Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 22nd, 2017 at 11:56 am
This post is sponsored by River City Bicycles.
You know I have a soft-spot for Columbia County. A ride I did this weekend made it even softer: A 100-mile loop that pulls together adventurous riding that’s relatively close to Portland and offers everything from expertly crafted singletrack and primitive logging roads to carfree paths and smooth country roads.
I call it the Scappoose Vernonia Singletrack Century.
It started innocently enough. I need to get some miles in my legs before next weekend’s Dirty Sellwood ride. As usual, my thoughts turn north and west from my house near Peninsula Park when I dream about nearby adventures.
I started with about 20 miles of relatively chill and flat riding on Willamette Blvd and Highway 30. The highway could and should be a lot better for biking between downtown Portland and Sauvie Island, but I won’t get into that now. On weekends it’s not that bad, especially north of Sauvie Island when the traffic mellows and the shoulder widens. The fun started about an hour into the ride when I got to turn off the highway onto Dutch Canyon Road — one of my favorites. Many people take this route to do the popular Otto Miller Road loop; but few stay on Dutch Canyon to explore the dirt logging roads just beyond.
As I shared back in 2015, there’s a ton of great logging roads to explore between Dutch Canyon Road and the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway. (If you want to ride in this area, check the Weyerhaeuser permit maps first. I bought one for Columbia and Washington counties this year just to be safe. And I wouldn’t advise riding there on weekdays due to a high volume of logging activities.) Once I got onto the dirt, I spent the next 25 miles on logging roads — some of them in pretty rough shape.
After connecting to Pisgah Home Road, I opted to check out Gunners Lakes. This is a sweet spot made up of three lakes that hardly anyone visits due to their location and lack of services. From Gunners Lakes Mainline, I worked my way back up to Bacona-Pisgah. Before I got there I made a wrong turn and climbed to the top of Long Mountain, a 2,200 foot peak with views so good I didn’t mind the detour. I also had to walk and carry my bike over a lot of down trees and branches on the last part of the Corral Creek Mainline Road just before where it meets up with Bacona.
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I could have taken Bacona all the way to Buxton where it crosses the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. But I’ve done that many times and I wanted a bit more adventure today so I headed north on Pillins Hill Road which dropped back down into the valley along Pebble Creek just south of Vernonia Lake. From there I connected with the State Trail and rode it south for about 10 miles. At the trails half-way point, I jumped onto Highway 47 in order to connect to Hoffman Road. This was something new. My goal was to connect to the Stub Stewart State Park singletrack trails off of Genzer Road and I knew from previous rides that Hoffman would get me there.
At mile 60 of this ride, the 1.5-mile climb up Hoffman Road was annoying. It’s just straight up and rocky. But at the top is where the major fun begins. Thanks to our friends at NW Trail Alliance, Stub Stewart has loads of really fun trails to ride. You can access the very top of them off of Genzer and enjoy about four miles of groomed and curated singletrack. There are berms that swoop you through the trees, challenging switchbacks, high-speed flow sections, bridges over creeks, and more. It was 45 minutes or so of trail-riding bliss.
Shoo-Fly trail dropped me off onto the Banks-Vernonia path and the rest of the ride was relatively uneventful. Just smooth sailing on pavement — which was nice after 30 miles of rocks and trails and dirt.
This is such a fun loop! I love the diversity of conditions and challenges it offers. Depending on your interest, you could use this route to explore the roads around Gunners Lakes (even via driving to Scappoose), find new ways to reach Vernonia, create a loop that includes the Stub singletrack, and so on.
Here’s my route on RideWithGPS.com.
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