One of the best ways to tell if a city is worth visiting is by checking out its beer scene. Obviously we’re not implying that beer is the be-all and end-all (out loud), but the presence of craft breweries directly correlates with happy, vibrant towns. Breweries revitalize abandoned buildings, increase property values, offer community gathering space, host festivals and ale trails, and even create jobs

While it’s clear that craft beer is a booming industry nationwide, what does that mean for travel?

The invention–and subsequent marketing– of beer festivals, beer events, “beercations,” and ale trails has proven to capture a new type of niche traveler who is willing to spend big bucks on the good stuff. 

According to a 2019 study by Visit Anaheim, 70% of beer drinkers have taken a “beercation”, and 72% sought out a beer tasting while on vacation. “Here in California, the impact of the craft beer industry has tripled over the last five years, increasing its economic contribution to the state and showcasing the small business success story,” said the managing director of the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA), Leia Bailey.

In 2023, we predict that destination marketing organizations (DMOs) continue to focus on capturing travelers with a deep investment in beer. 

We’ve talked at length about Check-in Challenges and why they are the best way to incentivize travelers to visit destinations based on season, trend, or niche. We’ve also hand-picked some of the best Check-in Challenges, trails and passports in the US

Here, we highlight 11 destinations that successfully leverage Challenge marketing to attract new visitors, gamify travel, activate untapped markets, and see results with valuable insights and economic impact.

11 of the Best Ale Trails in the US

1. Grand Rapids Beer City Ale Trail

Hey, Beer City USA! In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the vibes are good and the pours are big. Last year, Grand Rapids celebrated its 10th year being voted Beer City USA. Since winning the title, they’ve also won a ton of additional accolades, including America’s Best Beer Town (2014), Best Beer Scene (2017) and Best Beer City (2022 & 2021). Grand Rapids is home to over 40 breweries— perfect for the casual drinker or serious beercationer. 

How the Trail Works:

Participants pick up a Beer City Passport at a participating brewery and get it stamped on each visit, or download the Beer City Brewsader App and check-in. Those who visit eight of the breweries listed on the trail to earn an exclusive Beer City Brewsader t-shirt. Visitors can collect stamps or check-ins at 40+ Brewsader breweries to earn Ultimate Brewsader status and perks.

Why We Like It: 

Perks, perks, perks. The Beer City Ale Trail doesn’t play when it comes to prizes. Beyond the standard t-shirt, Grand Rapids awards serious beer lovers special status for completing the full trail that includes major deals and discounts.

2. The Vermont Brewery Challenge

Burlington, Vermont. vermontalm /

Welcome to the motherland. Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state, and each year, over 1 million people flock to Vermont’s breweries and taprooms just to try a taste. This famous Ale Trail serves as the ultimate guide to over 67 breweries across the Green Mountain State. 

How the Trail Works:

Visitors can pick up an official passport at a participating brewery or download the Vermont Brewery Challenge app. Participants visit each brewpub and brewery on the list and get their passport stamped by each Association member (or check-in using the app). Participants who check-in at every brewery on the list can redeem a free t-shirt.

3. La Palma Beer Trail

Forget Anaheim’s shiny Disney exterior; this city knows how to do beer. The La Palma Beer Trail is a 5 mile strip that’s home to 12 of Anaheim’s 19 breweries. This trail is extra special because Anaheim is one of the few cities in Southern California where you can easily walk from brewery to brewery.

How the Trail Works: 

Visitors can follow the self-guided La Palma Beer Trail for a list of participating breweries.

Why We Like It: 

We dig that this ale trail was created by beer lovers, for beer lovers. It proves the value of mappable, marketable trails and is a grassroots success story for destinations nationwide.

4. Dixie Highway Brewery Trail

Chicago, Illinois

The Dixie Highway Brewery Trail follows the historic Dixie Highway along Chicago’s Southside. The trail features eight curated stops at some of Chicago’s best breweries and brewpubs, like Thornton, Illinois’ oldest brewery, and Horse Thief, a craft brewery with southern charm.  

How the Trail Works:

Participants download a Dixie Highway Brewery Trail passport and visit all 8 participating breweries in any order. After they enjoy at least one beer at each brewery, they can turn in their completed passport to any location and win a cool prize.

5. Bend Ale Trail

Find beervana in Bend. Bend is the beer capital of Oregon and one of the top beer destinations in the entire US. On the Bend Ale Trail, visitors can trek seven territories and explore over 30 breweries across the region. And this isn’t your ordinary ale trail: non-beer drinkers and designated drivers are rewarded, too. There are 4 opportunities to participate and win prizes: check-in at all breweries within a single territory, check-in at all breweries in all seven territories, complete seven drinkable diversions  (cider, wine, kombucha or spirits), or collect five designated driver stamps. 

How the Trail Works:

The Bend Ale Trail can be trekked using a keepsake paper passport (available at the Bend Visitor Center for $5), or participants can trek from their phones via the free web app

Why We Like It: 

Not only does this ale trail incentivize beer drinkers, but it also rewards designated drivers and non-drinkers with prizes for DDing and ordering non-alcoholic drinks through their drinkable diversions program. Inclusivity at its best!

