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Vernonia Adventure

by Sean Coker

Looking for some nice Northwest twisties and good food with proximity to Portland? This route follows a relatively obscure route into northwest Oregon's logging country. Expect light traffic on this evergreen ride, although mid-day mid-week rides are preferable.

We start in Stumptown (Portland) and head northbound on US30. Just past Littleton, head west on NW Newberry Rd. The road runs 30-40 mph turns for three miles before reaching Skyline Boulevard where we continue northbound for 17 miles. Corners range from 25-40 mph but bicyclists and joggers congest the roadway in addition to speed traps - hence the mid-day, mid-week recommended assault.

The author with several blue bikes parked outside the Blue House Cafe. But don't worry, all colors of bikes are accepted at the Blue House. (photo by TM)

Blind corners and rippled pavement hamper speeds, yet the dynamic holds interest even at legal speeds. Skyline Boulevard dead-ends and we carve eastbound on Rocky Point Road, toward US30. Three miles of downhill, shaded road lay before us. Errant drivers often splash gravel onto the road. ODOT gets to it when there's time.

We head northbound on US30 toward Scappoose, where gas is available. Just north of town, we head westbound on the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway. We follow Scappoose Creek upstream past immobile homes clustered along the creek's bank, while pine and birch trees create a canopy of shadows.

Past the Chapman grange, traffic peters out. Mild corners give way to tight, uphill chicanes. The road traces alongside a small hill's irregular shape. Following the hill, long constant-radius turns mark the way. Ripples in the pavement upset riders more than suspension. Trees fade to clear cuts and the sky opens up to whatever the weather is offering.

Passing Scappania Park, long, flat corners lay ahead and are strung together, allowing for strong acceleration. At the junction with SR47/SR202, either head westbound a half mile for some delicious Mediterranean food at Blue House or head eastbound toward Mist.

Vernonia was named after the daughter of an original settler, Ozias Cherrington, although the "I" in Vernonia was a typo that stuck. Gas is available in Vernonia and Clatskanie. SR47 splits east at the town of Mist, and for the next 11 miles, we ride atop some of the best road in the state.

A tight, double-apex right-hander quickly appears. Between mileposts 8 and 11, the road runs like a doe fleeing a perceived threat. Back-to-back-to-back 25 mph turns melt around outcroppings of rock while the road gets pinched between river and rock. We follow until reaching Clatskanie and US30. Hurried riders can choose between taking US30 southbound back to Portland or riding the route in reverse.

Technical corners and challenging conditions can be discouraging especially when paired with gravel, ripples and erosion. But when obstacles become the challenge, then even bitterness can taste sweet. The sweetest treats are often found on a road named after two towns going nowhere.

Get out your Benchmark Atlas for Oregon and note these route directions from Portland, Oregon

  • NB Hwy 30

  • WB NW Newberry Rd

  • NB Skyline Blvd

  • EB Rocky Point

  • NB Hwy 30

  • WB Scappoose-Vernonia Hwy

  • ** Blue House (Yum)

  • NB SR47/SR202

  • NB SR47 to Clatskanie

  • SB US30 to Portland or do route in reverse

  • 165 miles and 3.5 hours

Blue House

62467 N. Highway 47

Vernonia, OR 97064

503-429-4350


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