Baby's First Bike Tour: Biking the Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Pre-kids, we did a few bike tours and we fell in love. If you can find a good trail, and for us, away from the road, bike touring is a blast because unlike hiking, you can travel pretty far and see a lot of sites, and get that good booty workout while being easy on your knees.
When we took off for a month long roadtrip around the Pacific Northwest, a goal of ours was to do our first bike tour as a family of 4, and with our four year old on his own two wheel.
That means we had to hit certain criteria--the most important being that it was completely separate from the road to avoid cars. It also had to be on gravel or pavement, because we were also pulling the trailer behind us for our 1.5 year old and didn't want to rock her brain, yah know. The third being that there had to be some sort of camping throughout there trail to make it a multi-day trip.
The whole gang: Baby girl in the trailer, Zay ready to ride, and me and Jamie the pack mules
While in Oregon, we stumbled on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, and old rail bed that has been paved over. From one town to the other, it is 21 miles, so 42 miles out and back. It's lined with tall trees where almost the entire trail is in the shade. It's also relatively flat with only one or two big hills. The best part about the trail is the blackberry bushes all along for a quick snack. We also found apple and plum trees that were a nice addition fr breakfast.
We started the trail in Banks, but you can access the trail in 4 other places in between Banks and Vernonia: Manning, Buxton, Tophill, or Beaver Creek. Additionally, because it's so frequented by bikers, there is air and bike tools for repairs all along the rail trail.
We decided to make this a 2 night, 3 day trip, so we picked up rental bikes, panniers, and a trailer in Portland, drove to Banks where we packed all of our panniers and with food and camping equipment, and biked 9 miles to our campsite in LL Stubs. After boondocking for so long, we felt like we were at a resort with a pit toilet and running water—so fancy.
The 4 of us slept soundly in our 2 person tent
We pitched our tent, made our go-to backpacking meal of mac n' cheese followed by some good 'ol Swiss Miss, then went to sleep early for our big 24 mile day to Vernonia the next day.
I truly didn't think this would be something we could accomplish. Like I said, our 4 year old was on his own two wheels, with only our Towhee bungee to pull him along if he got tired. I was nervous that he would be beyond exhausted where he wouldn't even want to sit on his bike anymore though, because 24 miles is a lot for anyone—so, all this to say, this was an experiment.
He made up a Mario Kart-esque game where he would run over pine cones to make him go faster and leaves would slow him down. He played this the entire 42 miles
(not gonna lie, we did too because it was quite fun).
Luckily, this kid of ours crushed it. He has a need for speed which is totally frightening, but I think he loved being able to cruise after doing so many hikes during the month. We biked the 12 miles to Vernonia just in time for lunch. Instead of downing our go to cucumber, cheese, and mustard sandwiches, we treated ourselves with takeout. There are a few different restaurants to choose from which all looked really good and seemingly like you can't go wrong.
We picked them up, and ate them at a nearby park that had a nice swimming area for kids. In Vernonia, there is also a lake that you can ride around.
Vernonia actually seems like a pretty cool town, with a lake, a park, a nice swimming area for kids, and based on what we saw, deer just roaming around. If you want to stay in Vernonia for the night instead of heading back to LL Stubs State park, there is Anderson Campground where you can set up your tent if you want to take it slower. There is nothing special about this campground, but it is right on the rail trail and only 2 blocks from all the hops and restaurants. There is also a plethora of plums, blackberries, and apples to pick.The good thing about staying here the night is that if you are looking to head back to Banks the next day, it's slightly downhill which would make the 21 miles easier to do.
For us, we biked the 12 miles back, hooking Zay up to our Towhee only to make it up a butt buster of a hill. Other than that, our boy rode solo and we're so proud.
Well deserved shower I would say! (Solar shower is from Advanced Elements)
Please let me know if you have any questions about this trail. Also, if you have any recommendations of trails like this anywhere in the world, we'd love to hear about them!