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Old 06-23-2018, 04:54 PM   #1
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14 percent grade to Steens Mnts, SE Oregon

Planning to head up to the Steens Mountains next month by way of Oregon 205 from Nevada and see the following advisory on AllStays: "14 percent grade for 2.5 miles with switchbacks."
Pulling a 23 FB with an F150-3.5L Ecoboost SuperCab and am wondering if this is a do-able stretch. It would be one thing to cover the climb at 20 mph, but that seems like a LOT of hill and not one I'd want to back down.
Has anyone towed over this stretch or similar? Am I being delusional even thinking I can?
Thanks for any advice or anecdotes... Al
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Old 06-23-2018, 05:13 PM   #2
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The good news is that we're talking about a 23FB, not a longer trailer (such as our 27FB or something even longer). Some of the biggest issues with roads that have steep slopes (14%!) and switchbacks:
  • What length of vehicle, trailer or "assembly" (tow vehicle + trailer) is allowed on that road? (e.g. is your rig short enough to legally travel this road?)
  • Longer trailers are at risk of scraping the rear end as you tow up or downhill around those switchbacks, and sometimes even in and out of gas stations. Normally there's little risk of dragging the rear as you go downhill, but switchbacks are a special case.
  • Your tow vehicle needs to have enough "umph" to pull the trailer up that slope and get it safely back down again. Given your truck and your trailer, they are probably a good match for even this slope as long as you are particularly careful on the downhill return. Shift down early and often, etc.
So, once you've done a bit more research, you should be able to determine whether you can safely tow up and down this road.

BTW, here's a cool way to measure the maximum departure angle for your trailer when hitched up to your tow vehicle, which you can use to calculate a maximum percent grade you can probably tow up or down without dragging the back:
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Old 06-23-2018, 05:13 PM   #3
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The "switchback" part is what would concern me. A couple of weeks ago, we went on a similar road, with steep grades and multiple switchbacks with a smaller truck and Airstream. It was not my idea of a fun time.
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Old 06-23-2018, 05:18 PM   #4
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Exactly right. Switchbacks make things more exciting. Trailers can navigate switchbacks better than motor homes because trailer rigs bend in the middle, but only if their rear ends aren't dragging in the process.
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Old 06-23-2018, 05:39 PM   #5
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You don't want to tow anything to the Steen's Mtn. road summit. Drop your trailer at French Glen and make it a day trip. This area is remote in the extreme, and the road becomes impassable, even to 4x4s, after rain (like every unpaved road in SE Oregon). There is no reason to tow a trailer up there.
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Old 06-23-2018, 06:49 PM   #6
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...and there you have it. Someone who knows the road says, "No, don't go there with your trailer." I would take that advice to the bank all day, every day.


In my list I missed the risk of dirt road vs. paved road, especially on such a route. Didn't even occur to me that you were considering a dirt road vs. a paved surface.
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Old 06-23-2018, 07:05 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by almcate View Post
Planning to head up to the Steens Mountains next month by way of Oregon 205 from Nevada . . .

. . .
Do you have a route planned going east from 205, and do you intend to go all the way to the summit, as the recent post assumed?

The BLM's South Steens Campground includes horse riding, so it seems fair to assume that horse trailers can access that far IMO:

https://www.blm.gov/visit/south-steens-campground
https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/fi...p_brochure.pdf

Room for RV's: https://www.outdoorproject.com/adven...ens-campground

Good luck,

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Old 06-23-2018, 07:39 PM   #8
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PS looks like that 14% grade is on 205 itself, just west of Frenchglen, per AllStays?

Steens Mountain Resort has RV campsites nearby, so they could give feedback about the road:

http://www.steensmountainresort.com

205 seems like a standard state road:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Route_205

. . . so the 14% grade for a few miles should not be a big deal IMO, assuming we are talking about 205 itself, and not the road to the Steens summit.

14% — no problem:

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Old 06-23-2018, 08:25 PM   #9
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Right on the route...no intention of dragging the trailer further off the highways than necessary to base from. Spent a couple years full time with 27FB and an F250 SuperDuty and never had issues with mountain passes, but don't think I saw anything steeper than 10 or 11%. 14% sounds a little hairy and with my downsized non-full-time ride thought it prudent to see if this was strictly diesel territory. With only a couple miles of extreme grade and I presume decent paved state highway, sounds like caution and a patient pace should suffice?
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Old 06-23-2018, 08:50 PM   #10
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Hi There,

Are you referring to the grade that drops down into French Glen, plopping you smack into the hamlet at the bottom of the grade? Or, are you referring to the gravel Steens loop-backroad?

If you are talking about the highway that drops you into French Glen, thereby you would enter the loop road at the northern end, yes, that is a step curvy bit of road. We came down that in low gear with our F350 + 2009 25ft AS without a bit of problem. I imagine the same going up, put it in low and up you go! Now, to add drama to our adventure, it was morning and there was ice on those curves in the shade. If we can do it with a 25ft'er and ice (November), you can do it with a 23 ft'er in the Summer. Do be aware that there may be a bit of loose grave here and there and that may add a touch of ball-bearing effect. There is very little traffic on this stretch, the roads are narrow and the sight distance is not optimal. There used to be a campground, Page Springs, just abt 1 mi southeast out of French Glen. This is where we learned, as children, to not play with baby rattlers along the stream bank.

If you are planning to visit the Steens via the south entrance, you can camp at the Fields General Store---complete with hookups. I would not WOULD NOT take my trailer over the gravel road, as it is the worst washboard I have ever experienced. It used to have dead vehicles, dead school buses scattered along the sides. School buses?
Why is this lady so familiar with this area? My kids ran in the Steens Mtn high school cross country camp, no longer in operation. My dad used to hunt there annually.

Hope this is helpful. French Glen used to offer rooms and shared BR. Family style dinners with reservations. Just north is the Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge where the Wild West is still shootin' it up. You'll see some dramatic afternoon Dunder und Blitzen.



Susan
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Old 06-24-2018, 03:38 AM   #11
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. . .
With only a couple miles of extreme grade and I presume decent paved state highway, sounds like caution and a patient pace should suffice?
Well that would be my educated guess, from the comfort of home here in the NE, and Susan seems to have just confirmed this. Your modern F150 3.5EB has plenty of power, and a great transmission, for this run IMO. Be sure to manually downshift into lower gears to maintain a slow speed if you go down the 14% grade [or tow/haul mode?]. That video appeared to be a larger RV dealing with a similar 14% grade, and they did fine.

We have a power train like yours in our 2017 Ford Transit van, and would take your route without much concern. Your previous experience should cover this one just fine IMO.

Happy trails,

Peter
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Old 06-24-2018, 03:42 AM   #12
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. . .
. . . If we can do it with a 25ft'er and ice (November), you can do it with a 23 ft'er in the Summer.
. . .
Susan
Thank you for chiming in with your detailed local knowledge, that sounds like an amazing area!

Peter
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Old 06-24-2018, 07:34 AM   #13
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PS --

Al and Robin, Frenchglen OR is at an elevation of 4,203' so no similarity to high mountain passes you may have been through IMO.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frenchglen,_Oregon

Steens Mountain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steens_Mountain



Have fun!

Peter


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Old 06-24-2018, 09:00 AM   #14
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14% grade?
I'm puckering at the thought.
Switchbacks? I think I'd try it without the trailer to see if I could make the turns without backing and filling.
I did a 16% grade on a motorcycle and felt like I was going over the handlebars!
I-70 out of Denver is a 7% grade!
(but then I'm a flatlander.)
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