Folks were always looking for ways to make easier traveling to the rich Willamette valley in Oregon country, as well as to California. So the trail changed considerably over the years, and more and more variants became options. Here's a link to a great article:
At the end of this post you'll find The End of The Oregon Trail.
On my way home from Biggs Junction OR one time (on I-84), on a whim I made my own "Decision at The Dalles" to try to drive the Barlow Road. There's a sign to get you started up the hill from The Dalles for traveling the Barlow: take Hwy 197 south towards Dufur. Up above the gorge of the Columbia River are beautiful orchards and rolling grain fields.
About 15 mi south of Dufur turn right onto Tygh Valley Rd (opposite Hwy 216), unless you want to take a little detour to White River Falls State Park not far east on Hwy 216. I missed my turn, and turned around at a wide spot off the road where stood a stack of hay, interrupting a deer making the most of it. Thus, the photo above right is coming back up from south of the right turn.
The little community of Tygh Valley is at the base of the hill that takes in a splendiferous view of the Valley as you drive up Wamic Market Rd. Bend with Wamic Market Rd though town (Wamic) until it straightens itself out to become White River Rd (aka Rock Creek Dam Rd?) to continue traveling the modern equivalent of the Barlow Road. But there are events, places to go/things to do about these tiny towns as well.
White River Falls State Park—about 15 mi south of Dufur turn onto Hwy 216, it’s not too far
Historical Smock Prairie School, now a museum
I had more than one adventure on this trip into the dark! My tank had plenty of gas, but eventually I was down to 19% phone battery. I had an annotated map, but still came to an unexpected fork in the road and fortunately chose the right one, which was left. I made it to Rock Creek Reservoir.
It was wonderful country for a drive, but then winding up into the mountains, I began wondering how far my destination lay ahead, and when it would be too far to turn back. Some rather rugged roads, with signs warning "Not maintained for winter driving", seemed apparently not maintained for spring/nearly summer, either. Beside being rough riders, shrubs were invading the edges. There was no stopping for pictures.
Then suddenly I faced a detour. With no familiarity with the roads or terrain, hardly knowing where I was, I was relieved to find reassurance from another traveler (few and fairly far between). Next, a warning, "Single lane ahead". Since I was driving solo, I took photos with my cellphone and sent them home in case I had to be rescued (as it turned out, they didn't get them until I was already home). As I drove I felt some small notion of what it might have been like traveling through the tall trees up the thickly forested mountain in a covered wagon for days and days in the cold and probable snow.
Snow still lay along Rd 48 near the intersection (at last!) with Hwy 35. My original intent was to travel south from Hood River to meet Hwy 26 and the Barlow Route. Yet when I reached Hwy 35, I didn’t know which way to turn, so took a guess and watched for mile markers. Once again, I was fortunate to have made a choice choice.
South of the intersection of Rd 48 with Hwy 35, turning off to see the Pioneer Woman’s Grave (also near the intersection of 35 and 26), did not turn out to be a good choice—the road much less taken at that time of year was paved, but narrow and shady, the snow wet & slippery. My vehicle (with me in it) nearly got stuck trying to turn around, and it was getting dark. My thoughts were chilled at the possibility/prospect of having to spend the night alone on a cold snowy mountain road off the main highway. I had emergency supplies, but it would mean climbing clear to the back of the car, as I daren’t get out into the snow. I could only hope I had enough battery and coverage to call for help if needed (now I have a car with cellphone charging). Thankfully I did finally get some traction, got turned around, and headed home along Hwy 26.
Government Camp OR--50 mi east of the End of the Oregon Trail in Oregon City
The map app says that it takes an hour and 20 min to travel those 50 miles: mind-blowing for a pioneer on the Oregon Trail, despite road improvements since then, or should I say beside road improvements! This little jewel community near historic Timberline Lodge features skiing and other tourist activities one would find on a mountain, including a Chalet theme. The small museum at Government Camp has a bit about the Oregon Trail.
Government Camp OR
Laurel Hill--only accessible eastbound, and not that accessible at that
To find the little monument for the Oregon Trail, watch for the sign for E. Little Brook Lane, and the Barlow Road marker, west end of town. The little monument is right there off Hwy 26. It’s historic in its own right, erected 1916.
Wildwood Recreation Site—39 mi east of Portland OR, near Welches
Right at the entrance, behind a fish art gate is where we saw an inconspicuous marker for the Barlow Road.
For more photos and info, scroll down to the bottom of the first link below, and check out the others as well.
Sandy OR--27 mi east of downtown Portland OR, but it takes about an hour's drive due to traffic (at best)
I was attempting to check out places to go up on Mt Hood too early in the year, and ended up with some time to explore Sandy, to my delight. Only the gift shop of the museum was open, due to COVID restrictions, but they had beautiful displays for the Barlow Road of the Oregon Trail, and I got vital info about other places: Jonsrud in particular was an excellent sight site. Second site below shows and tells more.
