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Oregon's Pioneer Country

illustration of a map of a driving route near Oregon City, Ore., image
Photo caption
A 70-mile loop starts south of Portland and explores the Willamette River and Mount Hood.

The rolling landscape between the Willamette River and Mount Hood beckoned the pioneers who blazed the Oregon Trail in the 1800s. Today, you can explore the area on a 70-mile loop that passes by some great restaurants, an elk ranch, and lots of open farmland. The route starts 20 miles south of Portland; give yourself four hours. Area code is 503.

1  OREGON CITY This town was the final stop for some pioneers. Learn its history at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center (657-9336), where you can bounce in the front seat of a pioneer wagon. Pick up a map of the area in the gift shop.

2  CARVER Follow the Clackamas River to this old railroad stop and hit the down-home Carver Café (658-3206) for biscuits and gravy.

3  ESTACADA This lumber town boasts 13 murals showing railroads, pioneers, and ginseng farmers. At Hong’s Chinese Restaurant & Lounge (630-3208) you can dine on chow mein amid a surreal taxidermy display of lions, tigers, and bears.

4  MOLALLA If you’d rather see animals grazing in a grassy meadow, head over to Rosse Posse Acres (829-7107,, where you can pet Jerusalem donkeys and spy on herds of elk. Call ahead for a tour. Afterward, stop at the Hoffman House Restaurant (829-2640) for marionberry cobbler.

5  CANBY The Canby–Marquam Highway, a country lane winding past ramshackle barns and villages with names like Gribble and Lone Elder, takes you to this farm town. Stroll the main drag, Second Avenue, and then continue to the Canby Ferry, which transports cars across the Willamette (call ahead at 650-3030; occasionally closes in extreme weather). Return to Oregon City by taking Mountain Road to Interstate 205.

Illustration by Michael Klein

This article was first published in January 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.