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Exploring Vancouver’s Burnt Bridge Creek Trail

Posted by on October 9th, 2020 at 3:16 pm

Yes it’s another state. But this is just 10 miles from north Portland!
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

With all the biking you’ve been doing lately, perhaps you’re getting a bit bored of our local routes and paths? Maybe it’s time to venture north.

There are many reasons to cross the Columbia River into Vancouver. Chief among them is the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail, a well-marked, 100% paved path that follows the creek greenway and winds through eight miles of forests and natural areas between Fruit Valley Road and Hazel Dell Avenue.

I recently needed to pick something up from a store in the Vancouver Plaza shopping center and decided to take a detour to explore the trail.

From north Portland I made my way to the I-5 bridge via Delta Park and the serpentine bike paths through Jantzen Beach. Once across the bridge I wound along the waterfront and crossed Highway 14 on the very cool Confluence Land Bridge. After that I rolled through paths in Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and then found bike lanes on East 18th Street before making my way onto the trail.

(Click for captions.)

For a sunny and warm afternoon I was surprised how empty the trail was. Compared to Portland’s Springwater Corridor it felt much more serene and natural. There are also fewer stressful road crossings. The facilities and signage seemed top-notch, with a bike repair stand and nice restroom at one of the trailheads.

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As I made my way from southeast to northwest I was impressed by the size and health of the creek and its proximity to the trail – as well as the size of the redwoods in one memorable section. I got off the trail at Main Street, right after discovering a new (to me) carfree bridge over I-5. Unfortunately the transition off the path was harsh as I was dumped onto a narrow sidewalk and streets without much space for cycling.

Thankfully it was just a few blocks west to Columbia Street, which is a bicycle boulevard that took me downhill all the way to Esther Short Park and onto the I-5 Bridge.

I highly recommend exploring the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail. If you aren’t able (or willing, I understand how scary the I-5 bridge sidewalk feels to many people), there are several trailheads with parking spots to start your ride from (see map below).

If you do check it out, have fun and let us know how it goes.

Learn more about the trail on the City of Vancouver’s website and check out my route details via Ride With GPS via the map below (just ignore my swing up to Target in the upper right 😁).

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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todd/boulanger
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todd/boulanger

Thanks Jonathan! (I wish I had known you were passing by my house)

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

JM, as a follow up, could you interview some of the staff at Vancouver Parks & Rec to find out how they prevent homeless camps along the trail? Do they use aggressive policing?

Bobcycle
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Bobcycle

There are some camps, but they are few and far between and well hidden. Also the parking lot for Leverich Park right on the trail is filled to capacity with RV’s and trailers for what appears to be a sizable homeless community. I ride a loop From NE that goes north on I5 bridge And south on 205 bridge for a nice 35 mile loop.

Chaz
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Chaz

My money’s on something like “elect competent leaders and enforce the laws as they are written”

Mick O
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Mick O

My money’s on something like “smaller population, further from commerce infrastructure and other services”

Jon
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Jon

Sadly I suspect your “other services” is the key. Portland essentially caters to the homeless with a lot of free services that make being homeless much easier so the homeless stick around. Being homeless is tough so moving to a place that will feed you and is much less likely to enforce any laws against pitching a tent on the sidewalk means you stay in Portland or move here. I’m guessing if Portland cracked down on the 10-20% of the homeless that are hopeless addicts or severely mentally ill 80-90% of our problems with bike infrastructure would disappear.

Jeff Wills
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Jeff Wills

The portion of the trail west of Main Street heading towards Vancouver Lake is just as scenic. However, there are portions where tree roots have buckled the pavement. These are no fun to ride over! OTOH, you do get a view of the namesake burnt bridge near the western end.

I often ride the entire length of the trail from NE97th to Fruit Valley Road. It’s a fun way to get across town if you’re not in a rush.

Brento
Guest

Hey Jeff, The roots at the western end of the trail have been fixed. There’s only one left and it’s close to Hazel Dell Ave.

Matt
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Matt

Oh good. I had a nasty crash on those roots.

Tony Rebensdorf
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Tony Rebensdorf

Glad to see some Vancouver info on here! This trail is a great way to cross town without battling car traffic.

Kittens
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Kittens

I grew up riding this trail. As others have said, the section West of Main is the most scenic. The engineering, maintenance and lack of homeless psychos and attendant trash puts Portland’s Springwater to shame.

On the other hand, it doesn’t have the directness or convenience of a rails-to-trails project like the Springwater and simply meanders to and fro for most of it’s length content to deliver neighbors a secluded stroll rather than a quick way to get from A to B.

Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

“houseless”. Where is your compassion?

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Probably when I was charged by one for simply being nearby and they being in full on drug induced psychosis. 🙂

BEL
Guest
BEL

I’ve had this kind of thing happen (charged by one for SIMPLY BEING THERE) on the I-205 as well. For some reason it seems to be acceptable and tolerated (by individual and local govenrnment) to do this especially to women riding alone and I’m somehow at fault for not being compassionate. BS! I can no longer safely use the direct route. These houseless aggressive people need to be moved OFF.

Peter
Guest

Thanks Jonathan! If anyone need free air, roll on by Bike Clark County nonprofit full service Bike Shop! 1604 Main Street

Jim Labbe
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Jim Labbe

Great summary. Thank you.It’s been years since I’ve done this trail and I’m inspired to go check it out again.

Linda jellison
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Linda jellison

Some areas of the trail are a bit sketchy – house less people camping, etc. I’m told that I shouldn’t be on the trail alone, but I’ve never felt unsafe.

Merlin
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Merlin

I ride the paths in Vancouver often but avoid them in late fall and winter. Wet leaves can be very slick.

Johnny Bye Carter
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Johnny Bye Carter

I’ve been over that car-free I-5 bridge many times. It’s rough where it dumps you on main, but behind there is pure beauty. You should check out the Ellen Davis Trail that’s right there. Beautiful forest that is quite a climb up to the calm streets of Bonneville Power campuses.

Mike Untz
Guest
Mike Untz

Surprised you wait to the end to mention the narrowness of the I5 bridge crossing. Especially with people who go the wrong way on it. I blame both states for not being more proactive with signage saying what direction traffic should be going or even where the other entrance is.