The Southern Appalachians have their share of trails: bike trails, hiking trails, paddle trails—and thanks to the craft brewery boom, an abundance of beer trails. Explore multiple breweries, wineries, and distilleries while also enjoying quick access to some of the South’s best adventures.
BREWLY NOTED BEER TRAIL, Tennessee/Virginia—48 miles
The Tri-Cities of Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol have become a celebrated beer hub, and the Brewly Noted Beer Trail links several craft breweries together—with East Tennessee’s best hiking and mountain biking just a stone’s throw away.
Start in the very hip downtown Johnson City Brewing Company. Then hit Yee-Haw Brewing Company, in the renovated Tweetsie Train Depot. Cruise through downtown Kingsport for a stop at Sleepy Owl Brewery, which got its start through a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Then grab a beer at Studio Brew in Bristol, and buy your designated driver one of Studio’s homemade Big E’Z’ Root Beers. Wander over to the one-year-old Bristol Brewing, in the historic bus station.
**Burn Calories: Explore an eight-mile loop in Warriors’ Path State Park, where singletrack cruises along the shores of Fort Patrick Henry Lake. Watch for the rocky downhill on Boneyard. Head south of town and climb a three-mile loop on Buffalo Mountain, which includes the White Rock Trail, where mountaintop cliff outcroppings provide big views to the east.
HIGH COUNTRY BEER TRAIL, North Carolina—40 miles
Along this 40 mile trail that connects four breweries, you have either lift-served mountain biking or downhill skiing depending on the season, legit peak scrambles, some of the best road biking in the country, and even a bit of bouldering if you’re game.
Blind Squirrel Brewing Company has been knocking out solid beers quietly since 2012. Show up on Saturday and you can take a tour of the brewery. Bonus: There’s a zipline course and disc golf course on site. Make a pit stop in Banner Elk at Flat Top Brewing for shuffleboard.
Get an education in hops at Lost Province Brewery in downtown Boone. Appalachian Mountain Brewery might be on the outskirts of town, but it’s the center of craft brewing in the High Country. Less than a mile from AMB, Booneshine Brewing is a tiny brewery without its own taproom. You can watch the gang make beer through the window, then step next door to Basil’s for a sample at their bar.
**Burn Calories: Head to Grandfather Mountain State Park for a five-mile hike/rock scramble along the Grandfather Trail to Calloway Peak. Or knock out a 20+ mile road ride that combines a choice piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway (crossing the Lynn Cove Viaduct) and US 221. Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park, in Boone, has several miles of cross country trails built for progression so you can work on your tabletops, skinnies and drops.
BREW RIDGE TRAIL Virginia—35 miles
Nelson County is the epicenter of Virginia’s first craft beer boom, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Starr Hill, Blue Mountain and Devils Backbone. Brewing has grown in the county, and now you can link up almost half a dozen breweries via a scenic mountain ramble. The hiking isn’t too bad, either.
Kick the trip off in downtown Charlottesville at South Street Brewery. Next, pay homage to Virginia’s second-oldest craft brewery: Starr Hill. They have revamped some of their classic beers and introduced outstanding new IPAs. Blue Mountain Brewery helped pioneer the new wave of hop farming in Virginia, and you can see the fruits of their labor at their Afton brewery, which houses two expansive hop fields. Wild Wolf Brewing Company’s backyard is a white-fenced beer garden set amongst the hardwoods—a perfect road trip distraction. Wild Wolf also runs a farm to fork restaurant that gets most of their ingredients within 30 miles. And finish the day at Devils Backbone Brewing Company’s basecamp in Roseland, a picturesque adventure hub near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
**Burn Calories: Detour onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and climb Humpback Rocks, a fin of rock with killer views that come after 800 feet of climbing in one mile. Skyline Drive is also nearby for cyclists. Hikers should not miss Crabtree Falls, a series of five major cascades and several smaller ones that plunge 1,200 feet. For more of a challenge, keep going to the Appalachian Trail, where you can head north to the Priest or south to Spy Rock, which presents 360-degree views.
THE BEERWERKS TRAIL Virginia—80 miles
The only problem with the Shenandoah Valley? There’s so much to take in, it can be hard to focus. You have the Shenandoah River running through the heart of the pastoral valley, which is framed by the rugged peaks of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, as well as Shenandoah National Park. You’ve got the A.T., the best mountain biking in Virginia, paddling, road cycling…and now beer. A dozen breweries are scattered along the valley’s new Beerwerks Trail. We’ve picked a few highlights to help you focus. beerwerkstrail.com
Great Valley Farm Brewery is a small farm brewery located on 27 acres in the Natural Bridge area specializing in producing beers in the Belgian farmhouse tradition
You have five breweries to choose from between Waynesboro and Staunton. Hit Seven Arrows Brewing on your way to Stable Craft Brewing, which operates a working hop and horse farm on the site of the brewery.
