At approximately 3/4 of a mile (1.25 km) in length, the trail connecting Anderson Park near downtown Vernonia with the popular recreational area on the east side is the perfect length to get a little bit of walking in without a huge strain. The path is pretty much level over the entire length, though it does have a very slight uphill climb going west to east along its route.
At Anderson Park, the trail connects with the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, adding some 20 miles to the recreational options here. However, the Vernonia to Beaver Creek Trailhead part of the trail isn't a particularly pleasant section of the trail due to how closely the trail follows highway 47.
Going west to east, the trail, the trail passes over a bridge at the east end of Anderson Park, then diverges to the right at a fork. Soon after this, the trail runs beside the Nehalem River, and then enters a fairly dense forest for the remainder of the trip to Vernonia Lake. It is fairly far from any busy roads, and crosses only one mildly busy gravel road over its entire length.
In the past, this was the route between the Oregon American lumber company mill and the branch of the Spokane Portland & Seattle Railway that ran from Bank northwest to Vernonia and then continued on into the woods to a point called Keasey, which was the end of the common carrier owned railroad track. The line continued onward into the woods under ownership of private logging railroads. Today, there is little trace of the railroad north of Vernonia, leaving this segment as the only piece past Vernonia proper that has any significant remains.
At one time a mill pond for log storage for the huge Oregon American Lumber Company mill that used to occupy much of the south side of Vernonia, the lake has now been turned into a very popular city park. Among other things, the lake has fish, and there are a number of people that enjoy fishing here.
There are also several picnic tables with nearby grilling stands for creating the freshest fish cooking possible.
A paved walkway leads around the entire lake and is 3/4 of a mile (1.3 km), and is a pleasant place for walking or bike riding, though the lake and surrounding area is usually very crowded. The paved walkway also connects to the Vernonia Lake to Anderson Park trail. At 3/4 of a mile (1.25 km)
the trail is just the right length for a quick relaxing walk. At Anderson Park, the trail connects with the 20 mile long Banks-Vernonia State Trail.
The south side of the lake is the most popular during hot days, as it has the largest shade trees. Other parts of the lake have fairly hot sun on hot days as the trees aren't big enough to provide good shade just yet.
Wildlife at the lake includes occasional visits from Bald Eagles, a substantial population of red-winged blackbirds, and a number of ducks, including some unique cross-breeds between mallards and domestic ducks that have eccentric color patterns.
Flush toilets are available on the north side of the park, and pit toilets are available on the southeast side of the park.
The parking area is mostly gravel.
The park features a small "primitive" overnight camping facility near the pit toilets.
There is a boat ramp near the flush toilets, but it should be noted that motorized boats are not allowed in this lake. You are only allowed to have human powered craft of some sort.
Vernonia is a fairly pleasant little community, and it is the termination point for the Banks to Vernonia State Trail, which is built on the old railroad right of way.
Unfortunately, while the town and the termination point at Vernonia Lake are pleasant enough, the portion of the state trail between Vernonia and the Beaver Creek trailhead (perhaps 5 miles - 8 km) is quite possibly the least pleasant of any section of the trail. For most of this distance, the trail runs next to highway 47, and in some cases only a very few feet away from the busy and fast road. While there are many places where bike paths have been built in far worse places, the traffic noise is still quite annoying and makes it difficult to hear and enjoy such things as the sound of the birds and the rush of the water in the river and nearby streams.
The Anderson Park to Vernonia Lake trail, which is functionally a continuation of the trail even though the ownership changes, is a far more pleasant trail section due to it being far from any roads, and the noise of the surrounding countryside being much easier to hear.
In June, you will find an abundance of wild rose along this trail.
The trail runs along highway 47 from the south, and immediately upon entering the city of Vernonia it veers away from the highway and runs east parallel to, but some distance away from, highway 47. It passes through Anderson Park, and continues east as the city of Vernonia owned Anderson Park to Vernonia Lake Trail. The trail does have a few sections where there is scrub forest on either side, but unfortunately the majority of the trail in this section is very close to highway 47.
