Laurel Hill

  • Easy (to 2 viewpoints)
  • 2.4 miles round trip
  • 400 feet elevation gain
  • Open March to mid-December


  • Moderate (Pioneer Bridle Trail)
  • 8.2 miles round trip
  • 900 feet elevation gain
  • Use: hikers, horses, bicycles


For a walk through history, explore the trails on this forested ridge near Government Camp. A one-mile tour visits a pioneer wagon chute on the old Barlow Road. A 1.4-mile loop follows an abandoned portion of the 1921-vintage Mt. Hood highway to Little Zigzag Falls. For a longer hike across Laurel Hill, take the Pioneer Bridle Trail, a portion of the Barlow Trail that was converted to a hiking path by Civilian Conservation Corps workers in 1935.

Sam Barlow laid out his wagon road from The Dalles to Sandy in 1845 to spare Oregon Trail pioneers the dangers of rafting the Columbia River. Most travelers ended up cursing Laurel Hill, where Barlow’s brushy route plunged so steeply into the Zigzag River Valley that wagons had to be unhitched and winched down backwards. Ironically, the rhododendrons that now delight hikers with pink blooms in early summer only infuriated the pioneers, who typically passed here in bloomless October and mistook the tough-limbed brush for laurel. For a quick look at Laurel Hill’s infamous wagon chute, drive Highway …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington.