Trails and ales are practically synonymous with Colorado, a state that’s home to four stunning National Parks, 11 National Forests, the Colorado Trail and well over 400 breweries. You can pretty much put on a blindfold, throw a dart at a map of the Centennial State, and land within a few miles of a great hike and a brilliant brewery. It’s not so much that you need help finding a brewery hike so much as you might not be able to decide which to choose, so we’ve rounded up seven of our favorite hikes that you can easily pair with a refreshing lager, hoppy IPA or silky stout.
Following a hike with a cold brew or two is a Colorado tradition, but remember that you still need to take the hiking here seriously. Wear hiking shoes with good, grippy soles, carry your water bottle to stay hydrated and some bear spray for any surprise encounters, and make sure you set off early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. With that important safety announcement behind us, let’s hit the trail!
Boulder: Mount Sanitas + Mountain Sun Pub
There are loads of great hikes around Boulder, but we love the ever-popular Sanitas trail because it’s so close to downtown. With sensational views of Boulder and a heart-pumping ascent, Sanitas is the smallest of Boulder’s five peaks and a favorite among locals. At just 3.2 miles if you do the whole loop, this short hike packs a surprising punch in terms of difficulty and scenery.
Find the trailhead just west of the intersection of 4th and Mapleton, and take the first left to begin with a steep but shaded ascent where you’ll pass several rock formations popular with the local bouldering community. The climb is largely unrelenting until you reach the summit, though don’t be surprised to find locals sprinting past you on their daily run. At the summit, pick a rock slab to stretch out on and catch your breath while you soak in views of downtown Boulder, the Flatirons and Indian Peaks.
Return the same way you came up, or continue on down the East Ridge Trail for a rewarding loop and enjoy views of the Flatirons from a unique perspective. Back at the trailhead, it’s a short five minute drive (two miles) to Mountain Sun Pub, a six-barrel brewery that’s bee at the heart of this town on lively Pearl Street since 1993. Grab a table in the sun if you can and cool off with a Colorado Kind (bitter) or Strong American Pale Ale.
Fort Collins: Horsetooth Falls + CooperSmith’s Pub and Brewing
It’s impossible not to include Fort Collins in any list involving breweries since this town is absolutely littered with them. The best known are New Belgian and Odells but you honestly can’t go wrong with any brewery here – we’ve picked CooperSmith’s Pub and Brewing because it’s in the heart of Old Town and it’s the oldest brewery in town (by a hair).
As for the hike, these slender falls are popular with Fort Collins’ student population at any time of year, and they can be visited easily in a day from Boulder and Denver. From downtown, head west on County Road 38E and park at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space about four miles out of town.
Follow the signs to hike the loop where you can take in the 20ft falls as they tumble over the rock walls to a shallow pool below, and on the way back enjoy the vistas of Fort Collins and the Rocky Mountains to the west. Find CooperSmiths on Old Town Square and don’t miss the Punjabi Pale Ale.
Breckenridge: Quandary Peak + Broken Compass Brewing
Pairing a Colorado hike with a Colorado beer is divine, but make that hike a 14er and you’ve come close to nirvana. Quandary is a favorite among mountain folk as one of the closer, and easier 14ers to hike. You’re certain to get up close and personal with the mountain goats that live up here (and the hoards of hikers) and enjoy the best possible views of the Tenmile Mountain Range.
If you want to park at the trailhead, you will need to reserve a parking spot. To get to the trailhead, head down Blue Lakes Road from Highway 9. Turn right onto County Road 851 and the trailhead is 0.1 miles down the road. You can also use the free shuttle service from Breckenridge. The east ridge route starts almost at treeline so you will have spectacular views the entire way. The whole hike is six miles and even though we said it’s one of the easier 14ers, you’ll still want to be prepared for high altitude hiking (hiking boots, not flip flops).
Start your hike early in the morning so you can be back at the trailhead by lunch time. That way you can avoid lightning strikes and saddle up to the bar at the airy Broken Compass taproom on Main for a black lager to soothe those achy feet.
If you don’t fancy a 14er, check out some other great hikes in Breckenridge.
