20 Best Restaurants on America’s Long Distance Hiking Trails

Food represents the most commonly fantasised about subject that occupies a long distance hiker’s mind. Yep, even more than that other one. That being the case, it stands to reason that no matter whether you are a gourmet, spartan or somewhere in between, thru-hikers are always on the look out for eating opportunities while out on trail.

What follows is my completely subjective 20 Best Places to Eat on America’s Long Distance Trails. Since 2002, I have had the pleasure of eating at all of these establishments (sometimes more than once), and there are 13 trails and 14 different states represented. The compilation includes storied pubs, remote bakeries, and a seafood cafe on the country’s biggest lake:

1. Stehekin Pastry Company, Stehekin, WA (Pacific Crest Trail) – 2007 & 2012

Not only the finest trail bakery, but arguably one of the best bakeries in the United States period. Each and every year, PCT hikers fill their packs to the brim and beyond with delicious snacks from this gem of a spot. A few hours chowing down at the bakery combined with a refreshing dip in Lake Chelan (best go for the swim beforehand), makes for an ideal final town stop before reaching Canada.

2.  The Homeplace, Catawba, VA (Appalachian Trail) – 2015

During my late fall/early winter thru-hike of the AT in 2012, I’m ashamed to say I missed eating at the Homeplace. I received so much shit about it from mates in the US long distance hiking community, that I made sure to rectify my error during a subsequent east coast visit in 2015. I’ve got to say, they weren’t wrong in their assessment. Hearty southern-style food, great service, and the friendly staff will refill your plate if you happen to want more. The best fried chicken I have ever had. (Note: Only open for dinner Thursday to Sunday. Plan accordingly).

3.  Pie-O-Neer, Pie Town, NM (Continental Divide Trail) – 2012

How can you not like a place called Pie Town? It would be like having something against waterfalls or Labrador puppies. Great pies, friendly people, and the fact that it’s situated in the middle of Bumscratch, New Mexico, somehow makes it even better. 

Pie-O-Neer, Pie Town, New Mexico.

4.  Timberline Lodge, OR (Pacific Crest Trail) – 2007 & 2012

The Daddy of AYCE trail buffets. Whether it be for breakfast or lunch, this place is not to be missed. Indeed, hiking the PCT and not stopping into Timberline for a bite to eat, would be the culinary equivalent of a beer drinker visiting Ireland and not having a pint of Guinness.

Timberline buffet

Last Man Sitting | The staff at Timberline were kind enough to let me stay on for an extra hour after the lunch buffet closed | PCT, 2012

5.  Caffé Rel, Franklin, NC (Bartram Trail) – 2011 

A French cafe next to a busy gas station. I’ve got to admit I was more than a bit skeptical. Nonetheless, a mate of mine that was familiar with Franklin swore by this place so I decided to give it a try. Turned out he was 100% on the money. Great ambiance, friendly staff, and the food was to die for. If memory serves I had a Caprese salad, the crawfish and some chocolate cake.

6.  Wildberry Restaurant , WA (Wonderland Trail) – 2014

Situated just down the road from Longmire Visitors Center is the Wildberry restaurant. Good food, reasonable prices and big portions (i.e. the thru-hiking culinary “Big Three”). Who would have thought there would be a Nepalese/Burger fusion restaurant so close to Mount Rainier?!

(L to R) Bobcat, Malto, Snorkel and yours truly | Wildberry Restaurant, WA, 2014.

7.  Angry Trout Cafe, Grand Marais, MN (Superior Hiking Trail)2011

Beautiful location overlooking Lake Superior. Excellent spot for a sunset beer and a great feed of fish and chips. I ate here a couple of times; once during the hike, and again for a post-trip celebratory feast.

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Angry Trout Cafe, Grand Marais, Minnesota.

8.  Morning Glory, Ashland, OR (Pacific Crest Trail) – 2007

I stopped by for breakfast during my 2007 PCT hike. A step up in quality from the normal hiker fare, but worth every penny. Great selection of pancakes and omelettes.

9.  Bob’s Chowder Bar, Anacortes, WA (Pacific Northwest Trail) 2011

New England style chowder. Filling, reasonably priced and most importantly tastes fantastic. Friendly staff and laid back setting. A big thanks to former mapping guru and long distance hiker extraordinaire, Li Brannfors, for putting me on to this place.

chowderbar

Bob’s Seafood Chowder.

10.  Smoky Mountain Diner, Hot Springs, NC (Appalachian Trail)2012

The AT in 2012 represented the culmination of the 12 Long Walks. By the time I sat down in the Smoky Mountain Diner in Hot Springs in December, 2012, I had been hiking for more than 14000 miles (22,530 km) over the previous 17.5 months. I was burning up to 7000 calories a day, and suffice to say I was hungrier than a cannibal in a mosh pit. I ate double servings at dinner and breakfast at the Smoky Mountain Diner, and the staff were kind enough to prepare me half a dozen boiled eggs for the road; a common take-away item during my longer hikes.

