"Coast Range Community at end of Bike Trail" Vernonia by glabah

Vernonia Travel Guide: 10 reviews and 58 photos

Vernonia is a nice, quiet place where you can even nap and relax in the street from time to time if you want to.

At one time, Vernonia was a huge commercial center due to the vast Oregon American Lumber Company operation that was centered around the lumber mill complex in this community. Some sources call this the largest sawmill in the world at the time of its peak in the 1920s. However, one can't cut that much lumber that quickly forever, and by the early 1950s there wasn't much left of the mill complex.

Today, Vernonia is a small commercial center that serves this part of the Coast Range, and there is little here in terms of major industry.

The city has a few small restaurants and and art galleries in and around it, and is the home of some recreational trails and parks. One of the unfortunate problems in recent years has been frequent large scale flooding which has become more frequent as the forests in the Coast Range are logged off, and the hills are no longer able to absorb the amount of rain they did when they had larger trees. To help solve this problem, many of the buildings in Venonia have been demolished, relocated, or have their foundations raised.

In the 1960s, there was an attempt to turn the railroad line to Vernonia into a tourist attraction, and the Vernonia South Park & Sunset operated a tourist railroad here until 1965.

In 1973 the railroad line was sold to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

A test train of ore from nearby rocks was the last commercial traffic to use the line, and there are some sources that say this happened as recently as the mid-1980s. However, it was found that the ore was not rich enough in minerals to make processing of it profitable.

In 1990 the right of way was transferred to the State Parks Department, and was reasonably quickly turned into a recreational trail running from Banks to Vernonia. This new 20 mile trail helped establish Vernonia as a small recreational center.

Today, that recreational center has expanded to include several parks, including two with camping facilities (see Anderson Park camping and Vernonia Lake camping) and a trail along the south end of town that acts as a local extension of the Banks-Vernonia Trail.

In the future, the former Crown-Zellerbach logging railroad from Scapoose to the hills near Vernonia will also become a recreational trail, forming a huge loop trail between the Willamette / Columbia River confluence, up the hills into Vernonia, and on into Banks.

The bad news is that the section of the Banks-Vernonia Trail from Vernonia to Beaver Creek Trailhead is probably the worst section as it is located right next to highway 47. While traffic isn't as frequent as it is along many city roads it is loud and fast, and makes this part of the trail considerably less pleasant than areas of the trail further south. This is quite unfortunate as Vernonia really could use more tourist traffic, but the position of this primary of tourist attractions just doesn't leave much reason to continue traveling the trail north of the Beaver Creek Trailhead. Thankfully, the city trail sections between Anderson Park and Vernonia Lake that add extensions to the Banks-Vernonia Trail are quite a bit more pleasant, and could act as an incentive for some to tolerate the unpleasant section along Highway 47.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Small community set into the coast range mountains. North end of the Banks-Vernonia Trail. Camping available in city parks.
  • Cons:Not close to the beaches or rivers, and local forests have largely been cut down to feed the sawmills - so it is a ways to good forest recreation too. Floods somewhat often.
  • In a nutshell:Small town with a few recreational opportunities, but and one of the larger communities in the Coast Range itself.
  • Last visit to Vernonia: Jun 2010
  • Intro Updated Feb 24, 2011
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