Move over, Linfield College track—Miller Woods Conservation Area should be your new favorite running place in McMinnville.
Miller Woods is a fantastic trail run about 15 minutes outside of McMinnville, which is itself about 40 minutes drive southwest of Portland. It comprises 130 acres of forest and savannah bequeathed to the Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District by Frieda Miller in 2004. (Read more here.)
The area has a recommended donation for a daily use fee of $5 per car. Pay online or use the cash box in the parking lot. You will see other people, but the run will be much less crowded than a typical Forest Park jaunt.
The gravel parking lot has a trail map posted and laminated copies to walk with, plus two port-a-potties. No water at the trailhead, so bring a water bottle, especially if it’s sunny. No pets, no swimming in the ponds, and going off-trail is not advised due to stinging nettles and other natural deterrents.
The trails through Miller Woods traverse a varying landscape. The perimeter loop (4.5 miles) is mostly in wooded areas on a packed dirt path, reminding me of Wildwood Trail. You'll encounter some chipped stretches and brief interludes of fields, where the path is mowed and trampled grasses.
There are plenty of connectors to shorten the outer loop or to add on some miles.
You’ll want trail shoes for Miller Woods, and probably long pants or a shower afterward if you spend much time in the connector paths that run through the grassy fields. Sunscreen is recommended.
There are two ponds on the property and plenty of animals to see: birds, geese, bullfrogs, and I’m sure more out of sight.
Miller Woods covers rolling hills; not the steepest of wine country but nothing to call flat.
The signage for the paths are inconsistent—wooden posts at some junctions and not at others. Be prepared to run more than 4.5 miles, either because you got a little turned around, or because you just love it and don't want to stop.
From downtown McMinnville: Take Baker Street north about two miles and turn left on NW Baker Creek Road. Turn right onto NW Orchard View Road and follow it through a right turn (road name remains the same). About one mile after the turn, Miller Woods will be on the right. The entrance looks a bit like a driveway or small side road. There is a “Miller Woods” street sign identifying it.
Julie Baker is a former collegiate swimmer who runs for the Portland Running Company Race Team. She lives in Portland with her husband and two small children. Email email@example.com.