11.  Polebridge Mercantile, MT (Pacific Northwest Trail) – 2011

Spectacularly set on the doorstep of Glacier National Park. Kick back on the front porch as you enjoy your fill of pastries and other baked goods. Polebridge Mercantile is to east bound PNT hikers what Stehekin is to north bound PCTers – one final irresistible opportunity to stuff your face before finishing up your thru hike a few days later.

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Polebridge Mercantile, Montana.

12.  Anong’s Thai Cuisine, Rawlins, WY (Continental Divide Trail) – 2012

The chances of finding a great Thai restaurant in Rawlins, Wyoming (affectionately known by its own residents as the “armpit of Wyoming“), is roughly the equivalent of spotting a reindeer in the Sudan. Despite the odds, Anong’s is the real deal. Try to time your arrival for the lunch buffet.

13.  New Ming Garden, Waynesboro, VA (Appalachian Trail)2012

Excellent Chinese restaurant. For $8.99 (2019), this legendary AYCE buffet has abundant options and unlike most of its ilk, all of the items seem to be fresh and tasty. 

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New Ming Garden

14.  Paradise Valley Cafe, CA (Pacific Crest Trail) – 2007 & 2012

I stopped here in both 2007 and 2012. On each occasion I ordered the excellent Jose Burger. The second time around I ordered two. Plus some ice cream and a salad just to mix things up. Well worth the one mile off-trail deviation. The waddle back may have been the slowest mile I hiked on the entire PCT.

15.  Bluebell Country Store, Story, AR (Ouachita Trail) – 2012

Dropped in during my winter thru hike of the OT in 2012. Situated about half way along the OT, the Blue Bell is equal parts restaurant, grocery store, gas station, live music venue and de facto community center all rolled into one. The cafe’s meals are well priced, the servings are large, and if there is any place that encapsulates the South’s legendary hospitality along the OT, it is the Bluebell. They will even shuttle you back to the trail for a small fee if you ask nicely!

The Bluebell even has former member’s of ZZ Top rocking up for breakfast.

16. Quincy’s Tavern , Leadville, CO (Colorado Trail) – 2015

Excellent steakhouse. Very affordable prices, big servings and a cool atmosphere. Easy hitch in from either the Colorado or Continental Divide Trails.

17. Inn at The Long Trail , Killington, VT (Long Trail) – 2002 & 2012

Good pub food at McGrath’s. I overnighted here during my Long Trail thru-hike in 2002, and remembering washing down dinner with a Guinness or three at the lively bar. In 2012, I stopped in for lunch while heading southbound on the AT.

The Inn at the Long Trail.

18. THAT Brewery Pine, AZ, (Arizona Trail) – 2012

I overnighted in Pine during the AZT section of the Southwestern Horseshoe in 2012. I knew nothing about the town except I had to pick up a package at the post office before it closed. THAT Brewery was an unexpected surprise. Good burgers and beer. I ended up staying until closing time chatting and drinking with a couple from Portland, Maine, who were travelling cross country. They had hiked the AT in the early 2000’s. Quite often its the folks you meet as much as the food, which help to make a dining experience memorable.

19.  Milt’s Stop N Eat, Moab, UT (Hayduke Trail / SWHorseshoe) – 2012

Moab’s oldest restaurant. Stopped here for lunch on third day of the Southwestern Horseshoe in 2012. Excellent burgers and milkshakes.

20.  Alabama Hills Cafe, Lone Pine, CA (Lowest to Highest Route) – 2014

Big servings and well priced. The cakes, breads and pastries are homemade. Excellent choice for a post-Mt.Whitney breakfast and/or lunch.

(L to R) Swami, Dirtmonger, Bobcat and Malto | On the way back to Lone Pine after the Lowest to Highest Route | The End.

(L to R) Swami, Dirtmonger, Bobcat and Malto | On the way back to Lone Pine after finishing the Lowest to Highest Route | The End.

 


Comments

20 Best Restaurants on America’s Long Distance Hiking Trails — 3 Comments

  1. Whoa Nellie Deli at east end of Tioga Pass Rd off HWY 395 CA is worth stopping in if you’re in the area. East of Tuolumne Meadows. Great if you’re entering or exiting Yosemite from the east. Fresh salads, to meaty barbecue, and big desserts. They may even have salmon.

  2. Patio Cafe in Oracle, AZ near the AZT – the frittata (add as many fillings as you like for no extra charge) is one of the best breakfasts I have ever had. The hash and cherry almond pie were great too. For CDT hikers, Montana Cafe in Darby, MT is fantastic also.

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