Gravel - Cycle Oregon

With a new ride and race venue, Columbia County looks to embrace cycling

Posted by on April 27th, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Burn Road Loop in Vernonia-32

A new century ride will bring more people to roads like these in Columbia County.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

With a new event ride and an outdoor events park that will host mountain bike races this summer, Columbia County is quickly starting to fulfill its vast potential as a bicycle recreation destination.

The mostly-rural county stretches from Sauvie Island to the foothills of the Pacific Coast range and up to the Columbia River and Clatskanie. The foundation of its bicycling bona fides is the smooth pedaling offered along Banks-Vernonia State Trail and the off-road adventures at Stub Stewart State Park. But as the Portland region’s 2.3 million residents discover the area and locals roll out the welcome for them in hopes of grabbing their slice of the states $400 million bicycle tourism pie, it’s reputation is growing.

Two developments in particular could signal 2016 as a major year for biking in Columbia County.

The first-ever Columbia Century Challenge will happen on June 18th. With 72 and 110-mile options, the ride will be challenging and feature everything from paved winding mountain roads to old logging roads and even the unpaved Crown-Zellerbach trail (12 miles of which will be included on the ride). “Add charming rural towns, and you have the perfect backdrop for a fun and epic bike ride that has the potential to become an instant classic!” the ride’s organizers say.

Vernonia Overnighter

The Crown-Zellerbach trail isn’t as well-known as the Banks-Vernonia, but it’s just as amazing.

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Map of the 110-mile route. Be forewarned, it features over 7,000 feet of climbing. But oh, the rewards!

The Columbia Century is being put on by Cycle Columbia County and all proceeds from the ride will go toward improving cycling in the region. Entry to the fully-supported ride is $45 pre-reg and $55 on the day of the event. The routes both start and end in St. Helens (off Highway 30).

Another exciting development in Columbia County is the embrace of cycling by the Vernonia Springs Outdoor Events Park. Located right off the Banks-Vernonia Trail (and Highway 47) about 40 miles northwest of downtown Portland, the park has built mountain-bike trails and is hosting its first annual racing series. The Vernonia Springs MTB Short Track races will be held on May 25th and June 1st. Riders will enjoy a brand new trail that owner Jeff Walton has built with “berms, bumps, single and double track and many great views all along the way.”

The emergence of Columbia County as a bike destination has been brewing for a long time. Back in 2007 we shared how Vernonia was about to become “Velo”nia as bicycle lovers discovered its many charms. Since then I’ve explored a lot of the backroads west of Scappoose and surrounding Vernonia while staying at the bike-centric Coastal Mountain Sporthaus.

With its proximity to Portland and diverse natural assets, it’s exciting to see Columbia County position itself as a cycling destination. Consider making it part of your summer plans!

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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7 Comments
  • Houston Electrician April 27, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Yes! So happy to hear this! The area is absolutely beautiful so it will be nice for them to fix it up even more!

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  • Dan A April 27, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    25C tires okay for these routes, or do I need CX tires (or bigger)?

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  • Daniel April 27, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    I haven’t even heard of the Crown-Zellerbach trail until this article. I’m going to have to look into it. Sounds interesting.

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    • JeffS(egundo) April 27, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      It is. Just rode it a few weeks back and it was really enjoyable; despite paralleling the Scappoose-Vernonia Rd. pretty closely, you don’t feel like you’re very close to it. Some lovely areas, especially as you get away from Scappoose.

      Trail surface varies. I rode it on ~35c tires, which was about right for me, but some of you sports out there could do it on 28c.

      No good maps for it, but it’s pretty easy to follow, for the most part. Shows up on the Google pretty well.

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  • rwm April 27, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    CZ trail is a great ride. The surface is perhaps a bit rougher than Leif Erikson or Salesman – you can get by on 25c, but 28 or 32 are preferable IMO. One correction – Stub Stewart State Park is in Washington County.

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  • Doug April 29, 2016 at 6:12 am

    An article about cycling. I thought we were concentrating on parking around here. You people need to get out of Portland more. This ride looks like a good start and parking will be widely available.

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  • Ted Timmons (Contributor) May 2, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Yeah, we discovered CZ trail after being about halfway down the highway to Scappoose over the weekend. Here’s a pic:

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