Roll down 21 miles of black pavement through acres of woodlands and fields on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, the first rails-to-trails projects in Oregon. That’s right – next to the smooth asphalt is a spine of railroad tracks first laid down in 1913 to haul lumber, passengers and freight for the state’s growing industries. Today the path is beloved by cyclists, hikers and equestrians for the easy, serene and scenic ride.
This trail traces a line between two peaceful Oregon towns (Banks and Vernonia), and crosses through a handful of small communities in between. The official trailhead is in Banks, but numerous side starts intersect along the way, inviting opportunities for various shuttle trip combinations. Since the trail is paved, wide and gently sloped, it’s also family friendly and ADA accessible.
Starting at the Banks trailhead, the first three miles along the Nehalem and Sunset Highways are flat and graded. As one approaches Manning, the trail pulls away from the highway and slides into the countryside. You’ll start crossing bridges (13 in total!) including the beautiful 80-foot-high railroad trestles at Buxton and Horseshoe. The landscape will range from rolling hills in earthy tones, to lush farmland, to forest canopies.
Partway through the trail you’ll find the L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, which opened just 10 years ago. Here you’ll find a variety of camping options, including rustic cabins, RV hookups and tent sites. There are also day use areas, hiking trails, horseback riding trails, and amenities.
The trail has six trailheads with parking at the towns of Banks, Manning, Buxton, Tophill, Beaver Creek and Vernonia. The Banks trailhead offers the most generous parking, as well as restrooms and drinking water.
Directions to the Banks Trailhead from Portland:
-- Drive west on US 26 past State Route 6 (also known as NW Wilson River Highway).
-- Turn left onto NW Banks Road.
-- In 1.7 miles, look for the lot at the bottom of a steep hill. You’ll find it near NW Sellers Road.
Learn more about the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway which comprises the Trail and more great places to ride: https://www.shareoregon.com/en/listings/124916-tualatin-valley-scenic-bikeway