The town of Vernonia is attracting visitors because it finds itself at the epicenter of two regional trails.
The newly established Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway (which includes the decades old Banks-Vernonia State Trail) and the Crown Zellerbach (CZ) Trail are bringing visitors, especially visitors on bicycles, in droves during the spring, summer and fall. These trails are making a Vernonia a popular destination that is just being discovered.
In 2013 the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission formally approved the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway as the tenth designated bikeway in the state. The bikeway features the best of the northern Willamette Valley, from friendly downtowns to fertile farmlands and lush natural areas. Set in the heart of Washington County and traveling into Columbia County, the Bikeway runs for 30 miles one way, and connects with, and includes, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, traveling another 21 miles from Banks to Vernonia.
The trail provides views of the Coast Range, farms, vineyards, and natural areas near quaint downtowns. The primary natural feature is the Tualatin River and the surrounding river basin, which is dotted with wetlands and forest stands. Farm produce stands, farmers’ markets and a winery along the route offer a wonderful seasonal mix of activities.
The connection to the Banks-Vernonia Trail provides riders with a is a multi-use trail paved over an old railroad grade. The trail is suitable for walkers, joggers, bikers or mounted equestrian riders. The trail allows riders to get off the roadway and enjoy a 21 mile tree-lined, easy-grade pathway. The trail has 13 old bridges crossing swift streams and wooden trestles rise up from the past.
The Banks-Vernonia Trail can be accessed at any of 6 points along its progression – including trailheads at Manning, Buxton, Tophill, and Beaver Creek, as well as at Banks and Vernonia themselves – and permits only non-motorized use at a safe, slow speed.
With trailheads in Vernonia and Hillsboro, the Tualatin Valley Bikeway begins on mostly rural roads with terrain ranging from plains to rolling hills, with the middle portion of the state trail featuring a climb of about 600 feet. The Scenic Bikeway is rated as a moderately challenging ride and can be enjoyed by a wide range of cyclists.
With the route’s layout, cyclists have many overnight options for multi-day rides, while day trips covering sub-sections of the route are easy, too. L.L. Stub Stewart State Park is adjacent to the State Trail and offers camping, as does Vernonia’s Anderson and Airport Parks. Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Banks and Vernonia offer lodging, dining and other services. The route’s northern and southern hubs are public parks, each with parking, restrooms and drinking water. Several other parks on the route offer picnic shelters and restrooms. Transit connections are available in Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Banks and Vernonia.
Paved trails in and around Vernonia give families a chance to ride together as well. The connection from the Banks-Vernonia Trail to Webb Way at Anderson Park takes riders to Vernonia Lake and is a flat and easy ride for even the youngest cyclists.
The Crown Zellerbach Trail is a different ride altogether and is Columbia County’s newest jewel.
Spanning the twenty miles from the outskirts of Vernonia to Chapman’s Landing on the Columbia River in Scappoose, the trail is accessible to all non-motorized traffic, including bikes, horses and hikers and is maintained by Columbia County. The trail is mostly hard pack, with some areas of gravel, and follows logging roads and abandoned rail lines. It is accessible at several locations along Scappoose-Vernonia Hwy.
The CZ Trail gives users a new opportunity to experience the beauty and history of Columbia County. The rougher style of the trail makes it attractive for mountain bikes and bikes with wider profiled tires as well as equestrian trail riders and provides a great alternative to the paved Banks-Vernonia Trail.
Speaking of mountain bikes, Stub Stewart State Park, just 10 miles south of Vernonia, has a new Free Ride Skills Area that is open to the public. A session/training area includes options for beginner to advanced Free Ride mountain bikers. Initial construction has focused on beginner and intermediate level trails but construction in the area is ongoing.
Following IMBA guidelines for trail layout, the Free Ride Area is geographically “remote” to create a natural barrier of access to inexperienced riders.
All trails within Stub Stewart Park are open to mountain bike riders. There’s more than 15+ miles of natural surface, shared-use trails and several miles of mountain biking specific trails.
As you can see, it’s no wonder Vernonia is becoming a destination for bicycle riders of all types.