The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in Washington DC

Views of the Potomac River along the Billy Goat Trail
Views of the Potomac River along the Billy Goat Trail William Neuheisel
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Washington, D.C. may be famous for its politics, but a hidden secret for many is its proximity to a wide range of world-class hiking destinations. Within 100 miles of city limits lies not only the largest and oldest urban park in America, but also the famous C&O Canal, plenty of access points to the Appalachian Trail (in multiple states), and not one, but two national parks (Great Falls and Shenandoah). Add to this a thriving and growing beer scene, and you have the makings for a combination that all outdoor lovers can appreciate. After all, there are few things better than a cold one after a day on the trail. So, without further ado, here are DC’s best trail to tavern experiences. Please adventure responsibly.

1. Signal Knob | Backroom Brewery

In an idyllic setting, Backroom Brewery is serving up delicious beers made with hops and herbs from its farm.
In an idyllic setting, Backroom Brewery is serving up delicious beers made with hops and herbs from its farm. Jen Adach

Climb to the top of Signal Knob , and you’ll understand how it got its name. This 10-mile hike can be a challenging one, but it yields some seriously amazing views of the Shenandoah Valley. Signal Knob rests at the northernmost point of Virginia’s 71-mile Massanutten Trail, and these ten miles may be among the best along that entire route.

After taking in the views from the Knob, head down into the valley for some award-winning beer from the Backroom Brewery. What sets this place apart from the rest is that the good people of Backroom Brewery actually grow their own hops on-site, as well as roughly 120,000 of potted herb plants. Call it a testimony to the longstanding farming traditions in the Shenandoah Valley. A Rosemary Orange Amber is about as smooth and drinkable as it gets, and other hits include the Chili Red Ale and the Bay Roast Black Ale. With nearly 20 beer recipes approved by the state of Virginia, the inventive pairings will draw you back again and again to see what’s new on tap.

2. Wincopin Trail | Jailbreak Brewing Company

Relatively new to the area beer scene, Jailbreak is known for its inventive -- and tasty -- beers.
Relatively new to the area beer scene, Jailbreak is known for its inventive -- and tasty -- beers. Jennifer Adach

Make your escape out of D.C. and head north to the Wincopin Trails in Savage Park. This quiet park will surprise you with its long and wide trails, perfect for a midday stroll. Be sure to take the green trail which leads you by the the Little and Middle Patuxent Rivers, affording some of the nicest views along this stretch of trails.

Nearby Jailbreak Brewing Company is one of the newest breweries on the scene, and it's pushing the envelope with its innovative beers. The Q.Cumber Saison is crisp and refreshing, while the Black Cherry Porter has a slight hint of sweetness beneath its malty viscosity. The brewery boasts a number of long tables and a good sized bar for tasting. Hungry? Check out the listing of food trucks to see which one will be parked outside the brewery.

3. The Potomac Heritage Trail | Port City Brewing Company

Running alongside the Potomac River, you'll barely realize that you're still in the Washington, D.C. metro area while hiking this trail.
Running alongside the Potomac River, you'll barely realize that you're still in the Washington, D.C. metro area while hiking this trail. Jennifer Adach

The Potomac Heritage Trail System aims to follow the explorations of George Washington by linking the Potomac and upper Ohio river basins on an ambitious 700-mile route. A section of the trail lies just within reach of metro D.C., starting from the parking lot by Theodore Roosevelt Island on the George Washington Parkway. Head north on the trail, which quickly drops down to the river and takes you past a number of scenic waterfalls and rock scrambles.

Continue to follow colonial DC stomping grounds and head to Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria for a pint. In 2015, Port City won the "Small Brewery of the Year" award at the Great American Beer Festival, also reeling in silver medals for their Porter and IPA and a bronze medal for their Oatmeal Wit. So, you can't go wrong with any of these, but really any of their flagship, year-round brews are worth a taste. The brewery also offers a number of fun events during the week, including the popular BeerYoga night every Tuesday.

4. Catoctin Mountain Park | Brewer’s Alley

Hikers pause to enjoy a great view while hiking in Catoctin Mountain Park
Hikers pause to enjoy a great view while hiking in Catoctin Mountain Park TrailVoice

Chimney Rock. Hog Rock. Wolf’s Rock. Blue Ridge. The names all match the great views you can get from hiking the myriad trails in Catoctin Mountain Park , nestled just north of Frederick, Maryland. An eight mile loop , starting at the Visitors Center, can bring you past most—if not all—of these sights, but it is equally easy to cut down the length for a shorter day.

Spend even more time rambling along the streets of Historic Frederick, and pop into Brewer’s Alley for some pints and good food. A stout day of hiking calls for an Oatmeal Stout, but it is always worth browsing the seasonal releases to see if something else captures your fancy.

5. Billy Goat Trail | The Irish Inn

Views of the Potomac River along the Billy Goat Trail
Views of the Potomac River along the Billy Goat Trail William Neuheisel

The Billy Goat Trail (Section A) is a classic. These nearly four miles pack quite a bit of action, especially as you spend more than a mile of it rockhopping. As you make your way along the rocks, you’ll also get to enjoy the waterworks of the Potomac River as it courses through Great Falls and Mather’s Gorge. Adding to the excitement: views of whitewater kayakers carving their way down the rapids and rock climbers navigating some of the steep walls across the river.  Forewarning: This is a very popular hike, so it pays to go early to beat the crowds.

Cap off this classic hike with another classic: The Irish Inn at Glen Echo. Sometimes a good pint of a perfectly poured Guinness is what you need, and the Irish Inn delivers. A well-rounded menu of pub classics will give you good sustenance for the day, and the patio—open year round—is perfect for story swapping.

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