7 Incredible Family Hikes That Just So Happen To End Near Great Breweries

These kid-friendly hikes and family-friendly breweries make a great combination.

by Doug Schnitzspahn
Originally Published: 
Ariela Basson/Fatherly; Getty Images, Shutterstock

There’s a special art to getting your kids out on a hike. You want to challenge them a bit. You want them to get their ya-yas out. You want them to appreciate nature and you want to get a bit of exercise and unplug yourself. But you need to avoid breakdowns and pushing them on hikes that will make them hate getting outside. The perfect kid hike is short and sweet and offers a payoff at the end that involves some play and exploration. Hikes to lakes and waterfalls where you can picnic and simply enjoy things are bigger winners. But what about you? After you put the work in and deliver on that fun family hike, don’t you deserve a treat, too? We have you covered. The following hikes across the country not only score points for family fun, but they also start and end near a classic brewery. Even better, these breweries are spots that welcome families. So get out on the trail, then enjoy a cold one (just drink responsibly) and revel in two of the best parts of being a dad: walking in the woods and enjoying a beer.

1. The Mesa Trail/Southern Sun Brewery, Boulder, Colorado

The Hike: Buzzing with Teslas, college students, and adventure junkies of all types, Boulder is a stunning sight with the sandstone cliffs of the Flatirons rising up above the rolling plains. While climbers from around the world flock here to climb the rock, the place draws outdoorsy families as well since the town’s public land is so easy to access. The highlight is the Mesa Trail, a 6.6-mile rolling path that runs along the base of the Flatirons and serves up views of the cags above and town down below. The beauty of the trail as a family hike is that it features multiple exit and entry points. You could hike the whole thing from Eldorado State Park to Chautauqua Park, racking up 1,714 vertical feet as you rollercoaster up and down. Or break it down into sections that will be easier for your little ones. For example, start at NCAR (the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in a building designed by I.M. Pei), which hosts kid-friendly science exhibits, and wander down a short walk with interpretive signs that teach about weather and climate. From there, you can head further down the Mesa Trail itself or back to NCAR.

The Brewery: Boulder is flush with breweries but Southern Sun is the closest to NCAR and the Mesa Trail. Replete with Grateful Dead concert posters on the walls and a wide selection of board games that you can play at the tables, this Boulder icon will please both kids and parents. And the beer — the parent company, Mountain Sun Brewery, puts out 75 beers annually with new releases each month and guest and collaborations always on tap. (Expert tip: February is Stout Month, and not to be missed.) Always on tap, the Colorado Kind Ale is a crowd-pleaser. And the food menu includes grilled cheese and fries for kids of all ages.

2. Sterling Pond / Von Trapp Lodge & Bierhall, Stowe, Vermont

Sterling Pond, Stowe Vermont


The Hike: Vermont’s bucolic Green Mountains are prime territory for family hikes and Sterling Pond is the poster child for picturesque Eastern wilderness. Many hikes here can be rough and rocky, but the one-mile, 880-vertical-foot trip from the top of Smuggler’s Notch up to the mountain lake is a steep-but-short ramble most kids can handle, ideal for families who want to get out without breakdowns. Of course, that accessibility also means the hike is popular and crowded (weekends and early starts are recommended). The lake itself is a natural playground, nice for a swim on a humid summer day, and stocked with brook trout (this is the highest trout fishery in the state at 3,019 feet). Picnic, splash, cast, relax, explore a bit further if the brood is game, and then it’s a quick — but steep — trip back to the car.

The Brewery: What family with theater kids doesn’t want to model itself after the singing Von Trapps, the heroes of The Sound of Music? The film was based on the story of the real Von Trapps who escaped the Nazis in Austria to thrive in Vermont. Founded by Johannes Von Trapp in 2010, and a 20-minute drive from the top of Smuggler’s Notch, this bit of Europe in Vermont offers up not just Alpine-style lodging but also beer with a taste of the Old Country. Keep it traditional post-hike with one of von Trapp Brewing’s malty Vienna Style Lagers, made on-premises.

3. Three Waterfalls Loop / Nantahala Brewing Company, Bryson City, North Carolina

Three Waterfalls Loop


The Hike: Covering just 2.4 miles, this fun walk in a national park delivers a lot of natural wonder without requiring a whole lot of effort. That’s not to say it’s easy — the trail climbs into the rugged backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the loop that will keep kids engaged as they tick off stops at the three classic Appalachain mountain waterfalls—Tom Branch, Indian Creek, and Juney Whank—along the way. Each fall has a unique personality. Tom Branch tumbles 60 feet down sheer rock and ledges; Indian Creek cascades over 25 feet into a pool; ninety-foot-high Juney Whank has a bridge across the bottom where you can feel the spray on your face. There are also lots of options here depending on your family’s age and desire for adventure. Tom Branch is just .25 miles from the trailhead.

The Brewery: The protected Smoky Mountain watershed provides some of the cleanest waters in the world. Open since 2009, Natahala Brewing Company takes full advantage of them, producing an array of solid beers (try the Noon Day IPA and the Trail Magic Ale). The pet- and family-friendly brewery, located in downtown Bryson City across from the Great Smoky Mountain Railway, serves up a nice selection of burgers, wings, and sandwiches to satisfy you post-hike.

