Getting some space in Los Angeles during the pandemic can be tough - especially when you live in a three-bedroom apartment with four other people. But there’s no better reason to get out of the city and explore Southern California than to go on a hike - OK, and maybe to grab some beer while you’re at it.
So we put together this guide to ten places near Los Angeles with fantastic hiking trails and great breweries, so you can pick up some beer after all that exercise. Because what more can you ask for from a day trip than a little hike, and a lot of craft beer?
THE DAY TRIPS
OJAI & OXNARD
Casa Agria is among the most underrated breweries in the state. This small operation in Oxnard is the ideal place to stop on the way back from a hike in Ojai, since they’re approximately two minutes off the 101. Their selection changes monthly, but whatever hazy IPA or sour blend they have is bound to be great. As far as the hike beforehand, there are lots of options in and around Ojai - the Shelf Road Trail is casual and close to town, but offers great views of Ojai Valley. A bit further into the mountains is Howard Creek Trail, a beautiful hike with lots of wildflowers, streams, and birds.
Santa Barbara is known more as a beach-and-winery town than a hike-and-brewery town. But with great trails, and breweries like Topa Topa and Modern Times both opening recently, that should change. For a SB born-and-bred option, check out Captain Fatty’s, just up PCH in Goleta. It’s in an open-air industrial space, with plenty of room for social distancing if you’re choosing to drink there. As for the hike - head to Rattlesnake Trail. Make sure you bring water, since this one is pretty steep - but you’re rewarded with excellent views of town, and an awesome waterfall.
Located amid the forests, waterways, and Republicans of Kern County is Kern River Brewing, a tremendous spot that makes excellent West Coast-style IPAs. If you want to sit on the patio, they’ve got some great burgers and a view of the river, but if you want to get beer and food to go, head down to Lake Isabella for a picnic. The massive boulders everywhere give the feeling that you’ve stumbled upon the town Thunder Mountain was modeled after. As for the hike - you’re in the Sequoia National Forest, so it’s hard to drive four minutes without finding a trail. But the Unal Trail, a beautiful hike that starts right at the cloud line (and only goes up from there) might be our favorite. Bring a sweatshirt, especially in the wintertime - there’ll be snow.
There are three great breweries in San Marcos - Lost Abbey, Port Brewing, and The Hop Concept - and they’re all housed in the same warehouse. Lost Abbey is probably our favorite. It’s a Belgian-style spot that makes a few beers you can find in most bars in LA. But at the taproom you’ll find some of their strangest (and best) stuff, like Duck Duck Gooze, a blend of barrel-aged sours, and Bat Out Of Hell, a bourbon barrel-aged stout with tons of cacao and coffee flavor. Don’t leave without getting some Dank & Sticky, a Hop Concept IPA that’s, well… dank and sticky. Before you drink, though, get a hike in at Double Peak Trail, a 4.25-mile hike that starts in a residential neighborhood, and has lake views along the way to the summit.
If you like being ahead of trends, we highly recommend checking out Homage Brewing in Pomona, about a half-hour east of DTLA. It’s a tiny operation in a commercial part of town, but later this year, they plan to open a space in Chinatown, and we can pretty much guarantee they’ll blow up once they’re in LA proper. Their barrel-aged saisons are the best around, and they do some extremely funky blends - like fermenting ales over grapes and apples - that result in some great, innovative options. We recommend getting here early in the day to pick up some crowlers (they tend to sell out quickly on weekends) and then heading up to Claremont Hills Wilderness Trail, for a beautiful 5-mile loop that overlooks the city of Claremont. This is also a great place to stop on your way to or from Joshua Tree.
Paso Robles is more of a weekend trip than a day trip - it’s a bit over three hours from LA - but it’s still highly worth visiting for Firestone Walker Brewery. Firestone’s campus takes up an entire street, just off the 101, and you can get some of the best - and first truly great - California craft beer. They’ve got a restaurant on site, too, so take your food and (ideally numerous) beers with you up to Lake Nacimiento, in the northern part of the town. You have to pay $15 to get into the lake’s recreation center, but it’s worth it for the Shoreline Trail, which goes through campgrounds along the lake and has some excellent views. And if you’re there for a weekend, spend the rest of your time drinking at the number Central Coast wineries in the area.
You don’t feel like driving far today. But you do feel like escaping the crowds and trying out a brewery you’ve (probably) never heard of - so head to North Hills, home of Cellador Ales. They specialize in mixed-culture beers, meaning they brew with their own house yeasts, giving them a funky, totally unique, character. They don’t brew any beer twice, so you know you’re getting something cool when you’re here. Which is good, because you’re going to need something special after your hike - Verdugo Crest Trail, which is a 12ish-mile loop that should take about four hours, and has some truly spectacular views of the San Fernando Valley below. We recommend bringing some food with you for the hike - ideally, from Brent’s Deli in Northridge.
Though it’s been around since 2012, San Diego’s Societe isn’t as well-known as some of the bigger breweries in town (Ballast Point, Belching Beaver, Pizza Port). They do, however, make some tremendous, straightforward beer, like The Butcher, a classic, deeply malty Russian imperial stout, and The Pupil, a fantastically clean-tasting, citrus-forward American IPA. Once you’ve picked up your beers to-go here, head over to Tecolote Canyon, a hilly, relatively easy 7-mile hike just north of San Diego proper.
Anaheim has no shortage of great breweries - Bottle Logic, Noble Aleworks, and a soon-to-open Modern Times outpost - but if you’re only going to one, make it Bruery Terreux. This is an experimental spot that specializes in farmhouse and wild ales - and we really do mean specialize. This is one of the only breweries around where you’ll never see a pale ale, IPA, or pilsner. They barrel- or foeder-age most everything, and make some great fruited beers like Les Ronces (a boysenberry sour ale) and numerous iterations of Bruesicle, a blended blonde involving combinations like mango and habañero, or raspberry/blueberry/marshmallow (we promise it’s better than it sounds). Before you stop here, take a quick hike at Weir Canyon Trail. It’s a 3.5-mile loop with incredible views of both the mountains and the ocean, and is enough of a workout that you’ll feel good about all the beer you’re going to drink tonight.
Visiting Stone Brewing’s headquarters in Escondido feels a bit like going to Jurassic Park. The dining room is absolutely massive, and involves lakes, streams, and the suspicion that a velociraptor is lurking somewhere around a corner. Even if you’re getting beers to-go, you’ll still be happy you came - they’ve got a massive selection of Stone’s classics (like the Ruination DIPA and the salty, citrus-y Buenaveza lager) and some experimental drafts made on-site. While you’re in Escondido, you’ll also want to explore Daley Ranch, a massive conservation area with a ton of great hiking trails - our favorites are the Boulder Loop Trail and the Ranch House Loop. Both are 2.5 miles, and have great views of Escondido, along with ponds and the original log cabins from the property.