Pair a snowshoe trek with some of the Evergreen State's best beer.
Washington has witnessed the ascent of numerous breweries over the years. Redhook Brewery, Elysian Brewing Company, Iron Horse Brewery, and others have become synonymous with the state and its burgeoning beer scene, which continues to grow today. The Evergreen State now hosts the second-most breweries in the nation, according to the Brewers Association, an industry advocacy group. From the rainy Olympic Peninsula to the dusty eastern plains, we’re awash in good beer.
We’re also overwhelmed with picturesque mountain views, including the Cascade Range and Olympic Mountains, and those peaks have become popular playgrounds all year long. Winter snowshoe trips introduce outdoor enthusiasts to a quieter, more serene side of nature often unavailable on summer hikes. Powder-filled backcountry treks offer new takes on popular viewpoints and a kind of solitude that can’t be matched on a sunny July Saturday.
Strap on your snowshoes, and pair your adventures with a Washington-based brewery, no matter where in the state you’re exploring. Here are a few of our favorites.
Barhop Brewing and Artisan Pizza
Parched after a day on Hurricane Ridge? Fuel up at Barhop Brewing and Artisan Pizza, a modern hangout mere feet from the Port Angeles ferry terminal. The brewpub celebrated its sixth anniversary in December 2016; in that time, Barhop has amassed an impressive mix of seasonal and year-round ales and, as the name implies, a number of filling pies (made with artisanal cheeses and fresh, local vegetables).
[Hurricane Ridge] Hurricane Ridge offers some of the best, most beautiful snowshoe trails in the state. Make the trip out to Olympic National Park, and you’ll be rewarded with nearly 1 million acres of unprecedented views of the Olympic Mountains and snow-covered Douglas firs, Sitka spruces, and more (just be sure to brace yourself for the park’s relentless wind gusts). The Cirque Rim Trail, in particular, offers a glimpse of the region’s beauty without challenging beginners too harshly.
Pro tip: Don’t forget chains; they’re required above the park’s Heart O’ the Hills entrance station all winter long. Once you’ve arrived, stop by the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center for cross-country skiing and snowshoe rentals, snacks, and a warming area.
M.T. Head Brewing
Chilly after spending the day on snowy trails? Stop at the cozy M.T. Head Brewing for an eclectic lineup that may include a coffee porter, saison, cream ale, and chocolate chili stout. The brewery opened in 2009 and produces less than 200 barrels of beer each year, many of which you won’t find anywhere else.
[Mazama Ridge] You know you’re in for a treat when a trail is within a park’s officially-designated “Paradise” area. Mazama Ridge lives up to its billing as one of the most beautiful trails in Mount Rainier National Park with pristine snowfields, towering fir trees, quiet meadows, picturesque ponds, and prime photo ops of Mount Rainier. The loop is beautiful in either direction, but give your legs a break with a steady descent when you head from north to south.
[Reflection Lakes] The view from Reflection Lakes is the stuff Instagram double-taps are made of. There, three miles east of Mount Rainier National Park’s Paradise area, Rainier’s reflection sparkles in the subalpine lakes on clear days.
The High Lakes Loop is a particularly beautiful way to experience the views. It starts on the Wonderland Trail (which encircles Mount Rainier) before entering a dense forest (buttressed by occasional views of Rainier). One of the trail’s many highlights is the viewpoint at Faraway Rock, which looms over Lake Louise and the surrounding wilderness.
Head’s up: Keep an eye on the weather before heading out. The mountain might not be visible on cloudy or blustery days, making the hike less of a bucket-list attraction.
A trip to Snoqualmie Pass isn’t complete without a stop by Dru Bru. The popular pub serves a mix of classic beers (including an IPA and pale ale for the books) but specializes in German-style favorites (think: a wit, kölsch, and schwarzbier), all best enjoyed in the shadow of the surrounding mountains. Dru Bru offers a few snacks, but nearby eateries deliver a full meal.
[Gold Creek Pond Loop Trail] There are plenty of snowshoeing trails in the Snoqualmie Pass area, but the easy, 1.1-mile Gold Creek Pond Loop Trail earns plaudits for numerous reasons: The short distance won’t wear you out, its ascent (30 feet) is perfect for beginners, and the trail delivers various perspectives of the surrounding Snoqualmie Pass peaks. Trust us, you won't be disappointed.
No-Li Brewhouse serves a mix of pub favorites and seasonal refreshments along the quiet banks of the Spokane River. It’s both the oldest active brewery in Spokane and the town’s largest brewpub, serving heralded ales like the Crystal Bitter ESB and Born & Raised IPA. Pair your pint with filling comfort food after a day on the mountain with a menu that includes fish and chips, nachos, and burgers.
[Mount Spokane State Park—Summit Road] Very few snowshoers would call Mount Spokane State Park’s Summit Road trek “easy.” The trail gains roughly 1,300 feet over the course of 4.2 miles, with an average grade of six percent—not an easy feat on a blustery day. Along the way, you’ll pass a mix of old-growth trees and numerous rocky outcrops. The payoff at the 5,883-foot-high summit, however, makes it worth the effort. There, you’ll see a half-dozen area lakes and, on a clear day, views of six states (as well as Canada).
North Fork Brewery
There are few better places to stop after a day at the mountains of northern Washington than North Fork Brewery in blink-and-you-miss-it Deming. Billing itself as “the North Fork Beer Shrine,” the brewery produces a variety of small-batch, Belgian-style sours, lagers, and more. North Fork also bakes a mix of meat-heavy and veggie-friendly pizzas—the perfect nourishment after tromping through Mount Baker’s heavy snowpack.
[Bagley Lakes Trail] Mount Baker is one of northern Washington’s best-loved skiing destinations, so it’s no surprise that the area hosts a few picturesque snowshoe trails, as well. Ditch the crowds at Artist Point and check out the Bagley Lakes Trail. (Hiked it? The trail's up for adoption! Share your knowledge here.) Gaining only 148 feet over the course of 1.4 miles, the loop promises clear views of Table Mountain, breathtaking panoramas from Mount Herman, a bubbling waterfall, and an iced-over lake.
For all the trek's highlights, the area is avalanche-prone, and it can be tough to find the trail under fresh snow. Come equipped with maps and equipment for staying safe.
This article is part of our Trails and Ales column, where we highlight the best hikes by the best breweries near you.
Story card image courtesy of Don LaVange, Flickr