Banks-Vernonia State Trail
In 2014, Bicycling Magazine names Portland as one of the top bike-friendly cities in America. Portlandian parents are raising their children as fellow bikers, but young ones riding on busy streets is dangerous and biking around the cul-de-sac only stays entertaining for so long.
Lucky for us parents, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail offers miles of paved, motor vehicle free bike paths.
In the early 90’s, Oregon State Parks turned 21 miles of an old railroad line into a biking, hiking, and equestrian trail. Serious bikers can spend a day biking the 42 mile round trip ride. For a family half-day adventure, taking kids on a section of the trail is free, fun, and great exercise.
Along the trail, you’ll find charming touches left over from the railroad days. Train crossing lights greet you in Banks and there is a trestle to cross in Buxton. Farmland borders the pathway and our kids often stop to visit horses in the pastures.
Our family prefers to start the trail in Banks, located 25 miles from downtown Portland. Trailhead signs are well marked. The one in Banks is located on the north side of town off of Hwy 47. Sunny days bring out the crowds and parking becomes scarce. More parking is found 4 miles further north at the Manning Trailhead.
Study the trail map before arriving and decide where your family would like to begin.
The Banks-Vernonia State Trail is mostly flat, creating an easy ride for the whole family. The one exception is near the Tophill Trailhead at Mile 12 where a few steep switchback trails zig-zag up and down that section of path. We walk our bikes at this point.
There are plenty of spots to pull over for a snack break. Park benches are placed along the way providing a place to sit and rest. The Buxton Trailhead at mile 7 has a grassy area and picnic shelter if your family needs more room to stretch. Restrooms are available at all trailheads except Manning.
By breaking the trail into sections manageable for your family, you can plan many different 1/2 day biking adventures. Mile markers on the edges of the trail make it simple to gauge the distance of your ride.
Unsure of how many miles to bike?
Every child has a different stamina level, so start with the minimum you think your child can ride, and build up from there. Our daughters, ages 12 and 9, can ride about 10 miles.
:: The trails are set up with traffic rules, just like on a car traveled street. Mini stop signs and yield signs will direct you, so make sure young tykes know what the signs mean.
:: The wood bridges are uneven. Young children and new riders may want to walk their bikes across.
:: Teach your children biking etiquette. You are sharing the trail with experienced riders and large horses. Stay to the right of the trail and pass on the left. When passing, calling out “On your left!” is a polite way to let the biker ahead know of your intent to pass.
DON’T FORGET TO BRING:
- Bicycle helmet
- Water bottle
- Snacks, or a lunch if preferred
- Bandages, wipes, and other First Aid supplies that would be helpful if someone falls and skins a knee.
- Trail Map (found online or at each trailhead)
Andee Zomerman lives with her husband and two daughters in the Bethany neighborhood of NW Portland.
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