Bike through this riverside town to soak in phenomenal fall colors
Foliage along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Oregon
Andrea M. Gómez

Why go now: The fall tree color is off the charts in this rural, riverside logging town that’s home to more salmon than people this month.

Drive time from Portland: Just under an hour.

Street scene: Winding country roads and the lazy Nehalem River lead to a Mayberry-esque main street.

Vibe: Low-key sporty (yoga and biking are big).

Locals’ hang: Black Bear Coffee Company ($; 831 Bridge St.; 503/429-0214) is the spot for sipping espresso and catching up on town gossip.

What to pack: A camera to capture the fiery autumn colors and a rain poncho—just in case.

Claim to fame: Scenes from the vampire blockbuster were filmed right here. (That’s 2008’s original Twilight, mind you, not Eclipse, yet the Twihards keep coming.)

Claim to reality-TV fame: Local Mike Pihl of Mike Pihl Logging, featured in the History Channel’s gritty Ax Men.

Mark your calendar: Carve a pumpkin, stuff a scarecrow, and watch salmon spawn at the Vernonia Salmon Festival (10–5 Oct 2; free; Hawkins Park, Park Dr. at Bridge St.; 503/429-6081).

Miles of multicolored leaves 

For some of the best fall color this side of Vermont, hit the 21-mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail, a paved former railroad grade, where you can pedal, walk, or ride horses through forests of yellow ash and red maple, past burbling creeks, across 80-foot-high Buxton Trestle, and right into Vernonia. Parts closed for final paving until mid-Oct; map at; 503/324-0606.

An unofficial harvest party

Andrea M. Gómez
Stock up on fall favorites like apples and raw honey at Dairy Creek Farm and Produce.

Pick the perfect pumpkin and stock up on other organic end o’ season bounty like heirloom peppers, apples, and raw honey at 18-acre Dairy Creek Farm and Produce. While you’re at it, snap up a few swan gourds and dried wheat stalks for simple decorating. 23295 N.W. State 47, in nearby Buxton; 503/324-7819.

Where to eat potato chowder

Andrea M. Gómez
Settle into a booth at Café 47 and order your favorite comfort food from their made-from-scratch menu.

Feast your eyes on the floor-to-ceiling Americana kitsch that covers the walls of Café 47, then focus on your bowl of creamy potato chowder—or whatever comfort food you choose on the made-from-scratch menu. Look to the specials board for what’s local and in season; like, say, a juicy Swiss burger topped with chanterelles. $; breakfast and lunch only; 854 Bridge St.

Super natural art

No happy little clouds here. Grey Dawn Gallery is all about simple, outdoors-inspired works of Northwest art—like Christopher Burkett’s oversize photographic prints of vivid trees and mist-shrouded ocean scenes that take you deep into the wilderness. Closed Sun; 879 Bridge St.; 503/429-2787.

Make it an overnight

Andrea M. Gómez
The Coastal Mountain Sport Haus is an active-minded B&B with morning yoga afternoon bike rides.

Like its name implies, the Coastal Mountain Sport Haus is an active-minded B&B. Wake up for yoga class while wild elk look on from the pasture below. Enjoy a goat cheese omelet (made with local eggs and cheese) before a bike ride on old logging roads. Later, soak under the stars then let the rushing river lull you to sleep. Sunset readers save: $125/night, including  meals; 503/429-6940.

Explore Vernonia by bike

  • Barlow Bikes (from $10/hour; Madison Ave. at Bridge St.; 503/397-4900) Rent your wheels and ride all 21 miles of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail to its other end, in Banks.
  • L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park ($5 day-use fee) Hop on a mountain bike and head to where you’ll have 17 miles of woodsy trails to yourself, including North Caddywhomper Way, a 0.69-mile devoted single-track section that rolls and rises (and will kick your butt).
  • Vernonia Bike Skills Park (free; near Vernonia Lake) For even more of an adrenaline rush, check out these 70-acre, on the north edge of town. It’s still a work in progress, but at press time the park had several dirt jumps, a 1-mile cyclo-cross trail, and technical trail features like a wooden ladder bridge to help you hone your skills. The spot for a post-ride pint? Blue House Café ($; 919 Bridge St.; 503/429-4350), with its hoppy homebrews and baklava.


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