 feet, with the Sangre de Cristo Range as the backdrop.  These dunes are simply phenomenal, especially at dusk. Spend the night at Zapara Falls, just 11 miles south of the park, but bring an extra blanket because at 9,000 feet it can get chilly. When you’ve had your fill of the dunes, get a taste of the jagged peaks of the Sangres from the Comanche-Venable Trail loop near Westcliffe.

For moisture-wicking, UPF-tested, Insect Shield® treated hiking clothes that look great on the trail and at the nearest tavern, check out Toad&Co’s Modern Travel Collections for Men and Women.

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