The trail is open to horses, cycling, and hiking, but users are asked to respect the right of way of the other. This particularly comes into effect with cyclists and horses, which can be easily spooked and endanger their rider if approached too fast on a silent vehicle.
Do not miss Black Bear Coffee Company. Small, charming little shop. Good sandwiches, espresso & pastries. Really no other place worth eating in town
Favorite Dish: Hot pastrami sandwich
Brain Freeze....mocha slurpie thing ...yum
Virtually everyone comes to Vernonia by automobile, or a few arrive on the Banks - Vernonia state trail.
However, should you desire to do the entire Banks - Vernonia Trail one way (the entire length may be a bit much for many to do both ways in one day!) or otherwise need some other way to get to Vernonia without a car, there is one option available to you: Columbia County Rider.
This transit service exists on a very limited budget, and the population base to support it is very limited as well. However, it does serve Vernonia and connect it to the outside world.
Three round trips a day, the Nehalem Valley Route of the Columbia County Rider operates between Vernonia and the Willow Creek Transit Center in Hillsboro, where it connects with various Portland area transit routes. There is no weekend transit service, and the service does not operate on certian holidays. The one-way trip takes about one hour. Currently, the schedule has the bus leaving Vernonia at 6:15 am, 12:30 pm, and 4:30 pm. These departures arrive at Willow Creek at 7:15 am, 1:30 pm, and 5:30 pm respectively. The return trip arrives at Vernonia at 8:10 am, 2:25 pm, and 6:25 pm.
This route also connects Vernonia with a number of other places, including Stub Stewart State Park.
The trips depart from the Vernonia City Hall, which is essentially located in the core of downtown, several blocks east of the sharp 90 degree turn where highway 47 turns into Bridge Street.
Twice per week, there is a Vernonia to Scappoose "flexible" route service that provides a connection for those needing to shop or have other business on that end of Columbia County.
All fares are one-way, with no transfers issued, and are as of this writing $4.80 one way.
At least some of the buses are equipped with bike racks so that it is possible for you to bring your bike with you on the bus - which is good for those who intend to ride the Banks to Vernonia State Trail by taking the bus one way and returning by bike, or otherwise use the bus to get to where they can bike.
While the vast majority of the one vast mill complex is simply gone, there are a few scattered remains of the mill.
The largest of these is the hulk of the old power plant building, which lurks on the west side of Vernonia Lake.
It is thought that this mill was the largest in the world when it was at its peak in the 1920s.
Vernonia Lake was constructed to provide log storage, and while today it is a park it is also one of the large remains of the mill.
Shay Park has the last of the surviving steam locomotives from the logging railroad on display near the core of downtown Vernonia.
When the timber ran out in the 1950s, it was well understood that the forest would probably never again produce the sheer volume of timber it did when first cut down, and so the mill was closed. It was largely burned to the ground during the making of the movie "Ring of Fire" but the concrete structures such as the power plant remains did not burn.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: The showers in the camp grounds in the city parks are pay showers. It is $1.00 for 5 minutes, $1.25 for 6 minutes, and $1.50 for 7 minutes. The showers only accept quarters. While it is true that the downtown area only a 5 minute walk from the camping areas, if you plan ahead and bring enough quarters, you won't have to wander around town in your bathrobe or completely naked asking for change from the store keepers so that you can run the shower.
Best known as the home of a logging empire that disappeared when the big trees were all cut down, it isn't surprising that Vernonia would also preserve some of it its logging history. Shay park preserves one of the remaining "Shay" type steam locomotives that operated on the logging railroads that once served Vernonia.
The park also has several picnic tables, one of which is right next to the an offshoot of the Nehalem River, and a saved (though not necessarily preserved) steam tractor. There is also a preserved structure that appears to have been one of the early jail cells.
The park is located at the intersection of Adams Street and Brdige street on the east end of the central downtown area.