4. Goat Rock Trail / Superior Bathhouse Brewery, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Goat Rock Trail


The Hike: Just 1.1-miles long and switch backing up a fairly leisurely 270 feet to an observation point on — you guessed it — Goat Rock, this trail in Hot Springs National Park is ideal for the little ones. And anyone will appreciate the view which looks out over the Zig-Zag section of the Ouachita Mountains, which sprawl from Arkansas into Oklahoma. This picturesque island of high ground, once the home of buffalo hunted by Native people, represents the only significant mountains between the Southern Appalachians and New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristos, 800 miles to the west.

The Brewery: The only brewery located in a national park, Superior Bathhouse takes advantage of the clean mineral water of the eponymous springs. This particular bathhouse stood empty for nearly 30 years until 2013, when owner Rose Schweikhart dreamed up the idea of transforming it into a craft brewery. The pure, hot water aids in the brewing process (after adjusting the Ph for the high alkalinity) and makes for outstanding beer. Why not try the Goat Rock (Bock) after your hike? Though you can’t actually bathe here anymore, you can enjoy a burger and the kids will love the root beer floats.

5. Tumalo Falls Trail / Crux Fermentation Project, Bend, Oregon

Tumalo Falls, Oregon


The Hike: Bend prides itself on a culture that champions the good things in life (beer and food!) and a love for wild spaces. On the dry eastside of the mighty, volcanic Cascades, Bend is a hotspot for climbers, snowboarders, and hikers with plenty of trails nearby and the Deschutes River rolling right through town. Tumalo Falls is a classic hike 12 miles from downtown that gets you up close and personal with a gushing 97-foot waterfall. It’s just a .25-mile hike to the falls, so even the tiniest tykes (and surly teenagers) can take on the walk and be overjoyed by reaching such a powerful natural wonder. If you do want more, keep hiking another 1.25 miles up trail to Middle Tumalo Falls, a slightly smaller, but no less stunning, double-tiered cascade. Obviously, it’s a popular spot so an early start and avoiding weekends will make it a bit less hectic.

The Brewery: It’s hard to go wrong stopping at any brewery in the beer-happy Bend, but Crux is a beer geek’s destination. You’ll find over 24 beers on tap. Try the citrusy Noisy Boy West Coast IPA and be sure to sample some of the barrel-aged wonders and funky sours (experimentation is the name of the game at this brewery). Located in an old transmission shop, Crux Fermentation is also proudly family-friendly, encouraging kids and dogs to engage in post-outdoor-adventure downtime in the bustling taproom and outside on the lawn. The pretzels with dipping sauces are a must-order.

6. The Dune Climb / Farm Club, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

The sunset at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore


The Hike: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore stretches 35 miles along northeastern Lake Michigan, a natural playground and place for contemplation. Much of it is preserved to retain its natural state—fragile and rare ecosystems on a body of freshwater with the power of an ocean. The park harbors many fun hikes that are great for families like the 2.8-mile Sleeping Bear Point Trail, which gives kids some time to scramble in the sand and look out on impressive vistas of the Great Lake, but the Dune Climb is the type of fun that calls to kids. This 3.5-mile roundtrip hike to the shoreline starts with a free for all climb up the big dune. It can be tough to slog up in the sand (account for this taking more time than the usual hike) but the beauty of it is that if your tot gets tired, you can simply turn around and play in the sand on your way down.

The Brewery: After you exhaust yourselves on the dunes, drive a quick 30 minutes to the Farm Club outside of Traverse City. This laid-back, family-friendly farm, restaurant, and brewery in the countryside serves up healthy food and carefully crafted draughts. Family brewmaster Casey Valdez was an organic chemist who brought his scientific mind and cerevisaphile’s palate to the farm’s beer operation. Try the pilsner out of the side-pull tap, which gives it a perfect head. And compliment that drink with the farm-to-table food, which includes everything from a coveted pozole verde to beer-battered green tomatoes — all of the produce is grown on the premises.

7. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park / Big Sur Taphouse, Big Sur, California


The Hike: Although it has been recently damaged by fire, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park makes it easy to see the wild coast up close. Two trails here are perfect for families. The .5-mile round trip McWay Falls Trail may no longer lead to the beach, but it does give a quick and impressive view of the raw power of nature: the 80-foot falls cascading to the ocean and a postcard-perfect cove created by a landslide. The steep 1-mile Partington Cove Trail does lead down to a rocky beach, where kids can watch the waves crash and it also adds a bit of fun by traveling through an old tunnel (ships actually used to unlade here and haul cargo up to the road) to reach the ocean.

The Brewery: This taphouse is where Big Sur locals and tourists congregate. Although it does not brew on premises, it offers up an impressive collection of local craft beers—the Alvarado Street Brewery Cold Pressed from just up the road in Carmel is a tasty hazy IPA (and you can always keep driving if you want to go to the source, too) But the food here seals the deal. From hot wings to a Beyond Burger to bánh mís, there’s something here for everyone.

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