The 21-mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail is a gem. This former railway route makes a vital connection in our regional bikeway network and the path has become a huge success, drawing thousands of adventure seekers and weekend warriors on sunny weekends. But if there’s one thing about it that could be improved, it’s the crossings — especially where it crosses Highway 47.
Now Oregon State Parks is embarking on a project that could make one key crossing better — and possibly lay the groundwork for a new biking/walking bridge over the highway.
The old Tophill Trestle sits just east of where the B-V Trail crosses Highway 47 about nine miles south of Vernonia at the Tophill parking lot and trailhead. It’s at mile 12 or about the half-way point of the path. On either side of the highway crossing the path descends and then climbs very steeply through a series of switchbacks. It’s so steep and windy that the state has signs encouraging people to walk their bikes. (Confession: On one foggy wintry morning a few years ago I crashed going down the south side!)
It’s easy to see why the railroad’s original route avoided this canyon by making a gradual and level turn high above where the highway runs today. The graphic below shows the two routes. The railway trestle is in yellow and the B-V Trail is blue.