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Barlow Road Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Original wagon route off the Barlow Road (bobcat)
Barlow Road sign at Barlow Pass (bobcat)
Broad-petal strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Barlow Road (bobcat)
Barlow Creek at Devils Half Acre (bobcat)
The hike down the route of the Barlow Road to Klingers Camp (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Barlow Pass TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Klingers Camp
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 8.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1275 feet
  • High Point: 4,160 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No



The Barlow Toll Road, built in 1846 by Sam Barlow, Philip Foster, and their crews, offered Oregon Trail pioneers a cheaper, more direct route into the Willamette Valley than the expensive and sometimes dangerous river passage from The Dalles. The route was not so easy, however. Barlow built his road using fire and ax. There was no digging or benching on the sides of hills: the road usually went straight up and over a pass. The first of these passes was what is now known as the Barlow Pass. The hike here follows the historic route of the Barlow Road down along the base of Barlow Butte to Klingers Camp. You’ll walk in wagon ruts, then on a trail, and then down a forest road built over the old trail into spectacular old growth at the southern end of Barlow Ridge. Vehicle traffic is light on this rutted road, which is also used by mountain bikers, so you can expect a fairly quiet journey.

Head across the parking area to the trail junction at the picnic table (with garbage can) and fading ski trail map. Go straight downhill from here on an original track of the old wagon trail. Reach the rough and narrow vehicle road (FR 3530) and descend 40 yards to where the Barlow Butte Trail #670/Mineral Jane Ski Trail branches off to the left. The trail follows the wagon road down into deep old growth forest of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, silver fir, and Engelmann spruce. Look for some impressive Douglas-firs here.

Reach the Barlow Butte-Devils Half Acre Trail Junction. It should be noted that this little meadow was the site of an excavation in 1976 during which a number of Oregon Trail artifacts were found. Based on this, some think the meadow was the site of Fort Deposit, mentioned in trail diaries, where a rough cabin once stood, and where late-arriving emigrants, wanting to travel light over the passes, left possessions and wagons for a late spring retrieval.

Keep straight at the junction (left is to Barlow Butte). The trail crosses two small streams and drops gradually on an old road bed among large noble fir, silver fir, and Engelmann spruce. The path levels and crosses more trickling brooks. Enter a lush vine maple, Sitka alder, mertensia, cow parsnip thicket, and come out at the northeast edge of Devils Half Acre Meadow. There’s a red-painted outhouse to the right before you pass a trail sign. Reach the campground access road for the Devils Half Acre Campground: to the right are campsites. Proceed left down the campground road, and reach FR 3530. Across the road is the site of the old Barlow Guard Station.

From here, you can view the expanse of meadows across the road, now much larger than just a half-acre. The Devils Half Acre Trail heads up towards Palmateer Point from the north side of the meadow, which, like Klingers Camp, also has an apocryphal association with the Oregon Trail. It didn’t exist when Barlow built his road and the first emigrants came through (An interpretive sign titled "The Big Deadening" describes emigrant influences on the area). In fact, the pioneers bewailed the lack of grazing for their stock until they reached Summit Meadows, near Trillium Lake. Over the years, however, emigrants set fires to burn brush and downed trees. Some of these went out of control, and by the 1880s, the area was a swath of blackened snags.

Go left on the rutted and narrow FR 3530, which for much of the rest of this hike covers the tracks of the Oregon Trail wagon route. Cross Barlow Creek on a road bridge, and see the wetlands below Devils Half Acre Meadow. Soon, recross the creek on another road bridge. Rise a little and then drop down a steep, short section of road. Little groves of Sitka alder and vine maple, colorful in the fall, overhang the track. Pass the primitive Grindstone Campground. Barlow Creek can be heard running down to the right, but remains unseen. Here, you will begin to notice huge conifers rising from the edge of the road. From time to time, note the posts marking this as the alignment of the Oregon Trail – the entire Barlow Road was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Continue to descend around the base of Barlow Ridge in a mossy bottomland of tall old-growth western hemlock and Douglas-fir.

The woods are quiet here and the understory is clear: this is an ancient forest. Eventually, you will notice a couple of clearings to your left. The first is the parking area, now essentially abandoned, for the southern trailhead of the Barlow Butte Trail #670: the trailhead sign is still here, but the trail itself essentially disappears up the slope (See the Barlow Ridge Loop Hike). The second clearing, marked by a sturdy post, marks the location of Klingers Camp.

It should be noted that Klingers Camp has no documented connection with the Oregon Trail. The association might have begun with a large interpretive sign put up there (the post remains), perhaps by the CCC, in the 1930s. The sign said:

Historic Oregon/ Mount Hood National Forest/ Klinger’s Camp/ At this place a camp known as a/ 'Hay Burner's Station’ was maintained in/ pioneer days by Louis Klinger, a trapper/ and hunter and his wife Malissa, where/ hay and other supplies were sold to/ emigrants a portion of the original/ fireplace still remains

Actually, nothing remains of the fireplace. Also, Louis Klinger homesteaded at Eightmile Creek, not here. This place was the site of a trapper’s cabin constructed by one Joe Douglas, and the Klingers probably passed through here from time to time. The CCC sign seems to have disappeared or been taken down some time in the 1990s.

Klingers Camp is a good turnaround point to begin your hike back to Barlow Pass. You can retrace your steps via the Devils Half Acre Campground, or keep to the road the whole way.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Restroom and picnic table at the trailhead


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt. Hood, OR #462 and Mt. Wilson, OR #494
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood Wilderness
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Oregon: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Hiking Oregon’s History by William L. Sullivan
  • Mountain Biking: Portland by Scott Rapp

More Links

Page Contributors

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.