It gets blazingly hot in Southern California’s Mojave Desert—so hot that the only thing a thru-hiker’s parched brain can think about after a while is a cold beer. A thousand miles to the north, in the alpine forests of Oregon, it gets cold and rainy—so rainy that the only thing a thru-hiker’s frozen bones will long for is a robust stout to heat them up from the inside out.
Welcome to the Pacific Crest Trail, the long trail that doubles as the world’s most committing brewery crawl.
“Do I think about beer? Yeah, like all the time,” says triple-crowner Liz Thomas. Over the past decade, Thomas has backpacked more than 15,000 miles and holds the unsupported women’s speed record for the Appalachian Trail. (She’s also the instructor of Backpacker’s Thru-Hiking 101 course.) “When you are a day from the next town and it’s raining and people are slogging through it, someone will say, ‘c’mon, let’s get a beer.’ It’s a pretty common refrain.”
Thomas knows her porters from her stouts. In addition to her life in the wild, she visited all 61 breweries in Denver during an eight-day, 88-mile “urban brew-thru.”
Finding good brewery close to the trail in Southern California can be a challenge. But once thru-hikers reach the mountains of the northwest, breweries are almost as common as mosquitos. Here are ten beers to tick off your list along the way.