Harrisonburg has become a hotbed of beer, so prepare for a quick walking tour that takes in four breweries. Brothers Craft Brewing, on the north end of town, is in an old Coca-Cola plant. Then hit Wolfe Street, Three Notch’d and finish at Pale Fire,
**Burn Calories: Head into Shenandoah National Park and tackle the road climb on the southern end of Skyline Drive that gains more than 1,000 feet in 10 miles on its way to the top of Loft Mountain. nps.gov/shen. Or get a trail pass from Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition and knock out a couple of dirty loops on Massanutten’s rugged Western Slope, just outside of downtown. svbcoalition.org
VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE CHEERS TRAIL, Virginia—70 miles
Deschutes’s East Coast expansion brewery solidified Roanoke as a beer capital, The new Blue Ridge Cheers Trail connects 30 breweries, wineries, and spirits producers operating in and around Star City.
Named after the city that sits 300 feet below the surface of Smith Mountain Lake, Sunken City Brewing Company is a small, 25-barrel brewpub with a killer taproom and beer garden near the shore of the lake. A rotating list of food trucks, live music and the occasional cornhole tournament makes Chaos Mountain Brewing Company a lively pit stop. Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers, downtown Roanoke’s first craft brewery, has become a community center thanks to regular yoga classes, game nights, and family fun days. You can walk from Soaring Ridge to Big Lick Brewing Company, a brewery that manages to put out an impressively diverse lineup, many of which are named after local personalities.
**Burn Calories: Head straight for the A.T.’s McAfee Knob, and the best Instagram post of your week is nearby. Or paddle a piece of Smith Mountain Lake’s 500 miles of shoreline. Bridgewater Marina has paddle boards ($60 a day; bwmarina.com). Road cyclists will find plenty of loops on and off the Blue Ridge Parkway, while paddlers can explore numerous blueway networks along the James, Blackwater, Pigg, and New rivers.
Explore Park, on the edge of downtown, offers 1,100-acres and 14 miles of mountain biking and trail running (explorepark.org). Or head to Mill Mountain for a mix of greenways and purpose-built singletrack overlooking downtown (playroanoke.com).
LOCO ALE TRAIL, Virginia—30 miles (by bike)
Loudoun County (LoCo) is the largest beer trail in Virginia. The area now has 30 breweries churning out beer in the midst of rolling farms and adventure opportunities. Grab a bike and knocking out a handful of breweries along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, which runs from D.C. to Purcellville. A 30-mile one-way ride on the trail will run you by half a dozen breweries.
Beltway Brewing Company was built to be a contract brewery, producing beers for breweries all over the region. Their small taproom is a showcase for the beers brewed on the premises, so you never know what you’ll get, but the diversity is usually impressive. Located at mile 25 on the W&OD, Old Ox Brewery is a cyclist’s retreat known for impromptu cornhole tournaments. You can knock out two breweries within a couple of blocks of each other at the halfway point in Leesburg, Va. Crooked Run Brewing s a low-key nano-brewery with five rotating taps. Stroll over to Loudoun Brewing Company for a pint on their shady deck.
On Purcellville’s Main Street, and near the end of the W&OD, Belly Love Brewing has a fairly swanky taproom with solid pub fare. If you still have legs, you can toss back a pint at Adroit Theory in Purcellville.
Grab a Loco Ale Trail passport at any Loudoun County brewery, visit tasting rooms, collect stamps, and win prizes.
ASHEVILLE ALE TRAIL, North Carolina—2-60 miles
Asheville still reigns as Appalachia’s beer city. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and New Belgium Brewing Company both built in Asheville because of the mountain mecca’s bubbling local scene. I
The Asheville Ale Trail includes 20 breweries—13 in Asheville, and seven others in nearby mountain hamlets like Black Mountain, Waynesville, Hendersonville, and Franklin. Highland Brewing Company is the godfather of craft beer brewing and beer culture and Western North Carolina, and it’s still family-owned. Wicked Weed, Burial Brewing, Green Man Brewing, Hi-Wire Brewing, One World Brewing, and Twin Leaf Brewing are also must-visit stops in downtown Asheville. Asheville Brewing’s north location has an indoor cinema and game room. And The Wedge Brewing Company’s two riverside locations are popular paddling and tubing hangouts—and also popular post-workout hubs for runners. Pisgah Brewing in Black Mountain has a fantastic live music scene, and Lazy Hiker Brewing in Franklin is worth the drive.
**Burn calories: The 30.1-mile Art Loeb Trail delivers vista after panorama after scenic view. If you catch Black Balsam in season, grab handfuls of wild blueberries along the trail for an on-the-go snack. Take along Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain to read for context as you crest that particular summit. Bike classic singletrack at Kitsuma, or head south for Mills River, Turkeypen, and the Davidson River.
More Beer Trails
Kentucky Brewgrass Trail: The Kentucky Brewgrass Trail will give you a firsthand education in central Kentucky’s burgeoning craft beer scene. The 14 breweries located in or near Lexington offer a chance to appreciate the beermaking skills of a region more known for its bourbon. In fact, bourbon-barrel stout was popularized in this metro area long before it became a staple on beer store shelves. The Brewgrass Trail distinguishes itself with multiple interactive challenges involving finding murals or all 10 “Big Lex” blue horse statues hidden throughout the city. It also offers an 11-mile cycling tour of Lexington’s history, which stretches back to colonial America and ties to mountain explorer Daniel Boone.
