Bicycling the Banks-Vernonia State Trail

The "rails-to-trails" route is the centerpiece of the Columbia County cycling scene.

Bicycling the Banks-Vernonia State TrailCyclists go for an autumn ride along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

The small logging town of Vernonia has become a central hub for bike routes through the surrounding state forest.

Cyclists flock to Columbia County, less than an hour from downtown Portland. The small logging town of Vernonia has become a central hub for bike routes through the surrounding state forest.

The Crown Zellerbach Trail, a reclaimed logging road, offers mountain bikers 17 miles of rugged path descending to Scappoose. From there, it’s less than 10 miles to shopping and dining in the historic “Olde Towne” district of St. Helens.

Vernonia is also connected via an extension trail to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, one of the region’s premier cycling paths. This 21-mile, multiuse, fully paved path is the state’s first completed “rails-to-trails” project, repurposing a route that was once used to haul lumber from old-growth forests to Portland. Most popular with cyclists, the trail also draws walkers and equestrians, but birds like the red-capped pileated woodpecker far outnumber people.

The prodigious flora and fauna along the trail provide a welcome respite from civilization, while the rough-shod wooden struts of the 600-foot-long Buxton train trestle serve as reminders of an age when raw industry ruled the land in these parts. Such encounters are likely to make you appreciate the surrounding wilderness that much more.

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