Family Friendly: The entire path is paved and wide enough for young ones to enjoy the trail.
Need To Know
Several trailheads along the route. Because it's an old rail line, the grade is never very steep although some parts are more steep than others.
The Banks-Vernonia State Trail can be a great way to get a lot of miles in and not ride in the city. Always rolling through the forest or between fields, it can be a great place to clear your head. Although there is no singletrack, L.L. Stub Stewart's mountain bike trails are accessible from the path. In the rainy season it can also be a good way to stretch your legs without destroying any fragile trails.
This 22-mile, completely paved rail-to-trail offers plenty of room to stretch your legs and get in a nice, rural ride when you're tired of the city. Six well-cultivated trailheads provide ample access to the various landscapes encountered on the old rail-line.
Starting in Banks is probably the most common practice for Portlanders; a large parking lot and nearby bike shop make this a great starting point. The first five miles are very flat as the trail cuts between fields and tree lines. At the five mile marker, the trail begins a lengthy but reasonable climb towards the L.L. Stub Stewart State Park.
There is a good amount of singletrack and even some freeride trails in the State Park. Riding the Banks-Vernonia State Trail in to reach your trailhead is a great way to save some money and get in a good warm up.
At around mile twelve, the trail abruptly drops down some switchbacks, crosses Highway 47 at the Tophill Trailhead, and then quickly climbs back up some steep switchbacks. After this short but steep climb, the route will begin the long, very gradual downhill towards the town of Vernonia.
At mile seventeen, the path begins to closely follow Highway 47, but don't worry, the trail is always separated. Before long, the trail enters Vernonia and eventually winds up on the banks of Vernonia Lake. Enjoy the view, eat a snack, and turn around for the ride home!
History & Background
This route was the first rails to trails state park in Oregon. First built in 1913 by the Portland, Astoria, and Pacific Railroad, the line originally carried timber and passengers. The nearby lumber mills shut down in 1957, which caused the line to be was leased to an excursion train in the sixties. In 1973 the line was completely abandoned and the rails were salvaged. After being acquired by the state in 1974, the land was transferred to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department in 1990. It would receive nearly two decades of improvements before being officially complete in 2010 with the opening of the Banks Trailhead.