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With its rolling hills, miles of forest, and scenic vistas, Placer County is an outdoor adventurer’s dream come true. Whether you prefer to hike, raft the legendary whitewater river, or hop on a bike and zoom through the countryside, there are plenty of trails to explore throughout this region of the Sierra.
But what really makes Placer County stand out from the rest of Northern California’s iconic outdoor destinations is the fact that it also happens to be a hotspot for craft beer. The county features more than a dozen craft breweries that offer everything from refreshing IPAs to crisp lagers and masterfully brewed sours. And as any outdoor adventurer knows, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as cracking open a cold one or sitting down to a frothy pint after a long day spent outside.
As a Placer County outdoor enthusiast, I don’t ask my adventure partners at the end of a long hike if we’ll be grabbing a beer after our day spent outside, but instead ask them where we should go. With so many places to choose from in Placer County, the options can be staggering. So here’s a list of top Placer County trails and the nearby brewery that best pairs with a particular adventure. Consider it a local’s cheat sheet that will save you time that you can spend at the brewery and on the trail.
With 30 miles of multiple-use trails, Hidden Falls Regional Park is known for its well-maintained trails, making it a great stop for groups with kids or for people who just want a modest hike before hitting the nearby breweries. There is a charge to park here ($4 or $8, depending on how long you stay, reservations required on weekends) but the small fee is worth it. Hikers should watch out for mountain bikers as they follow a wide dirt loop from the parking area to the river, where they can hang out by the falls before returning along the 3.2-mile trail.
After checking out Hidden Falls, head over to the nearby farm trifecta of Placer County Breweries, all three of which are known for their casual, countryside vibes and as beautiful places to drink beer. Located in the Lincoln area, Hillenbrand, Goathouse and Dueling Dogs are three rural breweries that each feature open taprooms, tasty beer, and the occasional visiting food truck.
Located in the Auburn State Recreational Area and in the heart of Placer County, the Quarry Trail is a popular hike along the American River. It’s a 10.8-mile (out-and-back) trail that follows what was once a railway route, so it’s wide and smooth. Near the end of the trail, hikers are surrounded by sheer limestone walls and will notice evidence of the historic mining tunnels that put the Gold Country region on the map.
Once you’ve tuckered yourself out, drive out of the canyon and back into town, where you’ll find Moonraker, an up-and-coming brewery that has created quite a buzz in the larger Northern California/Sacramento beer scene. Hopheads will love their Triple IPA, the Extremis, which has earned them international attention in beer contests. The tasting room has an industrial yet cozy atmosphere, and a large outdoor covered patio for visiting food trucks and a friendly game of cornhole.
Another popular trail in the American River Canyon is the 4.5-mile Lake Clementine Trail. Its claim to fame (aside from being beautiful) is that it passes under the highest bridge in California, the infamous Foresthill Bridge. There’s a popular swimming hole about a quarter mile into the hike called Clark’s Pool, but any swimmers interested in cooling off should use extreme caution, especially during the spring when snowmelt from the Sierra can be surprisingly swift.
When you are ready for your post-hike brew, the Crooked Lane Brewing Company is located about a 10-minute drive away, and it’s a great place to try something new. They are known for their fruit-infused beers, and my favorite part of their atmosphere is the firepit located right outside.
Folsom Lake is a great place not just for hiking, but also for fishing, camping, boating, running, dog walking, and horseback riding. Road cyclists and joggers love the 32-mile long paved path that extends from here all the way to Sacramento. If you’re looking for a wooded path, try the Pioneer Express Trail winding along the lake, but keep in mind you’re sharing the trail with horseback riders .
From Folsom Lake, it’s easy to head into Loomis and pop into Loomis Basin Brewing Company, which has a lovely outdoor patio. If you want more hearty food to pair with your beer, try their sister establishment, LBB Gastropub, known for their nachos and other smoked meats. Locals love their 8 percent Alohawk, one of their most popular beers on draft.
If you’re looking to earn that beer at the end of your hike, Cardiac Hill in Auburn is a steep and unforgiving 4.4-mile hike that lives up to its name. Bring plenty of water and try to not hike during the hottest parts of the day in the summertime, as it’s definitely a challenging trek. You’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the river and there are a few spots along the trail where you can jump in.
The Knee Deep Brewing Company is another of Auburn’s most iconic breweries, one that draws visitors in to taste its award-winning Breaking Bud IPA. It’s a place well-loved by hop heads seeking out new and unusual IPAs. They also host food trucks and hold weekly events.
Located near the town of Cool, the American Canyon Trail is a 6.4-mile loop trail known for its waterfall views and creek crossings. It starts out a little higher in elevation as it winds through the rolling hills of the surrounding area before descending towards the American River and then climbing back up toward the parking area. It’s another trail that is popular for horseback riders, so keep an eye out for them on the trail if you are walking.
The Auburn Ale House is located in downtown Auburn and is a well-loved staple of the community. If you are looking to knock back a cold one in a historic bar, then this is the environment for you. The brew pub’s food has a classed-up Gold Country take, meaning that it’s traditional bar food that’s been influenced by the local farm-to-fork food scene. Those who love the Gold Country region will also get a kick out of some of the beer’s names, like the American River Pale Ale, the Fool’s Gold Ale, the Gold Country Pilsner, and one of their most popular beers, the Gold Digger IPA.
The paved, 8.4-mile Miners Ravine Trail in Roseville is wheelchair-friendly and popular for runners and cyclists in addition to walkers looking for a nature escape in the urban core. It’s also a favorite for those looking to find bouldering spots just off the trail and photographers looking to hone their skills by taking photos of the mellow creek that winds along the route.
Nearby, you’ll find Moksa Brewing Co., Rocklin’s newest brewery. The brewery offers a cozy place to relax with a daily food truck option and a variety of beer options from the Mango, Mango, Mango Sour Blonde to a large selection of Hazy and Hazy Double IPAs.
The Monk’s Cellar in Downtown Roseville has brought a little bit of Belgium to the West Coast, with a community-focused brewery and restaurant that serves fine artisanal beer and creative seasonal dishes.
Even though it’s not a trail in the traditional sense, rafting on the South Fork of the American River is perfect for adrenaline junkies and nature lovers alike. The most popular stretch of the river that is located near Auburn is known as the Gorge. It features class three rapids and is a stretch that requires a guide and proper safety equipment. Most guiding companies who cover this stretch will also provide lunch along the way.
After spending the day on the river, head over to Out of Bounds Brewing Company in Rocklin. The brewery has a cozy, ski lodge-like interior and a rotating line-up of food trucks. It regularly offers a dozen beers on tap, and some of its favorites include Elevation 6225’, a red-hopped American Ale; Joy Rider, a west coast IPA; and Juiced Grapefruit, a double IPA.
Written by Jill Sanford for Matcha in partnership with Visit Placer County.
Featured image provided by Lucas Gilbert