Colorado’s Best Hiking and Alcohol Pairings
1. Sneffels Highline Trail + Telluride Brewing Company, Telluride
Summer is getting closer and closer and it’s hard not to start thinking about running in the San Juan high country. @jupare enjoying the colors on our namesake trail, the classic Sneffels Highline. #highlinerunningadventures #trailrunning #trailrun #telluride #mountainrunning #sanjuanmountains #sneffelshighline
The hike: The Highline is probably the best among the vast options in the mountains surrounding Telluride. It’s a big day though, so start early and expect a workout, but the long views and empty alpine basins will be more than worth it. Bonus points for an in-town trailhead (no long drives) and for being a loop, so no repeated scenery.
Stats: 12.7 miles (full loop), 3,380-ft elevation gain
The drink: If you crushed the whole loop, you’re probably pretty spent. Don’t worry — liquid refreshment is only a 10 minute drive back to the main traffic circle at highway 145 where you’ll find Telluride Brewing Company. Tuck into a Tempter IPA and let the 6.4% ABV numb those screaming quads.
2. Oh Be Joyful Trail + Montanya Distillers, Crested Butte
The hike: Any hike that starts with an icy river crossing straight from the parking lot is bound to be an epic adventure. Start at the campground off the Slate River Road, just a few miles outside CB. Cross the river and climb up an old logging road, following Oh Be Joyful Creek and some amazing class V waterfalls that attract expert kayakers during spring runoff. The trail becomes wildflower-infested singletrack as you top out at the base of an alpine cirque at over 10,000 feet. Return the way you came and use the creek to wipe off the wildflower stains from your legs.
Stats: ~10 miles (round-trip), ~1500-ft elevation gain
The drink: Montanya distills rum on the second floor of its Elk Avenue cocktail bar and ages it in old whiskey barrels before expertly mixing it with handmade syrups, fresh herbs and glasses rimmed with cinnamon-laced turbinado sugar. Order up some house-made, bacon-wrapped jalapeños and pair the spice with a Dark and snowy — a cooling blend of rum, ginger syrup and lime. You’ll think your mule fell asleep in Moscow and woke up in Havana.
3. The Incline + Manitou Brewing Company, Manitou Springs
The hike: The Incline is a right of passage. We all reminisce about our first time…the pain; the encouragement of strangers; the sense of accomplishment when you reached the top of the old railroad bed, with its quad-killing 2700+ steps, 2000-foot vertical gain and 68% maximum grade. Take it slow if you’re a newbie, beware the dreaded false summit and know that you can bail out and connect to the gentler Barr Trail two-thirds of the way up. But those who persevere will be rewarded with epic views of Manitou and Colorado Springs and, who knows, maybe even share the summit with an Olympian from the nearby Olympic Training Center.
Stats: 0.9 mile (bottom to top) or 3.4 miles round-trip with a descent on Barr Trail, 2025-ft elevation gain
The drink: MBC is the perfect place to recover or celebrate, depending on your Incline experience. Try the Manitou Common, which is their take on a California common — a hard-to-find amber lager recipe that dates back to the California Gold Rush. It’s likely that your hike burned enough calories to power a Norwegian fishing village, so don’t feel guilty about pairing your brew with one of their delicious bacon blue burgers. (You should probably get truffle fries, too.)
4. Emerald Lake + Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont
The hike: There are so many amazing hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, but the chain of lakes from Bear to Nymph to Dream to Emerald is one I could do again and again. Accessible year-round, the trail leaves from the popular Bear Lake trailhead and ascends up the Tyndall Gorge towards the base of Hallett Peak. The further and higher you go, the more crowds you’ll lose as you reach the stunning shore of Emerald Lake at 10,100 feet. This makes an unforgettable snowshoe in the winter months.
Stats: 3.5 miles (round-trip), 650-ft elevation gain
The drink: I’d opt for the Grill and Brew location in Lyons over the larger brewery in Longmont. It’s the original location, serves killer post-hike BBQ and is right off Route 36 about an hour drive from the park. Enjoy a Pinner Throwback IPA or Mama’s Little Yella Pils as you scroll through your phone’s photostream of high-altitude wonder.
5. Mt. Shavano + Elevation Beer Company, Poncha Springs/Salida
The hike: Shavano is a Sawatch Range 14er that’s often one of the first snow-free routes in the summer, so it makes a great choice for some early season altitude. As with many 14ers, the trailhead is well-marked and the trail is easy to follow as you break through the trees and make your way up the east slopes, topping out at 14.229 feet. Up for a little more fun? Traverse the ridge over to Tabeguache (14.155’) to bag two 14ers while only adding two total miles to the hike.
Stats: 9.2 miles (round-trip), 4,600-ft elevation gain
The drink: In the opinion of this hop head, it doesn’t get much better than First Cast, Elevation’s American IPA with a blend of Chinook, Summit and Zythos hops. Elevation doesn’t have a restaurant but if you’d rather not pair your beer with leftover energy bars, they do have a food truck window ingeniously cut into the wall so your brew and snack can coexist in perfect post-climb harmony.
