Banks–Vernonia State Trail

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Banks–Vernonia State Trail
Whistle stop at Buxton.jpg
Whistle-stop shelter at the Buxton trailhead
Banks–Vernonia State Trail is located in Oregon
Banks–Vernonia State Trail
TypePublic, state
LocationColumbia and Washington counties, Oregon
Nearest cityBetween Banks and Vernonia
Coordinates45°39′54″N 123°09′48″W / 45.6651126°N 123.1634443°W / 45.6651126; -123.1634443Coordinates: 45°39′54″N 123°09′48″W / 45.6651126°N 123.1634443°W / 45.6651126; -123.1634443[1]
Operated byOregon Parks and Recreation Department
OpenYear round
StatusDay use, fee-free

The Banks–Vernonia State Trail is a paved rail trail and state park in northwest Oregon in the United States. It runs for 21 miles (34 km), primarily north–south, between the towns of Vernonia in Columbia County and Banks in Washington County on an abandoned railroad bed.[2] Banks is about 25 miles (40 km) west of Portland.

The 8-foot (2.4 m) wide trail is open to non-motorized uses such as hiking and biking.[3] A 4-foot (1.2 m) wide horse trail parallels the hiking and biking trail.[4] The rail trail crosses 12 bridges and the Buxton Trestle, a former railroad trestle bridge that is 600 feet (180 m) long and 80 feet (24 m) high.[2] A second railroad trestle, the Tophill (or Horseshoe) Trestle, was damaged by fire in 1986 and is bypassed with a series of switchbacks at the Tophill trailhead.

Amenities available at some locations in the park include picnicking, fishing, wildlife watching, forests, bird-watching, historic sites, public restrooms, parking, horse hitching posts, a loading platform, and a whistle stop shelter.[3] The rail trail connects to a network of about 20 miles (32 km) of unpaved mountain-biking trails in L. L. "Stub" Stewart State Park.[5] About 14,000 people used the rail trail in 2004.[6]


The Banks–Vernonia State Trail was the first linear rail trail state park in Oregon.[4] The Portland, Astoria, and Pacific Railroad built the original rail line in 1913 to transport timber, freight, and passengers.[2] In the 1920s, trains on the line hauled logs and lumber from Keasey and the Oregon-American mill in Vernonia to Portland.[4][5] The railroad stopped using the line in 1957 after the mills closed, and from 1965 through 1969 the Vernonia South Park and Sunset Railroad leased the line for a steam excursion train.[4]

The line was abandoned in 1973. The Oregon Department of Transportation bought the right-of-way in 1974, and transferred it to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department in 1990.[2] In 2007 L. L. "Stub" Stewart State Park opened adjacent to the trail.[7] Trail improvements, which continued for two decades, were completed in 2010 with the opening of the Banks trailhead and its kiosk, which resembles a railroad depot.[5]

The beginning of the trail runs through Pihl Road, in Manning, Oregon, named after Holger Mathew Pihl Sr. Hollie Pihl, a Circuit Court Judge, and his wife Alice spent countless hours clearing brush from the abandoned rail lines and donated money to help complete the project when project funds ran out. The two also funded the Buxton Trailhead picnic pavilion and owned naming rights, choosing to call it the "Whistle Stop".

Panorama of Buxton Trestle, which carries the trail over a ravine


Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX
Location Coordinates[8] Trail location[9] Elevation[10]
mi km ft m
Banks trailhead 45°37′18.68″N 123°06′49.79″W / 45.6218556°N 123.1138306°W / 45.6218556; -123.1138306 (Banks trailhead) 0.0 0 208 63
Manning trailhead 45°39′54.87″N 123°09′48.49″W / 45.6652417°N 123.1634694°W / 45.6652417; -123.1634694 (Manning trailhead) 3.85 6.20 239 73
Buxton trailhead 45°41′52.44″N 123°11′07.49″W / 45.6979000°N 123.1854139°W / 45.6979000; -123.1854139 (Buxton trailhead) 6.7 10.8 459 140
Tophill trailhead 45°45′30.93″N 123°12′05.87″W / 45.7585917°N 123.2016306°W / 45.7585917; -123.2016306 (Tophill trailhead) 12.05 19.39 807 246
Beaver Creek trailhead 45°48′38.79″N 123°13′49.90″W / 45.8107750°N 123.2305278°W / 45.8107750; -123.2305278 (Beaver Creek trailhead) 16.4 26.4 684 208
Anderson Park (Vernonia) 45°51′20.93″N 123°11′31.10″W / 45.8558139°N 123.1919722°W / 45.8558139; -123.1919722 (Anderson Park in Vernonia) 20.65 33.23 605 184


  1. ^ "Banks–Vernonia State Trail". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Bannan, Jan (2002). Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide (2nd ed.). Seattle: Mountaineers Books. pp. 120–22. ISBN 0-89886-794-0.
  3. ^ a b "Banks–Vernonia State Trail". Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d "Welcome to Banks–Vernonia State Trail". Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. August 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2004. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Tims, Dana (October 29, 2010). "Local News: 21-Mile Rail Trail Opens for Treks". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon.
  6. ^ Mandel, Michelle (September 29, 2005). "Local Stories: Last Link of Trail into Banks to Get Pavement in 2008". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon. p. C03.
  7. ^ Gorman, Kathleen (August 10, 2006). "Metro West Neighbors: Park Laying Groundwork for Outdoors Enthusiasts". The Oregonian. p. 8.
  8. ^ Geolocated with Google Earth
  9. ^ Moore, Jim (2012). 75 Classic Rides Oregon: The Best Road Biking Routes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 57–60. ISBN 978-1-59485-650-1.
  10. ^ Derived from Google Earth

External links[edit]