Here in the Bay Area, we have two primary pastimes: hiking, and day drinking. Last spring, when we had a rare stroke of good sense to put the two together in a feature on Bay Area hiking trails with bars at the end, our readers went literally cuckoo—it is, to date, still 7x7's most popular online story ever.
So we thought, why not hike and drink our way across the state? In this follow-up, you'll find a glass of wine or a craft beer at the end of the trail from the forest of Woodside to the coastal foothills to the High Sierra.
ICYMI:5 Bay Area Trails With Bars at the End
Eldorado National Forest
The Hike: Thunder Mountain Trail(9 miles total, out and back)
The Reward: Kit Carson Lodge, kitcarsonlodge.com
This trail isn't for the faint of heart: An elevation change of 2,100 feet in less than four miles is intense, even for the fittest among us. But the first reward, spectacular views of Silver Lake and the wooded Eldorado National Forest from the peak of Thunder Mountain is hard to argue. Your second reward? A cold craft beer or glass of wine on the deck of the rustic Kit Carson Lodge or, better yet, on one of its lakeside beach chairs.
Start on the Horse Canyon Trail, which meets Kit Carson Road about a mile east (clockwise) around Silver Lake from the lodge. You'll follow Horse Canyon for about a mile before hitting a crossroads about a mile in. Turn left up the trail and hike to the summit. When you've had your fill of the scenery, make a beeline back down the trail to the Lodge for reward number-two!
Note: It's snowy in winter!
Half Moon Bay State Park
The Hike: Half Moon Bay State Park Coastside Trail(5 miles total, out and back)
The Reward: Miramar Beach Restaurant,miramarbeachrestaurant.com
The Coastside Trail might not be among the most challenging day hikes but, as relaxed routes chock-full of ocean views go, it's hard to beat. Park at the Miramar Beach Restaurant, a quaint historic cafe with an outdoor patio and unobstructed views of the water through the indoor dining room's floor-to-ceiling windows.
From the cafe, at Mirada Road and Magellan Avenue, walk four blocks south on Mirada to a footbridge and the trailhead. Continue south along the bay's coastal bluffs, passing through Roosevelt Beach, Half Moon State Beach, and Venice Beach until you reach a point about 2.5 miles from the start, where the trail sharply turns towards the sea as it approaches the intersection between Balboa Road and Kelly Avenue. Turn around, and head back to the Miramar and its full bar of pick-me-ups. Time your hike for a 5pm end and hit the cafe right as happy hour begins (Monday through Wednesday, and Friday) for half off drinks and food specials.
The Hike: Shirley Canyon Trail(5.8 miles)
The Reward: Granite Bistro Cafe, squawalpine.com
Squaw Valley's Shirley Canyon Trail has the best of Tahoe all in one day hike. The trail has not one but three waterfalls, granite-faced hillsides, and an alpine lake. Begin at the end of Squaw Peak Road, parking here or at Squaw Village, just a short walk from the trailhead. From here, follow the path, keeping the river on your right as you pass each waterfall, one after another, through the first half of your hike. At 2.5 miles you hit a massive granite slab, a steep section of the trail where you'll have to do a bit of light scrambling, before popping out at Shirley Lake next, a great spot for a dip on a hot day.
When you've caught your breath, continue on either the Shirley Lake Trail or branch off onto the single-track Solitude Trail—both will lead you straight to High Camp in about the same amount of time. At High Camp, grab a drink at the Granite Bistro Cafe and soak in the views of the Sierra. When your glass is empty, hop on the aerial tram for a free ride back down to the Village.
The Hike: Meadowlark Trail to the Woodland Star Trail(4 mile loop)
The Reward: Alpine Inn Beer Garden, alpineinnbeergarden.com
The Alpine Inn Beer Garden, a Gold Rush–era saloon in Woodside, is alone worth a visit. But the backyard beer garden here feels like even more of a treat if you've made it the final destination of a quality hike. Park in the Alpine's massive dirt lot, then walk half a mile up John Marthens Lane to the Meadowlark Trailhead.
Follow the Meadowlark Trail to the Acorn Trail, where the Meadowlark disappears briefly before reappearing on your left. Pick the Meadowlark back up and continue until reaching the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail. Turn left here and follow it until you find the Woodland Star Trail. From here it's just a little over a half mile back to the Meadowlark Trailhead (turn right when you hit the Meadowlark crossing) and the road to liquid refreshment.
Sierra National Forest
The Hike: Vermillion Campground and Lake Thomas A. Edison Trail(4.7 miles one way, or 9.4 miles RT)
The Reward: Vermillion Valley Resort, edisonlake.com
The John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail are legendary among hikers; their hundreds of miles of trail traverses some of the most beautiful backcountry in the state. In fact, there's only one real drawback to John Muir and Pacific Crest—it takes weeks, if not months, to complete them. If you're looking for something just as impressive that only requires a single-day commitment, the Lake Thomas A. Edison Trail is your answer.
Starting at the Vermillion Valley Resort, a famous way-station for through-hikers of the major trails, head north then east along the lake clockwise. Continue along the path which keeps you close to the shore with a heart-pumping elevation change of over 1,000 ft (okay, heart racing, when you consider your starting elevation of almost 8,000 feet) to the eastern tip of the lake. From there, hop on the Hiker's Water Taxi at Mono Creek Landing for a leisurely ride back to the resort, or hike back the way you came. An ice-cold drink will be waiting with your name on it.