Trails, backroads and the charms of Vernonia

Trails, backroads and the charms of Vernonia

One of the best things about bicycling in Portland isn’t even in Portland. It’s a small town called Vernonia. Situated a perfect day’s ride from Portland (about 50 miles, or less if you take MAX to HIllsboro), Vernonia is nestled in the woods at the end of about 20 miles of the smoothly paved Banks-Vernonia Trail.

This past weekend I packed up a few panniers and joined some friends for an overnight bike ride out to Vernonia. On the way out we rode through some great new trails and rural backroads through Washington County; and on the way back, we opted for logging roads and dirt trails that led us to Scappoose. Even under grey and wet skies all day Saturday, it was fantastic riding.

But what made this weekend so great wasn’t just the pedaling and the good company, it was the town of Vernonia itself. From the easy and comfortable camping at Anderson Park, to the hospitality of locals we experienced at Black Bear Coffee and the Cedar Side Inn.

(Before sharing more photos and thoughts, I want to give credit for the route to two guys: Our fearless leader Carl Larson; who organized the weekend as a bachelor party for a mutual friend, and Ed Groth, whose knowledge of the backroads proved invaluable.)

We started our ride from southeast Portland and headed to northwest. I took it as a good omen that we passed by the Brewcycle on our way out of town…

Vernonia Overnighter

Our route was to take NW Saltzman Rd (in Forest Park) up and over the hill; but instead of riding on the shoulder of Hwy 30, we opted to take Leif Erikson instead…

Vernonia Overnighter

Once up and over Forest Park, we bombed down into Washington County via Springville Road. But again, instead of taking narrow roads that can sometimes be nerve-wracking with a large group, we took a left turn onto a dirt road between a subdivision and a farm en route to the paved trail at Kaiser Woods Park…

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

The paved trails that criss-cross Washington County are great, and more of them are popping up all the time. However, the crossings and connectivity are still very bad in some places. In the photo below, we’re riding the sidewalk of NW Kaiser Rd trying to find the continuation of the path…

Vernonia Overnighter

And here’s the bridge on a new section of the Rock Creek Trail near Allenbach Acres Park…

Vernonia Overnighter

One section of the trail took us alongside a driving range and there were golf balls all strewn about…

Vernonia Overnighter

Pretty soon we were beyond urban development and into gorgeous farmlands and quiet backroads…

Vernonia Overnighter

This barn was built in 1921…

Vernonia Overnighter

When it was time for lunch, King Torta in North Plains was just what we needed…

Vernonia Overnighter

Back on the road, the rain kept falling but it was never a downpour…

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

This is the St. Francis Catholic School on NW Harrington Rd…

Vernonia Overnighter

When we finally reached the Banks-Vernonia Trail, it was smooth and stress-free sailing all the way to camp…

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

After we set up our tents, we walked a few blocks into town and had dinner at Black Bear. It was late, but the waitress had her chef re-open the kitchen just to serve us. That was very nice. Then after dinner, we walked across the street for some dancing, karaoke, and toasting of our soon-to-be-married friend at the Cedar Side Inn…

Vernonia Overnighter

The next morning we awoke to this idyllic scene at Anderson Park…

Vernonia Overnighter

The next morning we set out for Portland; but instead of heading back south toward Washington County, we went north on Nehalem Hwy (47)…

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

If you’re going to get a flat, Vernonia Lake City Park isn’t a bad place to do it…

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Just before Nehalem Hwy split into Scappoose-Vernonia Hwy, we left the paved road for Columbia Forest Road. This is a gravel and dirt road owned by a private timber company. Motorized access is prohibited, but it’s open to biking…

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

It sure beats the highway…

Vernonia Overnighter

Despite puddles and a few bumps and rocks, the Columbia Forest Road was in great shape…

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

After about 7-8 miles, the Columbia Forest Road turns into the Crown Zellerbach Trail. What a gem! It was so exciting to ride this for the first time…

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

Vernonia Overnighter

This was really a fantastic loop that I’d recommend to anyone who’s looking for a little off-highway adventure. Check out a map of the route via RidewithGPS.com.

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