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Vernonia Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Cattails, Vernonia Lake (bobcat)
Rock Creek in Vernonia (bobcat)
Nehalem River near Vernonia Lake (bobcat)
Inside the Oregon-American fuel bunker, Vernonia Lake (bobcat)
Nasty mouse, Oregon-American fuel bunker, Vernonia Lake (bobcat)
  • Start point: Vernonia TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Vernonia Lake Trailhead
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 2.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 15 feet
  • High Point: 620 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

The trail around Vernonia Lake allows a glimpse into the operations of one of Oregon’s largest mills, that of the Oregon-American Lumber Company. The company owned thousands of acres of prime old growth timberland and the mill was set up in 1924 to cater specifically to production from old growth Douglas-fir. By 1957, the old growth stands had been logged and the mill closed down. To get a sense of the scope of the operation, begin the hike at the Vernonia Trailhead of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. After crossing Rock Creek, most of the land you walk on belonged to the lumber company. Look into the berry bushes and brush for the remains of old structures. The mill pond itself is now a destination for fishermen and birdwatchers and makes a good family outing almost any time of the year. This is a popular local stroll on the weekends and can also be done as an extension of the Banks-Vernonia Traverse Hike. A shorter 1.1 mile loop around Vernonia Lake only can be done by parking at the Vernonia Lake Trailhead.

From the vicinity of Anderson Park, walk east on the old railroad grade, an extension of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. See the park facilities to your right and then cross Rock Creek on a footbridge. Pass the high school playing fields and come to a sign which tells you to go right across a gravel road for Vernonia Lake. The trail heads through a blackberry thicket below sewage disposal ponds that support a variety of bird life. You will pass the first of many numbered interpretive signs on this nature trail. Enter an alleyway of tall big-leaf maples. The Nehalem River runs to your right. Reach the beginning of the loop around the lake and go right.

Much of the shore is rimmed cattails and there are benches, picnic tables, and garbage cans at regular intervals. Bring binoculars to search for water birds. Buffleheads come here in numbers in the fall, but there are many other species of waterfowl as well. Short trails lead down fishing spots on the banks of the Nehalem, which has a robust fall Chinook run. Pass a vault toilet situated above the primitive campground ($10/night), nestled in a small field. Continue under alders and maples past the first of two fishing docks. Reach the fee booth and Vernonia Lake Trailhead parking area. The concrete wall here was the site of the log dump, where trucks deposited timber into the pond for sorting. A sign at the parking tells the history of the Oregon-American Lumber Mill. Continue past the boat ramp to the side of the lake covered with water lilies. Across from another fishing dock, the gaunt concrete structure of the former fuel bunker is the last structure left standing from the Oregon-American days. Make sure you go inside: there are full-grown alders sprouting from the floor but also some splendid graffiti by the area's finest. Also near the fishing dock is the log slip, which was used in pulling logs from the pond to send to the sawmill. Close the loop and return to the Vernonia Trailhead.


Maps

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Open 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking from Portland to the Coast by James D. Thayer

More Links


Contributors

The old railroad route around Vernonia Lake (bobcat)
Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.