Vail: Berry Picker + Vail Brewing Company
Vail Brewing Company has a taproom in Vail Village, so you can actually pair any of the hikes in Vail with this brewery, but we’ve picked Berry Picker because you can enjoy this whole day car-free.
Berry Picker is easily one of the best hikes in Vail, Colorado. This trail is on Vail Mountain and therefore easily accessed from the resort. Its abundant wildflowers and views of the Gore Range make it popular with locals and visitors alike, while its proximity to the ski lift creates a variety of options for your hike.
There are a couple of points where you can start this trail, but we like starting from Lionshead Village. Cross over the ski bridge and follow the signposted trail as it begins its switchbacks up the mountain under the gondola. You’ll weave in and out of aspen groves and evergreen pine and spot lots of wildflowers on the way up. This trail is for hikers only, so you don’t have to worry about mountain bikers coming down, but do be careful when crossing any gravel roads. It’s not unusual to spot bears on Vail Mountain, but with so many people on the trail they tend to keep a good distance.
It's just shy of four miles to the top where the views are simply breathtaking in all directions. From here, you can hike back down or hop on the gondola for free and take the express route. From the button, it’s a short walk or a free bus ride over to Vail Village where you’ll find VBC on Bridge Street (the actual brewery is just a few miles down Highway 6 in Eagle-Vail). Toast your success with a Gore Creek IPA.
Steamboat Springs: Emerald Mountain + Storm Peak Brewing
With an elevation of 8,252ft, Emerald Mountain is the rounded peak west of town. It is relatively low compared to surrounding areas, making this a popular hike year-round. Be aware that it is labeled as Quarry Mountain on USGS maps, but the locals call it Emerald.
There are various ways to ascend this mountain and we’ve picked the Routt Street trailhead. From town, turn west on 13th Street and after a short distance, turn left onto Gilpin Street and then left onto Saratoga Avenue. Take the first right to Routt Street and park at the marked trailhead.
Climb through thick forest for almost two miles to the top where you’ll find a radio tower and enjoy the views of Mount Werner from the top. Head back the way you came and either hit the Strawberry Park hot springs for a soak or head straight to Storm Peak on Elk River Plaza for a pint of Mad Creek Kolsch.
Glenwood Springs: Hanging Lake and Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub
Hanging Lake is probably the best-known waterfall hike in Colorado, for reasons good and bad. In recent years, it’s gained notoriety for being extremely congested and popular with influencers, but that’s because it’s such a consistently spectacular sight, no matter the season.
A permit system is now in place to reduce the flow of foot traffic and help keep this National Natural Landmark pristine, so make plans in advance (if you cna’t get a permit, hike nearby Grizzly Creek instead). To reach this well-loved waterfall, park at the large parking lot off exit 125 on 70 just east of Glenwood (if traveling westbound, exit and Grizzly Creek then head east).
The well-signed trail climbs steeply alongside Dead Horse Creek for just over a mile, so its intensity is somewhat lessened by its brevity and beauty. There are a few lovely spots along the way to stop and catch your breath. The final, steep rocky section before the lake involves a single file scramble with hand rails to support you, but a rocky outcrop provides a great view and spot for a breather.
Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a curtain of glittering emerald moss and cascades over the picturesque lake. Make sure to walk all the way around the lake where you can stand behind the waterfalls.
Head back down the way you came then hop in the car for the short drive to downtown Glenwood, where you can kick back with a Vapor Cave IPA and a plate of nachos in the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub on 7th Street. It’s located in the Hotel Denver if you want to spend the night.
Telluride: Bear Creek Canyon + Telluride Brewing
Telluride is about as close to paradise as you can get on earth, and any hike here will provide an unforgettable experience, but we’ve picked the popular and beautiful Bear Creek Canyon, which starts from downtown. This steady, forested climb follows a 325-acre rugged mountain canyon that has been preserved by the Telluride Land Trust ending at the stunning Bear Creek Falls. Find the trailhead at the end of South Pine street and follow it all the way to the falls for a five-mile out-and-back adventure.
When you’re finished, head to the village for a thirst-quenching FISHwater DIPA or for something more grounding, give the Ski In Ski Stout a whirl.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.