Epic Trails to Epic Taverns
If you’ve been following our Trail to Tavern series, you now have dozens of ideas for exciting days on the trail, paired with unique and convenient pubs. We’ve covered a variety of major cities like San Francisco and Chicago, as well as our original hometown of Telluride, Colorado. But it’s also nice to dream once in awhile, so here we’ve collected a few epic trails paired with epic taverns.
First, let’s define epic, because the word can certainly be over-used. In this case, we’re concerning ourselves with very long or very difficult trails, and the unique restaurants and bars near them. We’ve asked our friends at RootsRated for a few domestic as well as a few more exotic trails for you. While these trail to tavern duos may not be quite as easily-accessible as the previous pairings, we hope these give you a few additions to your adventure travel wish list.
The Doyle Hotel on the Appalachian Trail
Why not start with any long-distance hiker’s ultimate bucket-list item, an Appalachian Trail thru-hike? We’re assuming you’re familiar with the AT, but RootsRated editor Ry Glover offers a colorful account of his AT thru-hike that’s worth a read. Hikers have two major decisions to make before beginning: whether to start in the North or South, and whether to go for speed or relax and enjoy all the side trips and towns you’ll find along the way. Answers to both of these questions may ultimately be dictated by your budget and timeline, but no matter how you choose to enjoy the trail, you shouldn’t miss the Doyle Hotel.
Located in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, where Susquehanna and Juniata rivers come together, the Doyle has a reputation for being hiker-friendly. In fact, Glover includes this spot as one of the seven places where AT thru-hikers must stop. His description says it all: “It’s legendary. Run by one of the friendliest couples you’ll ever meet, the building is ancient with a lot of character, the food is greasy with a lot of calories, and the beer is plentiful with a lot of, er, drinkability. This is a hotel that was originally built in the 1770’s and where Charles Dickens once stayed, so while you’re sipping your Yuengling (be sure to call it a ‘lager’), try to appreciate this place for what it’s become: a weary, old building where weary, old hikers can come together and collectively find a little life and rejuvenation.”
Tour de Mont Blanc + Poco Loco in Chamonix, France
Now let’s head a little farther afield, to France. The Tour de Mont Blanc seems consciously designed for those of us who want to take this “trail to tavern” idea to the next level. In fact, our writer Matt Guenther cites the food along the way as one of the top reasons to hike this route. There are more than 50 places to stop along the way, so no matter what pace you choose to hike this 105-mile circuit of Mont Blanc, you’ll always have a convenient resting point.
Since we’re choosing one place to feature, Poco Loco in Chamonix takes top honors. Guenther said that he returned to this place, known for its generous and delicious hamburgers, a few times during his trip. It might be surprising to hear us recommend a burger place that sounds more like a Mexican joint in France, but Tripadvisor reviewers agree; this is the #1 restaurant out of 174 restaurants in this little ski town. The tiny restaurant serves affordable burgers and fries, and has great vegetarian options as well.
Hiking Telescope Peak in Death Valley + Beer at Panamint Springs Resort
Seasoned hikers know that the desert often holds amazing surprises–from unexpected oases teeming with life to once-in-a-decade superblooms when the desert explodes with color and life. One of the most rewarding hikes in the desert southwest takes hikers through several ecosystems and up to the highest point in Death Valley.
Telescope Peak towers above Death Valley National Park. Rob Hannawacker.
Hiking to the top of Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park yields amazing panoramic views and a sense of accomplishment after seven difficult, uphill trail miles. You’ll gain 11,300 feet from the desert floor to the highest point in the park. This very remote hike in an already remote park will take you off the grid. You’ll pass landmarks like the historic charcoal kilns and Arcane Meadows, where Death Valley got its name. According to William L. Manly’s book about his party of 49ers traveling west in the California gold rush, “ours were the first visible footsteps, and we the party which named it the saddest and most dreadful name that came to us first from its memories.” After struggling through weeks of being lost and hungry in the Great Basin and Death Valley, one of the women in the party turned back over her shoulder and said, “goodbye Death Valley.”
Luckily, the return trip is all downhill, and today’s visitors to this forbidding wilderness have a man-made oasis in the form of a bar, motel and cabins right outside the park. Well stocked with what our writer Krista Diamond calls an “incomprehensibly massive beer selection,” and providing a place to stay and refuel, you’ll find the Panamint Springs Resort on highway 190 on the way back out of the park if you’re headed west.
Rainbow Rim Trail + Roughrider Saloon
We have to throw one in for the mountain bikers, and this one’s truly epic. As part of Kaibab National Forest, this trail operates under different management from the neighboring National Park lands. As a result, unlike all other trails along Grand Canyon’s massive rim, the Rainbow Rim Trail allows mountain bikes. While avoiding the crowds and tour buses, you’ll get spectacular panoramic views into the canyon. The higher elevation of the Kaibab plateau makes this North Rim trail relatively more wooded and full of wildlife compared to the more-visited South Rim. The most difficult part of this adventure? Attempting to balance your workout with the constant temptation to pull over and take yet another photograph of the stunning views into the canyon.
End your day’s adventure with drinks at the Roughrider Saloon. Absorb some of the Teddy Roosevelt stories and learn how this game preserve eventually became a national park, or just get your cocktail to go (they actually do that). Just a few steps away, you’ll find beautiful sunset views over the canyon. It’s worth noting that the Saloon also serves coffee and basic breakfast fare in the morning.
Echo Summit to Donner Pass (PCT) + High Camp at Squaw Valley
You’ll get extra credit on this hike, after which you’ll have experience with two iconic trails: the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) and the Tahoe Rim Trail. The 64-mile section from Echo Summit to Donner Pass will take backpackers about six or seven days depending on pace. Since the trail has snow cover in winter, we recommend a spring or fall hike. As RootsRated writer Jill Sanford explains, “epic granite slopes and sparkling alpine lakes make this 64 mile stretch of the PCT between Echo Summit and Donner Pass one for the record books.”
Donner Pass Summit on the PCT in California. Bruce C. Cooper.
For the “tavern” part of this pairing, you won’t want to miss High Camp at Squaw Valley resort, where you can rest and enjoy a dip in their hot tub. Order a craft beer or a cocktail and enjoy the view provided by the 8,200’ elevation. You’ll definitely be paying resort prices, but it’s worth it for the location. Visitors who aren’t doing the backpacking route can also pay for a gondola ride up to High Camp, and go for an out-and-back day hike. In fact, all of the trails listed here would make for great day hikes as well.
Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Matt Guenther.