North Cascades Trails & Ales: Post-Hike Beers at the Bottom

Hiking in the North Cascades is a seasonal affair: when snow melts out in early summer, eager hikers hit the trails till they turn white again come fall. Breweries operate on a seasonal schedule as well, churning out crisp session ales in the warmer months, followed by Oktoberfest beer and pumpkin-spiced ales in the fall. And as many a hiker will tell you, there's nothing more refreshing after a long, sweaty hike than a cold draft beer. Here are three trail and ale pairings for your next trip to the North Cascades.

Blue Lake + Old Schoolhouse Brewery
Ease into North Cascades hiking on this moderately difficult trail. You'll gain just 1,000 feet in 2.2 miles along the way, arriving at the lake before you know it. And once you're there, what a view. Liberty Bell group spires rise high above, reflecting in Blue Lake's aptly-named waters. Be sure to visit during fall for the spectacular golden larches.

35 minutes east of the Blue Lake trailhead, Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop awaits. This award-winning brewery is well known for their Brewer's Reserve Series and fresh hop IPA. Head out back to sip your suds beside the Chewuch River.

Skyline Divide + North Fork Brewery
Gaining roughly 1,500 feet in the first 2 miles, Skyline Divide is not for the beginner hiker. Once you reach the ridgeline, your reward is wildflowers galore coupled with views of Mounts Baker, Shuksan, and everything in between.

You've earned your beer(s) after that trek. 30 minutes down the bumpy forest road, North Fork is the only brewery around - and it's a good one. This funky "beer shrine" is decorated floor-to-ceiling with beer memorabilia, and offers some of the best beer and pizza in the county. Ask for liquid lingerie - you won't regret it.

Park Butte + Birdsview Brewing
Perhaps the best - and certainly the most popular - trail on Mount Baker's south side is Park Butte. Gaining 2,000 feet in 3.5 miles, this one's another biggie, but oh so worth it. Your destination? A 1930's fire lookout with 360-degree mountain views.

You'll be thirsty by the time you get to Birdsview Brewing. Nearly an hour from the Park Butte trailhead by car, this family-owned, octagon-shaped brewery is a most convenient stop for beer and some grub. Outside, the beer garden is a nice place to relax after that long drive.

Want more trail and ale pairings in Washington state? Beers at the Bottom is a great resource for hike and brewery reviews. Cheers!

Brandon Fralic is a Bellingham-based writer and photographer. With a focus on the outdoors, travel, and craft beer, he has contributed to a handful of publications including Washington Trails and Outdoor Project.​​ Visit his portfolio for more info.