Hood Gorge aerial

This Food Trail adventure boasts Oregon Trail history, small town charm, and amazing dining experiences

History lovers, this food trail experience is for you. Get ready to retrace the steps of some of Oregon’s earliest pioneers and learn about their experiences traveling on the last section of the Oregon Trail— the Barlow Road. From its starting point in Independence, Missouri, the Oregon Trail spanned 2,170 miles before concluding in the Willamette Valley. It served as the primary thoroughfare for families in search of land, new beginnings, and abundance in the American West. While history is a centerpiece of this trail, the food dishes, drinks, and locations are time-honored but true. From its historic beginning near The Dalles, the Barlow Road route brought travelers up and over Lolo Pass near Mt. Hood, and down through the foothills along the Clackamas River to the present-day location of Philip Foster Farm. The route ultimately concluded at Oregon City.

Decision at The Dalles mural

History is on display everywhere you look in The Dalles.

Amazing food experiences await you at each stop along this journey through time and history. In The Dalles, swing by and grab a bite and a pint at the Baldwin Saloon, whose story began in 1876 when two brothers, James and John Baldwin, opened its doors. It features several historic fixtures — a mahogany backbar made more than a century ago, as well as a 200-year-old large pendulum clock once owned by the proprietor of the Umatilla House, which is another historic building in The Dalles. An 1894 mahogany piano serenades patrons on weekend evenings. The Baldwin’s sales transactions are rung up with a big brass cash register that sits on the bar, in the same fashion as a century ago. The history doesn’t stop there: Head over to Freebridge Brewing, which is located in the historic The Mint Building. The Mint was constructed in 1864, and Freebridge ensures it remains full of vibrancy with a great selection of Northwest Ales, German Lagers, pizzas, and salads.

At the next stop on our journey, the Balch Hotel in Dufur has wonderful overnight accommodations, a charming restaurant, and one of the best views of Mt. Hood you’ll find anywhere. The hotel was originally constructed in 1907 and opened in 1908. However, don’t think the historic charm will deprive you of modern amenities; the Balch offers wireless internet, operations based on sustainable principles, and a petite spa wellness center called Bliss at the Balch. For more fun-filled historical adventures, check out Dufur Living History Museum and Vintage Dufur Days.

If you’re feeling adventurous, just off Highway 26 between mileposts 50 and 51 sits Laurel Hill, where a small trail connects you to the historic Laurel Chute. Emigrants travelling on the Oregon Trail would use rope, other tools, and sheer strength to lower their wagons (containing all their worldly possessions!) down this hill to resume their travels below. You can imagine how strenuous that must have been, although today the spot is perfect for an afternoon picnic.  Back on Highway 26, a historic replica of the West Barlow tollgate sits between mileposts 44 and 45.

Jonsrud Viewpoint

The scenic vista at Jonsrud Viewpoint in Sandy looks out on Mt. Hood and a portion of the Barlow Road trail.

Government Camp has long been a welcome sight for weary adventurers, although its dining spots offer splendidly modern fare. The Glacier Public House has bratwursts, pulled pork sandwiches, and burgers, while Mt. Hood Brewing Co. offers pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, wings, salads, and more. In Welches, the Barlow Trail Roadhouse has been a favorite stop-off for almost 100 years, offering diner classics for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In Sandy, the Tollgate Inn has a bakery and restaurant that are well worth a visit, but the true gem is a vintage covered wagon outside that makes it a perfect photo opportunity.

Finally, make sure your trip includes a stop at the Philip Foster Farm in Eagle Creek. Foster was one of Oregon’s original pioneers and was fundamental in the Barlow Road’s success; he helped operate it for almost 20 years in the mid-1800s and assisted thousands of covered wagons and pioneers reach their destination in the Willamette Valley. Today, the farm offers tours, a heritage vegetable garden, and a country store stocked with fun items like candy, games, toys, a pioneer-era cookbook for families, and handcrafted wood as well as knitted or woven goods.

For more information about the pioneers who traversed the Oregon Trail, check out this fun-for-all-ages activity book. It has all the information about life on the trail, how pioneers packed their covered wagons, a recipe for hardtack, how they conquered Laurel Hill and made it over the Barlow Road, as well as what they ate and wore on their journey.