6. Colorado National Monument + Two Rivers Winery, Grand Junction
The hike: When you’re ready for a dose of desert wonder, head to the far western edge of the state where you’ll find the deep canyons and sandstone towers of Colorado National Monument. You could opt for the scenic Rim Rock drive, or — better yet — drop below the rim and hike Monument Canyon to get up close and personal with Independence Monument and maybe even some desert bighorn sheep in the fall.
Stats: 2.5-3.5 miles (one-way), 500-840-ft elevation gain
The drink: Wineries in Colorado? Believe it or not, the rocky soils along Western Slope create prime high-altitude growing conditions and Two Rivers leads the pack in producing highly drinkable wine in an unlikely location. Raise a glass of light and smooth Chardonnay or a full-bodied Cab in a classy stone tasting room with a stunning backdrop of the monument you’ve just conquered.
7. Boulder Mountain Parks + Upslope Brewing Company, Boulder
The hike: With trail choices from rolling foothills to rocky summits, Boulder Mountain Parks could keep you occupied for years. If you’re looking for a tough workout with a huge payout, try climbing Bear Peak from the NCAR Trailhead. It’s a steep venture but before you know it, you’ll be soaring over town and have panoramic views of the Indian Peaks and the Continental Divide in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.
Stats: Wide variety of distances
The drink: If you finish your hike early, head to the Flatiron Park location for $1 off all beers during their Monday through Friday happy hour (11am to 2pm). Go for a Thai Style White IPA — a three continent palette pleaser of Belgian yeast, American hops and Asian spices.
8. Mt. Quandary + Breckenridge Distillery, Breckenridge
The hike: Quandary is the go-to answer for those looking for their first winter 14er. It has an accessible trailhead off Highway 9 between Hoosier Pass and Breckenridge, as well as very little avalanche danger along its relatively gentle East Slopes route. Unless it just snowed, the route is probably well-packed from other hikers, so leave the snowshoes behind and opt for microspikes or Yaktrax for the icy spots near the summit, upon which you’ll have long views of the Hoosier Ridge, North Star Mountain and the ski runs at Breck.
Stats: 6.75 miles (round-trip), 3450-ft elevation gain
The drink: Check out the Main Street tasting room to melt the ice off your mustache after your frigid ascent. Warm your insides with award-winning bourbon and vodka made with unique, mineral-laced water that was once the same snow you were climbing on.
9. Sentinel Point + Paradox Beer Company, Divide
The hike: Sentinel Point is an appropriately-named 12,527-foot rockpile standing watch over the broad shoulder of the Pikes Peak massif. Rarely visited, you are almost guaranteed solitude on this high mountain adventure. After a gentle start through a meadow of beaver ponds, you’ll climb quickly and steeply up to a massive boulderfield at treeline. The final push is a scramble up large boulders to a rocky summit with gorgeous views of the south face of Pikes Peak and the distant snow-capped peaks of the Sangres and Sawatch.
Stats: 8 miles (round-trip), 2800-ft elevation gain
The drink: Paradox is all about barrel aging and bottle conditioning, with ancient European farmhouse techniques and house-grown Brettanomyces yeast. You won’t find the typical brewery lineup of IPAs, wheats and lagers here. Instead, expect a selection of handcrafted sours that are as complex as anything you’ve ever tasted. Releases are frequent, but don’t last long. See if they still have the Cafe Vaillant, a salted caramel coffee ale that’s roasted with beans from Denver’s Novo Coffee. If that doesn’t give you a post-hike perk up, it’s time to check your pulse.
10. Ice Lakes Basin + Steamworks Brewing Company, Durango
The hike: Just north of Silverton, take the South Mineral Road and begin your hike at the trailhead across from the campground. Within minutes you’ll be standing next to a vertigo-inducing waterfall, and after quite a few calf-burning switchbacks, you’ll find yourself in a pristine alpine basin surrounded by jagged peaks spilling with snowmelt. If the trail is melted out and passable, continue on to the upper basin and reach Island Lake, a turquoise-tinted beauty at 12,392-ft.
Stats: 8.4 miles to Island Lake (round-trip), 2,552-ft elevation gain
The drink: It’s worth the drive back into Durango to check out the old Ford dealership-turned-brewery a block from downtown’s main street. After the effort you’ve put in, you’re long overdue for a Colorado Kölsch – a light and refreshing ale that goes perfectly with a basket of popcorn shrimp and a handful of free peanuts.
11. Grays and Torreys Peaks + Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs
The hike: Given their close proximity to Denver and easy access of I-70, these two 14ers won’t exactly give you a wilderness experience, but they make ideal choices for your first foray to 14,000-feet. Start with Grays via the East Slopes route and after 4 miles and about 3000-feet of climbing you can decide if you’re feeling fresh enough for the traverse over to Torreys. Either way, you’ll have flawless views of the I-70 corridor and the sprawling peaks of Summit County.
Stats: 8 miles (round-trip), 3000-ft elevation gain / Combo: 8.5 miles (round-trip); 3600-ft. elevation gain
The drink: Hop on 70 East and in a few minutes you’ll be at the Tommyknocker Pub in Idaho Springs. Try a Maple Nut Brown Ale or if you hit the season right, you can sample a Pine Bough Pale Ale — brewed with pine needles from nearby Loveland Ski Area.