America's Best Adventure Bars

If experience has taught us one thing, it's that sun and adventure make you thirsty. But where to "rehydrate"? We asked our writers, athletes, friends, spouses, and readers—all of whom were quite eager to help us research our first-ever roundup of the best places for people like us to relax and refuel.

    Photo: Edward Olive/Getty

Northern Overexposure

The bar had a Ping-Pong table but no name. Just a dark saloon upstairs from the Fort Seward Lodge & Restaurant, in Haines, Alaska, it was a place where oddballs got thrown together because they needed each other, even if they wouldn't admit it—which is basically what being Alaskan is about. I worked there as bartender and resident pretty young thing but mostly just hung out with the owner, Jon, and his buddy Roadkill, a skinny red-haired tramp who'd earned his nickname after passing out in a tight spot on a fishing boat one night. Jon and Roadkill had once bet on a game of Ping-Pong, the loser having to swallow whatever the winner served him, and Roadkill's crowning invention became the house drink: the Roadkill. Take equal parts tequila, Yukon Jack, and crème de menthe, plus a dash each of Tabasco and 151-proof rum; pour into a glass, light on fire, and persuade tourists from the cruise ships to try one. (Douse the fire first.) Eventually, I tried one, and it was awful. Many drinks later, a friend set a bucket beside me, just in case. I promptly fell in. The long moments I spent pawing at it earned me my own nickname: Buckethead.

Razing Arizona

When my family moved to Sedona, in 1977, it didn't have a single crystal shop. All through my teen years, red cliffs loomed over me; when my parents would ooh and ahh, I'd look up and shrug. But in uptown Sedona, by age 15, I learned what escape meant when I tagged along with my sister and brother-in-law to the Oak Creek Tavern. Built in the forties, it was a hideout for John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart when they were in town to shoot westerns. It had a polar bear in a menthol-blue case, jaws frozen in a tilted, glass-eyed roar that felt like a benediction: Under the guise of this bear I was safe, slouching in the naugahyde corner booth as Sally and Bob would sneak me a Coors (just one) under the table. By 1993 the tavern was gone, replaced by the Cowboy Club. Today they have misters out front to cool the tourists, and the hostesses are spunky. Sedona is now a car and a color. The polar bear no longer abides. I heard he got moved to someone's garage. If I could put the world back together the way it should be, I'd start by finding the bear.

The Best Bars in the Western U.S.
1. Brouwer's Cafe
In the funky Fremont area, this active-lifer hangout is swimming in Belgian suds—and is situated just off Lake Union, along the multi-use Burke-Gilman Trail. The sailors and kayakers out on the deck know from good, and with 63 brews on tap, 400 in bottles, and a 70-strong Scotch selection, food pairings make for a different kind of adventure.

2. Cowgirl BBQ
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Two blocks from our HQ, Santa Fe's movie-star dive bar, staffed by hipsters in cute western outfits, is the city's most unavoidable institution. The food's good (pulled pork and green-chile-cheddar fries), the beer's cheap, and the music is live. We're not saying you need to make a point of going there; we're saying that, when you drag in off the Winsor Trail after hiking Lake Peak, you'll just end up there.

3. Haleiwa Joe's
Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii
Yes, it has other outlets now, but the original Joe's sees as many surfers as tourists, thanks to its proximity (swimming distance) to Haleiwa, the first of the world-class breaks on the North Shore. The bamboo chairs on the patio are really comfy—but you might just be feeling the effects of barkeep Cliff's famously stiff mai tais.

4. Highlander Steakhouse
Ashford, Washington
Every summer weekend, out-of-town climbers and UV-baked guides from nearby Mount Rainier pack this Formica-and-foosball loggers' den to toast their summits with the locals. "That's when things can get out of control," says Peter Whittaker, co-owner of Rainier Mountaineering. "Climbers and loggers breaking down cultural barriers—and occasionally practicing indoor archery in the early-morning hours."

5. Hopworks Urban Brewery
Portland, Oregon
Hit one of Velo City's ubiquitous cycling events and you're sure to encounter Hopworks' custom cargo bike, a two-keg bar on two wheels. HUB, the home of this rolling rath­skeller, is a carbon-neutral saloon where you'll often find crews of filthy, race-ragged cyclocrossers (the owner among them) clogging its looong bar—yes, that light fixture is made of 42 bicycle frames—for tasty organic beer and burgers.

6. Iron Door Saloon
Groveland, California
This Yosemite National Park pit stop started serving swill to miners in 1852 and has been a perennial favorite of tourists and climbers like Conrad Anker ever since. Photos of John Muir and pre-dam Hetch Hetchy share the schist-and-mortar walls with taxidermy, and dollar bills hang from the ceiling like bats.

7. Le Chamois
Olympic Valley, California
How easy is it to meet a bona fide ski-film star? With more locals per square foot than any place in Squaw, all you have to do is amble onto Le Chamois's slopeside (and usually sun-drenched) outdoor patio. The barbecue-chicken-and-basil pizza is our favorite, and the beer's surprisingly cheap: A $40 Buddy Pass gets you 20 pints of Budweiser.

8. The Minturn Saloon
Minturn, Colorado
The thing that sets it apart from other creaky Old West ski bars is the price of entry: On any winter day, everyone drinking with you in this temple to Vail's ski history has skied the Minturn Mile—a mellow backcountry run out the gate from Vail's Lost Boy—to get there. Order the charbroiled quail with enchiladas.

9. Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery
Lyons, Colorado
The birthplace of Dale's Pale Ale, the first microbrew in a can, attracts a similarly full-flavored yet down-home mix of bikers (Harley and full-suspension) and river people (paddlers and fly-fishermen). The Kansas City–style barbecue pork and gumbo are almost as impressive as the national blues acts that regularly play here.

10. Ray's Tavern
Green River, Utah
Near the banks of the Green River, Ray's has long been the first stop for thirsty rafters taking off Desolation and Cataract canyons. The John Wesley Powell museum is just down the street, but the kitschy seventies-era raft-company T-shirts and photos lining the walls of the ramshackle barroom tell a more interesting story. Get the burger. 

11. Salty Dawg Saloon
Homer, Alaska
In an old lighthouse near the end of the Homer Spit, this sawdust-floored hideout is where the cannery workers go when they get off at 2 A.M. Beer is Foster's in an oil can, and the surfaces are plastered with dollar bills (along with some bras and underwear). It's also where commercial fishermen unwind. If they had a great catch, they'll ring the bell, which means you're in luck: They're buying the whole place a round.

12. Zeitgeist
San Francisco
The bathrooms are dirty and the waitstaff can be surly. We don't care. And neither do the scenesters, cyclists, and tech wizards who flock to this classic Mission dive for cheap Bloody Marys and Niman Ranch kielbasas. The outdoor patio—with its bike hooks, communal picnic tables, and nightly visits from the tamale lady—is our happy place.

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