If you live on the west side of Portland, you don’t have to stop riding just because it’s winter. Sure, lots of trails get muddy and slick because of the rain, but you do have options. Here are five of my favorite winter trails on the west side of Portland.
Tryon Creek State Natural Area
Located only 6 miles from downtown Portland, Tryon Creek offers delightful winter riding. Its 5+ miles of well-graveled horse trails offer good footing even in wet weather. The trails form two loops, with several short side trails. The park is an urban environment, with plenty of hikers, dog walkers, and baby strollers, so be sure to expose your horse to these "trail hazards" before riding. That said, the woods are beautiful, and you'll get more solitude at Tryon Creek than you expect.
In the heart of the Coast Range, Camp Wilkerson might seem like an unlikely place to ride in winter. After all, it RAINS in the Coast Range. But some of Camp Wilkerson’s trails run on graveled forest roads, and the footing is secure even after the hardest rain. You can choose loops and routes that range from 7 to over 18 miles long, and all the trails run through pretty Douglas-fir forest. Camp Wilkerson is located about 18 miles south of Rainier and 15 miles north of Vernonia.
Flying M Ranch
Flying M Ranch, located about 10 miles west of Yamhill, offers a vast network of trails and forest roads that explore the hills around the ranch. The single-track trails may get slick in wet weather, but the forest roads offer secure all-weather footing. You can ride all day and not explore half of the terrain that’s available. The trails and roads are on private property and Weyerhauser forest land, so you’ll pay a modest daily-use fee.
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
The Banks-Vernonia Trail is a rails-to-trails conversion that follows the route of a 1920s-era railroad that once hauled lumber from Vernonia and Keasey to Portland. The trail is paved, but the chip trail beside it is specifically for horses. You will encounter bikes, hikers, strollers, and umbrellas, so it’s a good idea to get your horse accustomed to these urban trail challenges before you go. The trail is 21 miles one way and has five trailheads for trailers, including a fee trailhead at L.L. (Stub) Stewart State Park. Vernonia, Beaver Creek, Tophill, and Buxton trailheads are free.
Dibblee Point Park
Dibblee Point Park in Rainier features about five miles of year-round trails with nice, sandy footing. You’ll enjoy the spectacular frontage along the Columbia River and the forested trails along the slough southwest of Dibblee Point. On the river side of the park, you can observe the Longview mills on the opposite bank or marvel at the huge ships making their way up and down the river. The park has parking for 6-10 trailers and charges a small day-use fee. The park is located off Dike Road, just west of the Lewis and Clark Bridge.
You’ll find more information about these trails in Riding Northwest Horse Trails by Kim McCarrel, available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.