August 11th, 2023

Hitting the Trail: Check out these hiking opportunities this weekend

A whimsical path winds its way through tall trees.  Thick vegetation of ferns and other plants border the path.
Miller Woods offers plenty of shade for hot days. Photos by Erin Hall.

We’re well into hiking season, but there’s no need to drive for hours to the Gorge or the Tillamook Forest for quality hikes with stunning views. We have several great hiking options nearby enough to get home in time for dinner. Here are just a couple of McMinnville’s best close-in hikes.

The Miller Woods Conservation Area (15580 NW Orchard View Road in McMinnville) is a 130-acre plot operated by the Yamhill Soil & Water Conservation District and devoted to conservation efforts and land rehabilitation. 

The Outer Loop of the trail spans around 4.5 miles and offers a diverse landscape of oak groves, shady forested areas, and a large sun-soaked pasture that is home to a few scattered Douglas-fir plantations. Expect a moderately challenging trail with an elevation gain of 524 feet. Average hike time for this trail is about 1.5 hours.

Options to cut the trip shorter include following the .5-mile Oak Summit trail, as well as the .3-mile Discovery Loop, which offers an up-close look at one of the area’s small ponds filled with water lilies and bullfrogs.

Watch for snakes and other critters along the trail! Because Miller Woods is a protected area, no dogs are allowed. Drop-boxes at the trailhead accept donations for the suggested $5 use fee.

A two track path extends through a forest.  Sunshine creates a dappled effect on the path.
Trappist Abbey is a favorite among Yamhill County locals.

About 8 miles from downtown McMinnville, you’ll find the Guadalupe Trailhead on the grounds of Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Carlton, also known as the Trappist Abbey Guadalupe Trail (9200 NE Abbey Road in Carlton). 

This 3.5-mile loop trail offers stunning views and a variety of terrain including oak groves, forested areas, and pastures. The elevation gain of 772 feet means a steep climb in some sections, but the views at the top are worth it.

If you start your hike following the trail to the left, you’ll immediately begin your route up the steep incline. For a slower start, you can take the trail to the right to start your loop, which skirts a pasture area on level terrain before beginning the ascent.  

A handful of offshoot trails can offer a shorter hike, or an opportunity to create a longer hike by zigzagging through the different trails. Keep an eye out for the Monk’s Trail, Hermit’s Trail, and San Juan Diego Trails along the route to tailor your trip. 

But to make it to the views at the top–and to visit the Guadalupe Shrine–you’ll want to follow the main trail to the summit. Visiting the shrine at the top of the hike provides a peaceful moment of respite as well as lovely photo-worthy views.

Erin Hall is a writing instructor, small business marketing coach, and author of personal essays, short stories, and historical fiction. She lives and writes in Oregon Wine Country.