I set out by bike to conquer the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, and found that rolling for miles along its smooth pavement beneath the forest canopy is more enjoyable than fearful. The dozens of snails utilizing the trail, however, should fear the bikers and horseback riders who can’t help but crush them (sorry!).
The Banks Trailhead provides the perfect starting point for this ride–in that it has designated trail parking and restrooms. The trail has a gradual incline, which helped warm me while the dense forest kept the temperature cool. We used this simple Oregon State Parks map as well as the WCVA Bike Map to plot our ride strategy. Crossing 13 bridges allows for awesome overlooks and just plain fun riding, as I captured with my phone:
The trail snakes through L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park, where there are convenient turn-offs to the park’s other trails and amenities, such as cabins, horse camp and campsites.
My cycling companions and I opted to stop at about mile 10.5 at a turnoff to eat our lunch, and were pleasantly surprised to discover a picnic bench next to the swampy view, pictured at left.
As we pedaled on, songbirds and fellow cyclists greeted us. A snake slithered ahead on the path. Horseback riders clomped along the adjacent trail, as did hikers. We made it to the “end”–the Vernonia Trailhead at mile 21, where there’s a park full of ancient trees, as well as restrooms, water taps (important for refilling!) and picnic tables. After eating our snack, we were ready to do it all over again in reverse. The downhill became uphill–and the apt-named “Tophill” area was a gear-grinding climb–but we continued to enjoy the open path and uninterrupted ride. I clocked my speed at 19 mph (it’s a “closed course,” after all), sailing a stretch with my friends, taking it all in.