On the list of forgotten trails of Mt. Hood National Forest, the length of the Barlow Butte Trail #670 is up there on the list. It’s a shame, because it can make up half of a great loop by using the scenic Barlow Road as a return. The first half is quite the adventure up along the ridge and then the last a relaxing journey along the magical corridor used by pioneers heading west on the Oregon Trail.
The Forest Service details: “from Barlow Butte to Klinger Camp is no longer maintained. The trail is extremely steep and rough for the last 2 miles.” That’s an excellent explanation of the situation, although for the last mile coming off the butte, the trail is so seldom used that its less a trail and more of a way to go. There are some ancient markers and blazes on the trail but keeping up with them can be hard.
I ended up losing the path and swinging further north than the trail corridor where I progressed down through some very steep, but manageable terrain, avoiding areas where the way cliffed out or seemed too steep ahead. A logging road runs north-south along the base of the ridge and the Barlow Road runs east west, so as long as you are safe getting down the hill, eventually you will come to a road. I think the trail might be easier to follow from its southern base, at least not so easy to lose, so that is an option if you are worried about off trail navigation or getting lost. A GPS is advisable. I had no cell service along the backside of the butte, where you’re most likely to get lost. Also, I got swarmed by hornets and stung multiple times from stepping on a nest on my way down. But mitigating the risks, it’s great fun.
Starting at the Barlow Pass Sno-Park, head south on the Barlow Road just 0.15 miles till the Barlow Butte Trail on the left. Stay on the Barlow Butte Trail as it heads uphill climbing about 1000 feet in a mile and a quarter till a short spur that heads up to the summit of Barlow Butte.
After about 2 miles further the trail starts to descend but becomes harder to follow and then it’s basically off trail navigation. From the base of the hillside, find your way to the Barlow Road and head west then north as the road turns.
A nice side trip can be made onto Devil’s Half-Acre Road, a right off the Barlow road, and then by following the trail behind the campground. The area around the campground burned years ago when pioneers were making use of the road and meadows remain in places.
The trail reconnects to the Barlow Butte Trail and return back to the trail head the way you came.