Southwest Virginia Mountain Brew Trail: The Southwest Virginia Mountain Brew Trail guides you to 21 distinct breweries, nearly all southwest of Roanoke, Virginia. The diverse array of brewers demonstrates Appalachian Virginia’s beer-making mastery, from small farm operations in the New River Valley to a quartet of Bristol breweries located within a few blocks of each another. This brew trails covers a lot of ground, too, with mountains pocketed with public lands and destinations for hiking, biking, paddling, climbing and more. For an extended exploration of what this region has to offer, make this beer trail literal by linking up a few breweries with an extended hike on the Appalachian Trail.
Richmond Beer Trail: Virginia’s River City has become a craft brewing hotspot that befits its history as the first place where beer was sold in a can back in 1935. The Richmond Beer Trail will lead you to 33 different breweries, from the Answer Brewpub on West Broad Street all the way to Väsen Brewing Company on West Moore Street. Despite the name, this isn’t just a beer trail, either, with wineries and distilleries also among the listings. While in Richmond, enjoy outdoor adventure in a more urban setting with a paddling trip on the James River.
YoCo Brew Trail: YoCo Brew Trail runs through seven craft brew destinations in York County, South Carolina, just south of Charlotte. The brewers on the trail reflect their individual neighborhoods with architecture, beer names, and community activities that tie them deeply to their community. For visitors, there’s no better way to get to know the county than to explore its breweries and rub shoulders with locals. The Visit York County tourism office offers a smartphone app that makes finding them easy. While in town, check out how the county looks from the treetops with a Canaan Zipline Canopy Tour, or take a kayak trip on the Catawba River.
Cider, Wine, and Spirits Trails
Looking for more than beer? These cider, wine, and spirits trails are also located close to adventure:
Virginia’s Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail: Virginia’s Beer, Wine and Shine Trail stands out as one of the densest booze trails in the Southeast, with a cluster of choices in the Tidewater region. Stretching from Virginia Beach to New Kent County, the trail includes 29 breweries, eight distilleries, 10 vineyards and wineries, and one meadery. Yes, there are tasting tours that provide designated drivers so that you don’t have to get behind the wheel. Complement the spirits with a Chesapeake Bay feast for a memorable culinary experience. While on the coast, check out False Cape State Park. As one of the last undeveloped places on the coast in Hampton Roads, the park can be accessed only by foot, bicycle or boat.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Along with horses, Kentucky is famous around the world for its bourbon. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail taps into that well-known history by guiding you to 16 indelible distilleries, some with roots that stretch back centuries. The Bourbon Trail’s upstart sibling, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, takes that tradition and gives it a twist by linking 13 innovative craft distilleries that are reimagining what spirits can be. Pair the two for an experience that explores the past, present, and future of distilling in America. For a completely different sort of sensory experience, visit Mammoth Cave National Park, which is home to the longest cave system in the world. Even if caves aren’t your thing, the park also offers 90 miles of above ground trails for hiking, biking and horse riding.
Tennessee Whiskey Trail: Tennessee whiskey stands with Kentucky bourbon as a quintessentially American spirit. And by “whiskey” we’re including moonshine in the definition. Legalized corn liquor has caught fire—not literally, as happened with many a mountain still, but in the world of craft liquor. The Tennessee Whiskey Trail explores multiple versions of “whiskey” by linking roughly 30 distilleries ranging from tiny boutique operations to famous brands with generations under their belts. The whiskey trail also provides a great chance to check out Tennessee’s music heritage and mountain getaways. For an adventure to build up a thirst, run class-III and class-IV whitewater on the Ocoee River, or book a road cycling route along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Side stop: Headquartered in Kingsport, Tenn., Gypsy Circus is Tennessee’s first craft cidery and the Southeast’s most awarded cidery. Co-founder Aaron Carson had home brewed cider, but never commercially. On his first attempt, he won a Gold Medal from the International East/West Wine Competition in California. After that, he left his corporate job and became a cider maker full time. Aaron and Stephanie Carson have traveled to more than 100 countries between them, including backpacking around southeast Asia with an 18 month old. “We’d been called gypsies before, so it only seemed appropriate to name our cidery after that moniker,” says Stephanie Carson.
|Shenandoah Spirits Trail: Encompassing 27 wineries, craft breweries, cideries, and distilleries between Harrisonburg and Winchester, the Shenandoah Spirits Trail has a little something for everyone. The Shenandoah Valley is soaked in Virginia wine. Harrisonburg, meanwhile, has become a quiet mecca for craft brewers. Convenient to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive to the east and George Washington National Forest to the west, the locations along the Shenandoah Spirits Trail are perfect for cooling down after a romp in the woods.|
Nelson 151 Trail: Nestled between the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville, in the shadow of Afton Mountain, the Rockfish Valley is home to five wineries, three breweries and a cidery. Within just a few miles of one another, you’ll find Bold Rock Hard Cider, Afton Mountain Vineyards, Cardinal Point Vineyard and Distillery, Flying Fox Vineyard, Hilltop Berry Farm and Winery, as well as Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Blue Mountain Brewery, Wild Wolf Brewing Company,