Banks-Vernonia State Trail

This is part of our Oregon State Park challenge! Check out our progress here.

We had been saving this one for a future year, when the kids were older and could ride longer distances. 21 miles is, after all, a pretty long way. But since the trail literally runs through the park we were camping in, and Will and Lucy were so game, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.


Our initial plan was just to do half of the trail, and catch a taxi back to the campground. It was downhill all the way to Banks anyway. Our first contact with reality was a 1-hour delay due to our bike pump running down the wimpy car battery. We had to flag down a stranger for a jump-start.

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Becky borrowed her mom’s bike, which turned out to be much nicer than mine, and she was able to set a pretty brisk pace.

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We reached Banks after 10 miles of easy riding. Over lunch, we decided that given the time of day and all of our levels of confidence, I would just ride back to the car while the others hung out around Banks for a while. Will immediately volunteered to ride back with me.


Becky and Lucy found the Banks Library, and hunkered down for some rest time. Lucy gleefully devoured an entire stack of books while Becky perused the collection of National Geographic magazines.


2 hours of uphill riding later, Will and I reached the park, and started the hill climb to where the car was parked (the trailhead parking spots were loading-zone only).


We successfully retrieved the car, it started on the first try (which I was a bit nervous about), and we drove out to fetch the ladies. It’s a bit disheartening to cover the same ground that took you 2 hours on a bike in about 10 minutes.

The next day, Becky looked at the trail map, and decided we could totally do the other half. She concocted a non-trivial plan, which involved:

  • Packing up camp and loading everything in the car,
  • Dropping three people off at the trailhead,
  • Moving the car halfway to the destination, and
  • The driver riding away from the finishing point to meet the others.

It all came off without a hitch. Becky and the kids started northwards from the trailhead…

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…and I met them a ways down the trail.


Then we proceeded towards Vernonia. Will and Becky rode ahead, while Lucy chose a more leisurely pace, which I matched, and a larger volume of conversation, which I struggled to keep up with.


The weather was gorgeous and sunny, but the leaves were really slippery. At one point, Becky reports hearing a soft “whoompf” from behind her, and turned to find that Will had taken the softest bike fall in recorded history, right into a big pile of leaves. She went back to help him get untangled from his bike, and he said he was “so grateful I have a mom who will hear me fall super quietly, and come back to help me.” A strange bit of gratitude, but gratitude nonetheless.


We reached the other end of the trail! At this point we split up again; Becky and Lucy went around the lake (an extra mile of level riding) while Will and I sped back to the car.

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Total mileage accrued during this trip:

Becky/Lucy: 21 miles
Ben/Will: 35 miles

This gave us a lot of confidence in the kids’ biking abilities, and we’re really proud of them for sticking it out!

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