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Trails & Ales: Destinations for Hiking & Breweries

enjoying a beer at a brewery after a hike
Allianz - enjoying a beer at a brewery after a hike

Reaching the summit. Hiking your first difficult trail. Completing the tree-lined loop faster than ever before.

These are all reasons to celebrate after a day on the trail. And there’s no place that harkens to hikers quite like breweries, whether it’s a stein of craft ale that’s calling or a Bavarian-style pretzel motivating you through that final mile.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, we should note that anytime your itinerary includes hiking or other outdoor trips, you should consider travel insurance an essential worth packing. With plans designed for any budget or itinerary, Allianz Global Assistance has the right-fit travel insurance plan for you and your travel companions.

As luck would have it, epic treks and destination breweries are often a stone’s throw from one another. And the list of destinations is growing. Don’t worry, we’ve done the heavy lifting of exploring the great outdoors and sampling a few of the libations from nearby breweries. Here are a few pairings worth chasing down…

Charlottesville, VA: Humpback Rocks & Blue Mountain Brewery

Central Virginia is perhaps best known for its Wine Trails, dozens of grape adventures snaking through the Blue Ridge Mountains, peeking around the Shenandoah Valley, and running right through America’s early history.1

But the beer scene of Charlottesville and outlying towns is keeping pace and then some, from Starr Hill to Champion and Three Notch’d. Further afoot you’ll find destination breweries, such as Wild Wolf Brewing Company in Nellysford and Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton.

Before we set our sights on a watering hole, let’s tackle the hike: Humpback Rocks, which is located off Interstate 64 beside Afton Mountain. The name is derived from the huge greenstone formation jutting from the peak of Humpback Mountain, more than 3,000 feet high. While the 1-mile distance might have you thinking the hike is a breeze, this is a steep, difficult trek. If you’re an experienced hiker with time on your side, you can easily add onto the mileage.2 But if you’re eager to hydrate, descend the peak and set your compass for Blue Mountain Brewery. Come for the beer, stay for the mountain views. The sprawling, often bustling complex includes an indoor/outdoor restaurant, an outdoor stage for live music, a gift shop, and several bars. The top-shelf brews include Full Nelson, a pale ale that’s not too hoppy. Just note that parking can be an all-terrain adventure; leave the mini-van at home if possible.3

Breckenridge, CO: Mt. Baldy & Breckenridge Brewery

This former mining town struck gold as a winter sports destination, welcoming skiers and snowboarders by the droves. Of course, where there’s mountains and tourists, you’ll also find hikers and “hop heads,” as IPA afficionados are known.

When your backyard is the Rocky Mountains, it can be tough to narrow down a single hike, but here’s a summertime trek that brings you through the history and geography of the Breckenridge area: Mt. Baldy and the Iowa Mill.

You can’t miss Mt. Baldy, or just “Baldy,” which juts up from the ground across the Blue River Valley from the Breckenridge Ski Resort. Accessible by the aptly named Baldy Road (CR 520) via Boreas Pass, Mt. Baldy boasts a nearly 14,000-ft. summit, making it a “13er,” which in mountaineering refers to a climb of 13,000 feet plus. (Careful: for inexperienced hikers not equipped for the journey to the top, Mt. Baldy can be a hairy experience.)

You don’t need to reach Baldy’s summit to gawk at the wildflowers, or soak in the radiant sunsets and postcard-worthy views of the Tenmile Range. Be sure take a moment to swing by the Iowa Mining Mill, a carbonite mine that produced ore before it became an Instagram backdrop.4, 5

Mountainous hiking and mining through history can be thirsty work. You’ll find the Breckenridge Brewery’s brewpub right on Main Street. The 30-year-old craft brewery, which is now doing business under Anheuser-Busch group of breweries, distributes to 35 states. If you’re looking for something to properly satiate your thirst after conquering Baldy, we suggest sipping on a Nitro Orange Cream Ale, a refreshing elixir cooked up with Mandarina Bavaria hops, orange zest, and an infusion of Nitrogen.

It’s like drinking in that sunset you just photographed.6

San Diego, CA: Lake Miramar Trail & Ballast Point

After you hit San Diego’s beaches, zoo, and Midday, it’s time to blaze a trail.

One popular hiking destination with prime people watching is Lake Miramar Trail, an easy, 5-mile loop off Interstate-15 in the western outskirts of the city. The views are terrific, you can bring a dog along, and with a paved surface, you’re not limited to you hoofing it on foot. It’s also ideal for families who have kiddos rolling through life in a stroller.7

Lake Miramar is actually a reservoir, having been completed in 1960 and drawing water from both the Colorado River Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct. No matter, the sunrises and sunsets are real. And if you prefer to get your workout in the water, kayaks, rowboats, and pedal boasts are available for rental.8

After your surf-and-turf adventure, it’s time to rally at Ballast Point brewery and restaurant — a mere 15-minute jaunt away. What started as a collective of home brewers nearly 25 years ago has grown into one of the go-to labels for craft beer fans. Sculpin is Ballast Point’s award-winning IPA, a not-too-hoppy IPA with hints of apricot, peach, mango, and lemon flavors. But if it’s a bit strong for you, go with the Grunion Pale Ale, just as tasty but a bit on the mellow side.9

Hiking treks and brewery trip pairings are making destinations pop from the Northeast to the Southwest. After all, outdoor adventures and breweries make for great itineraries whether you’re embarking on a solo adventure or having a reunion with family and friends. Just be sure to handle the trail and the post-hike libations responsibly.

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