By Dan Shryock
Some days it’s time to get out of the car and onto a bicycle. Even better if your bicycle doesn’t have to contend with cars at all. Enjoy a safe, peaceful ride on one of these four family-friendly car-free bike trails.
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Banks to Vernonia, Oregon
Escape into the woods west of Portland on this twenty-one-mile-long paved path between the communities of Banks and Vernonia. The first rail-to-trail park in the state, the route stretches along an abandoned railroad bed that once served the region’s thriving timber industry. The trail, also part of Oregon’s longer Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway, crosses Buxton Trestle, a 733-foot-long wooden span standing eighty feet high above Mendenhall Creek. Five trailheads and L.L. Stub Stewart State Park allow access along the way. See stateparks.oregon.gov.
Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail
Hood River to Mosier, Oregon
The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail provides panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge as it follows the original car route through the area, Highway 30. The highway took a back seat when traffic moved to Interstate 84. Much of the historic two-lane road remains but three segments have been converted for car-free hiker-biker use. The most popular may be the easily accessible 4.5-mile-long Twin Tunnels segment between the Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead in Hood River and the small town of Mosier to the east. Follow the wide, forested trail through tunnels that were built 100 years ago. Take in sweeping views of the river and watch the landscape change as you go; fir trees dominate west of the tunnels and ponderosa pines appear on the other side. See stateparks.oregon.gov.
Boise River Greenbelt
A network of paths along both sides of the Boise River passes the city center, Boise State University, Zoo Boise, and several local parks known locally as the “Ribbon of Jewels.” Cyclists can pedal for as many as twenty-five miles from shaded glen to open countryside, sharing the trail with hikers, joggers, and perhaps a family of ducks waddling up from river’s edge. Along the way is the Morrison Knudsen Nature Center, a 4.6-acre facility operated by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, where children can watch the wildlife. See cityofboise.org.
Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes
Plummer to Mullan, Idaho
Union Pacific Railroad tracks once ran across the Idaho panhandle through the heart of the mining-rich Silver Valley. The tracks are now gone, replaced by the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes from Plummer to Mullan. Seventy-three miles of smooth asphalt are easily accessed on two wheels via twenty trailheads, with many waysides to relax, picnic, and enjoy the surroundings. These car-free bike trails offer amazing vistas. Choose a stunning ride across the Chatcolet Lake Bridge near the west end, perhaps, or see wetlands, dense forests, lakes, and rivers elsewhere on the trail. Consider a detour into downtown Wallace, an entire town listed on the National Register of Historic Places. See visitidaho.org.