The trails out of Sevenmile Horse Camp provide a fascinating glimpse into Oregon’s early history. The past is all around you, and it’s as vivid as if things happened yesterday.
You see, the Old Santiam Wagon Road runs right past Sevenmile Horse Camp, and you can ride both east and west on this historic road. The wagon road, built in the 1860s, became a critical route for transporting livestock and freight between the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon. It operated as a toll road until 1915, and in 1925 was turned over to the State of Oregon.
Over time some segments of the Wagon Road have been washed out by winter storms. In these sections you’ll be traveling on single-track trail, but otherwise you’ll be riding on the historic road.
As you ride along it’s pretty amazing to contemplate what a challenge it must have been to build the wagon road in the first place, and how difficult it was for teams of oxen to pull fully-loaded wagons up these steep grades and then brake them on the way down.
In 1905, the first Transcontinental Auto Race used the Santiam Wagon Road to cross the Cascades. The racing automobiles had to drag logs behind them to slow their descent!
It’s fun to realize that you’re riding past the same rocks and trees and treading the same ground that teamsters, settlers, and livestock drovers traveled over 150 years ago. Who knew that history could be so interesting?
Getting There: From Sweet Home, drive east on Hwy. 20 for 32 miles. Just past milepost 59, turn right on Road 024 and continue 0.5 mile to the horse camp.
Fees: Northwest Forest Pass required
Season: Summer through fall
Camping Facilities: Four sites with 2-, 3-, or 4-horse log corrals. All sites are fairly level and two are large enough for two vehicles. The camp has a vault toilet, manure bin, and stock water. You’ll find plenty of day-use parking, too.
More Information: The trails out of Sevenmile Horse Camp are covered in more detail in Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2013).