6. Asheville Ale Trail

Asheville, North Carolina

Year after year, Asheville, North Carolina is named one of the best beer cities in the world. Why? Asheville is home to over 40 breweries. They have one of the highest numbers of breweries per capita. And you can find over 200 local craft beers on tap across the city on any given day. Beer enthusiasts flock to Asheville to follow the Asheville Ale Trail where registered participants can claim stamps by checking-in at breweries and taprooms via location verification, uploading a selfie, attending events, or showing off swag from their favorite local beer brands. 

How the Trail Works:

Beer lovers visit each brewery per region on the Asheville Ale Trail (Boone, Downtown, Eastbound & Down, Fairview/Black Mountain, Go West, In & Around Hendersonville, Mills River/Brevard, North Asheville, South Asheville, Weaverville/Woodfin, and West Asheville) and collect a stamp with purchase of beverage or food for a chance to win free swag.

7. Las Cruces Ale Trail

New Mexico’s second largest city is currently experiencing a huge beer boom. Las Cruces is home to the Las Cruces Beer Festival, where each year there are hundreds of diverse beer selections available for sampling, and purchase, from some of the biggest names in brewing. It’s also welcoming new craft breweries each and every year. Visitors can follow the Las Cruces Ale Trail to learn about New Mexico’s bursting beer scene and taste some extraordinary small batch craft beer. 

How the Trail Works: 

For a list of participating breweries, visitors can follow the self-guided Las Cruces Ale Trail

Why We Like It:

The Las Cruces Ale Trail offers participants a chance to get in at the ground level. Because the craft beer scene in Las Cruces so small, participating breweries in this list often work together to offer up unique opportunities for community, collaboration, connection and education.

8. Flagstaff Brewery Trail

Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff’s vibrant brew scene is the cherry on top of Northern Arizona’s breathtaking beauty. After hiking, biking, or skiing, Flagstaff’s breweries offer up comfy community spaces to sip a local beer. Many of the breweries are within walking distance, so the competition is fierce and the makers are proud of their beers.

How the Trail Works:

Visitors can print out or pick up their Flagstaff Brewery Trail passport and brewery map. Visit at least five of the breweries (no purchase necessary!). Once you have five or more stamps, trade your completed passport for a commemorative souvenir nonic style pint glass at one of two Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau locations: Flagstaff Visitor Center or Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau.

9. The Maine Beer Trail

When the Maine Beer Trail first launched in 2009, there were just 25 breweries on board. Today, the trail features over 100 breweries, taprooms and restaurants across the entire state. From city pubs and downtown storefronts to river lodges and hidden dirt road hideaways, there’s something for every type of beer drinker, here!

How the Trail Works:

Participants head to to create an account. When visiting a Maine brewery on the list, they can look for the Maine Beer Trail poster at the brewery, or ask a staff person for the brewery’s 4-digit ID code. Participants who visit at 25 breweries win a Maine Brewers’ Guild hat. 50 breweries earns you a short-sleeve tee. And beer lovers who visit all breweries on the trail can look forward to an entire prize pack of assorted Maine Brewers’ Guild goodies.

Why We Like It: 

Ale trails are the best way for craft beer lovers to find craft breweries near them. With over 100 stops, the Maine Beer Trail helps beer lovers in the most remote parts of Maine access good craft beer.

10. The Gulp Coast Craft Beer Trail

Clearwater, Florida

In St. Pete/Clearwater, more than 45 breweries make up the “Gulp Coast” – a stretch of Florida’s Gulf Coast famous for its local beer. From tiny, tucked-away tasting rooms (7venth Sun Brewery) to 16,000-square foot facilities (Big Storm Brewing Co.), this iconic trail covers the best brew Florida has to offer. The best part? Participants can set their goals high (all 45 stops), or break the trail into bite-sized, regional pieces.  

How the Trail Works:

Visitors download the Gulp Coast Craft Beer Trail app and use it at any of the 45+ participating breweries. Rack up enough stops (15, to be exact) and they can cash in for a commemorative Gulp Coast t-shirt.

11. Columbus Ale Trail

Craft brewing is bigger than its ever been in Central Ohio, but this year the Columbus Ale Trail will be the smallest it’s been in years. And that’s on purpose. This year, trail organizers made the choice to cut down the list of participating instead of adding to it. The trail would have consisted of almost “70 breweries over 70 miles apart,” co-founder and co-organizer Cheryl Harrison said. “That’s not reasonable or responsible or accessible for some people.” Volume 7 of the Columbus Ale Trail is focused highlighting the best breweries in Franklin County and includes 34 stops.

How the Trail Works:

Visitors pick up their free Columbus Ale Trail passport at any participating Franklin County brewery and collect brewery stamps to earn swag. Participants can bring their stamped passports to The Ohio Taproom to redeem rewards: an Ale Trail coozie for collecting any 10 brewery stamps and a limited edition t-shirt for collecting all 34.

Why We Like It: 

Ale trails aren’t one-size-fits-all. We love that trail organizers listened to participating breweries and trail hoppers, shifted their focus, and created an entirely new, curated experience.

Launch your Ale Trail with Seeker

Seeker Check-in Challenges empower destinations to create and manage gamified experiences like beer crawls, wine passports, taco trails and more. Featuring mobile-friendly, location aware maps, powerful customizations and a user experience that delights, Seeker Challenges are an effective way to attract new visitors, grow destination awareness and activate locals to explore their hometowns with fresh eyes.

Ready to launch? Contact us to see a demo or get started for free today.

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