A trip along the historic Barlow Road, the last leg of the Oregon Trail, is a perfect way to experience the natural beauty and heritage that defines Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory. And, given that 2021 commemorates the Barlow Road 175th, now is the perfect time to plan.
Before the Barlow Road opened in 1846, Oregon Trail pioneers floated their wagons and supplies down the Columbia River from The Dalles, both a dangerous and extremely expensive venture. Sam Barlow and Philip Foster built the road, which allowed covered wagons to cross the Cascade Mountain Range and reach the Willamette Valley, something that was previously impossible.
Hike to a Forested Past
Today, visitors often begin their Barlow Road journey at the Pioneer Woman’s Grave Trailhead near Government Camp. It provides quick access to several historic markers, as well as the grave site.
Continue on to the south side of Mt. Hood, where you’ll find Summit Meadow. This was an important resting spot for Oregon Trail pioneers that also provided rare grazing opportunities for livestock. There is still much to see at Summit Meadow if you’re up for exploring.
You can still see the stone footings of toll station Summit House’s foundation. Search the area further and you’ll see Summit Meadow Pioneer Cemetery, where a picket fence surrounds three marked graves. To the north of the enclosure lies another grave, marked now with a bronze plaque mounted on a large boulder for the grave of "Baby Morgan.”
If you enjoy camping, note that Still Creek Campground straddles the Barlow Road. Enjoy the short 0.6 mile Barlow Trail, which connects the campground with Government Camp. To preserve its historic characteristics, the trail has been left in a primitive condition.
Continue to Laurel Hill, between mileposts 50 and 51. The short Laurel Hill Chute Trail leads to where the pioneers used ropes and makeshift pulley systems to lower their wagons down a series of steep declines.
Plan a picnic at the West Barlow Tollgate, between mileposts 44 and 45, on Highway 26. This is a replica of the last Barlow Road tollgate and offers views of the Zigzag River and a picnic area (because road trips call for picnics!).
Bonus: Pack away plenty of energy for a day of exploring with a visit to Huckleberry Inn for their famous huckleberry pancakes before you head to Summit Meadow at the beginning of your day. Or for something savory, refuel at The Rendezvous Grill after your adventures for a twist on fish and chips… featuring salmon! Salmon and huckleberries were two foods readily available on the old Oregon Trail.
Learn How to Survive and Thrive in Oregon Trail Times
The Barlow Road wound its way through Sandy and then veered southwest to reach Philip Foster Farm in Eagle Creek. Stop at Jonsrud Viewpoint for expansive views of Mt. Hood and "Devil's Backbone," a name Oregon Trail pioneers gave this seven-mile ridge along the Barlow Road. Grab a house-made snack at Tollgate Inn Bakery, which has plenty of Oregon Trail memorabilia.
Philip Foster settled in Eagle Creek in 1847 and built several structures, including his home, a barn and a store. Those journeying across the Oregon Trail would stop here to rest and stock up on supplies before making their way into Oregon City. The farmhouse and barn still stand, and meticulously accurate replicas of the other structures, including the store, have been constructed for what is now a living history museum.
Offering activities, such as corn grinding and building cabins with handmade, life-sized Lincoln Logs, this farm is a favorite stop for families. But everyone will appreciate the stories it has to tell, which are more accessible than ever, thanks to the new Alexa-guided tours. The same Amazon Alexa that can play your favorite song offers socially-distanced, guided tours of the farm!
Onward to the First Incorporated City West of the Rockies
Your first Oregon City stop should be the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive & Visitor Information Center, which sits at the official end of the Oregon Trail. Take their new self-guided or guided outdoor Overland Tour, which will help put your Barlow Road experiences into the greater Oregon Trail context. Bonus: In preparation for your trip, we highly recommend renting their brand new Barlow Road film.
This is just the beginning of your journey. We suggest you take advantage of all the activities available in the First City and then continue to where most Oregon Trail pioneers desperately wanted to settle, the Willamette Valley and all that the Willamette Falls & Landings State Heritage Area has to offer.