Phillip Foster Farm--22725 SE Eagle Creek Road, Eagle Creek OR 97022
What a wonderful place to go! They have annual and special events like apple cider pressing and various camps, tours, living history . . .
Baker Cabin--corner of South Hattan & South Gronlund Roads, Carve OR (18005 S Gronlund Rd, Oregon City)
We went for an event day, and how glad we did! The pioneer, Horace Baker, was a stone mason, and I got a chance to give it a little try 😊! The place is not super accessible for a wheelchair, but we managed most of it. The people/volunteers are very friendly and helpful.
Barton Mercantile (Store) with Oregon Trail mural--19009 SE Barton Park Rd, Boring, OR 97009
aka Clackamas Hwy 224
The Applegate Trail
The Applegate Trail cuts off The California Trail and heads northwest from what is now Nevada. I became aware of it while traveling I-5 in southern Oregon, and was intrigued. The furthest south I got was the Valley of the Rogue State Park east of Grant's Pass OR, so that's where I'll start.
Valley of the Rogue State Park—13 mi east of Grant’s Pass OR on I-5
I stopped here on my way back from Mt Shasta on a rainy day. The park just happened to be hosting a chainsaw carving event in conjunction with Oregon State Parks centennial--all the more delightful for me! Not many had come on such a day, but I was glad I did. Apparently it is a very popular park in the summer. I thought it would make a good place for a reunion gathering, and of several yurts, one is accessible. For more about this park, see links below.
Manzanita rest area, just up the hill north of Grant’s Pass on I-5
This is such a pleasant place to stop, rest, picnic, potty, run off some energy . . . for more about this place:
Applegate Trail Interpretive Center—Sunny Valley OR, 14 mi north of Grants Pass
Such an intriguing place, but still closed since COVID, “until further notice.”
Wolf Creek OR—20 mi north of Grants Pass, off I-5
I finally got to see the Oregon Trail part of this place, on an “island” in front of the Inn. I didn't see a ramp for the curb, or it was blocked, but by parking my vehicle next to the curb where the gravel path was, I could deploy my ramp onto the path. The gravel was angular, so though not easy, I was able to traverse it around the loop of interpretive signs & exhibits in my electric chair it wasn't the death of me.
Canyonville OR--42 mi north of Grants Pass, 203 mi south of Portland
"As I drove south on I-5, on a sudden I saw a sign about Applegate info, and took the exit to Canyonville. A Google search and a call to the local Pioneer & Indian Museum furnished me with directions to Pioneer Park (E 5th St & Canyon Ave), where the highway department has built an attractive open structure to house excellent information about the Applegate arm of the Oregon Trail." I wrote in my post, which see for more pics and info about the park, the museum, and the community (will be updating with more about Stanton Park):
Roseburg OR—26 mi north of Canyonville, 178 mi south of Portland on I-5
I loved the Douglas County Museum of History and Natural History! Only a part of it is dedicated to the Oregon Trail--it has lots of other great exhibits--but here I'll just focus on the Oregon Trail. For more about Roseburg:
Cottage Grove OR—51 mi north of Roseburg OR, 128 mi south of Portland on I-5
"Several times I’ve seen a sign about Applegate (one branch of the Oregon Trail) information at a Cottage Grove exit. I had a chance to take that exit on my trip to visit the Redwoods and Crescent City. Unfortunately, it was the back way in, and 6 miles from the city itself. I suggest taking exit 174 straight on to Gateway Blvd and follow it until it meets Main St, then turn right onto Main Street. The Veterans Park has the interpretive signs about the Applegate (Oregon) Trail. It’s on W Main St and River Road." I wrote in my post. More about Cottage Grove at the links below.
End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Oregon City OR (metro Portland)
For years I have wanted to get to this place, and at last I made it!
More and More about the Oregon Trail!
Videos of traveling the Oregon Trail--a 15-day trip traveling along the Oregon Trail from it's beginning. More about that (eastern) end than the Oregon end, but that's the part I could not travel myself. He does a good job of showing where he's going on the map and tells/shows some interesting details. Might want to pause or watch again to take it all in.
“In Search of the Oregon Trail” aired PBS Apr 29, 1996 (imperfect copy)
Landmarks or Stops on the Oregon Trail (and related articles) by USA Today
National Historic Trails Interpretive Center—Capser WY
Oregon Trail sites in Wyoming
National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City OR
Grant’s Getaways: The Oregon Trail (Hell’s Canyon & the Baker City OR area)
I've been in a wheelchair for 30+ years. It poses some challenges for traveling. Maybe others can benefit from my experiences.