May 19, 2016
Trails and Ales
By Brandon Fralic and Rachel Wood
Photo at right: Birdsview Brewing in the town of Concrete, Washington offers generous sample trays featuring every beer on tap. Photo by Brandon Fralic
Magnificent as they are, flowers and waterfalls are not the only byproduct of Washington’s bountiful precipitation—over 90 percent of beer is water. And the Northwest is well-situated for the bounty of trails and ales that abound in our corner of the world.
The North Cascade mountains are not only dripping with melting snow and luscious foothills hikes, but our research turned up several nearby watering holes that can quench any post-hike thirst.
Here, then, are our choices for a quartet of fine hikes and cold drafts found in the expansive North Cascades region.
Pine and Cedar Lakes and Structures Brewing
Hike: Just south of Bellingham, the Chuckanut Mountains are the only place in Washington state where the Cascade Mountains meet the sea. Pine and Cedar Lakes is an ideal 5-mile hike for rainy spring days. A lush forest overhead will keep you dry as you climb 1,400 feet in 1.6 miles. After the trail levels out, it’s less than half a mile to both Pine and Cedar Lakes. Enjoy these peaceful lakes from the boardwalks that encircle them, passing through their marshy edges.
Directions to Trailhead: Follow I-5 south from Bellingham and take exit 250 west. Follow Old Fairhaven Parkway/SR 11 west 0.1 miles. Turn left on 30th Street and in about a mile turn left onto Old Samish Road. Drive 1.3 miles to the trailhead parking lot on the right. Trailhead is clearly marked. Discover Pass is required.
Brewery: Drive 15 minutes north into downtown Bellingham to try one of the city’s newest beer producers, Structures Brewing. Easily among Bellingham’s most innovative breweries, Structures deviates from the standard tap list by offering “mixed fermentations” as well as forthcoming barrel-aged beers. structuresbrewing.com
South Baker Lake Trail and Birdsview Brewing
Hike: The western shore of Baker Lake is a buzzing recreation hub during summer. Skip the crowds and visit this eastside trail in spring. Accessible year-round, South Baker Lake Trail runs 14 miles along the lakeshore. With wide-open views of Mt. Baker over its namesake lake, this easy, rolling trail provides several excellent turnaround spots.
The first, Anderson Point, is just 2 miles from the trailhead and features backcountry camping facilities. Another overnight destination, Maple Grove, is 4 miles from the trailhead.
Directions to Trailhead: From Hwy 20, turn north on Baker Lake Road, a little over 7 miles west of Concrete. After 14 miles, turn right on Baker Dam Road, cross the dam and turn left on Forest Road 1107. The signed trailhead is on the left in 0.8 miles. Northwest Forest Pass is required.
Brewery: From the Baker Lake trailhead, drive approximately 30 minutes to Birdsview Brewing in Concrete. This family-owned, octagon-shaped brewery is a most convenient stop for brews and pub food. Outside, the beer garden is a nice place to relax on sunny days. Get the sample tray to try a little bit of everything.
Little Bear Trail and Lake Chelan Brewing
Hike: Located within Lake Chelan State Park, Little Bear Trail is a 2.3-mile loop trail along the shores of Washington’s longest lake, Lake Chelan. After passing through the short tunnel beneath South Lakeshore Road, you’ll find yourself surrounded by majestic Ponderosa pines on this easy walk. A leisurely pace will give you time to read the numerous interpretive signs along the trail. Scenic vista breaks in the forest, coupled with strategically-placed benches, offer spectacular views over Lake Chelan.
Direction to Trailhead: From the town of Chelan, take Hwy 97A south, 4 miles to South Shore Road. Continue west on South Shore approximately 4 more miles to Lake Chelan State Park. Look for the signs to the Little Bear Trailhead. Discover Pass is required.
Brewery: A picturesque 30-minute drive along the lakeshore will deliver you to Lake Chelan Brewing Company in the nearby town of Manson. You can’t miss this barn-red brewery from the street. Inside, they serve five tasty styles inspired by the Lake Chelan area. lakechelanmicrobrewery.com
Patterson Mountain and Old Schoolhouse Brewery
Hike: Spring into North Cascades hiking on this moderately difficult trail. You’ll gain 1,000 feet in 4 miles if you opt for both loops and the summit. With wildflowers blooming and the heat of summer just around the corner, March through May is the perfect time to hike Patterson Mountain. Beginning at Patterson Lake, climb to the 3,500-foot summit for 360-degree views of the Methow Valley and surrounding mountains.
Direction to Trailhead: From the 4-way stop in Winthrop, go east on Hwy 20 for 0.6 miles. Turn right on Twin Lakes Road and follow it for 3.1 miles. Turn right on Patterson Lake Road and follow it for 4-miles. The boat launch and trailhead parking are both on the left. Trailhead is across the road from the parking area. Discover Pass is required.
Brewery: Fifteen minutes east of the Patterson Mountain trailhead, Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop awaits. This award-winning brewery is well-known for its Brewer’s Reserve Series. Head out back to sip your suds beside the Chewuch River. You deserve it. oldschoolhousebrewery.com/index2.html
Brandon Fralic and Rachel Wood are a writing and photography team focusing on pairing Pacific Northwest trails and ales. Both lifelong Washingtonians, they grew up hiking and camping, and enjoy sharing their love of the outdoors. Follow along at beersatthebottom.com