Minto Brown Island State Park is the perfect dog lover’s paradise. This riverfront West Salem park offers walking, hiking, jogging, and swimming, all with the option to take man’s best friend with you!
The Search for Dog Friendly Parks at the Halfway Point
When I stumbled upon Minto Island Brown Park in Salem, I was on a never-ending search for unique dog friendly places about an hour north of Corvallis. You see, my good friend, (and mom to Kimber’s best friend) lives about two hours away, so we are always on the search for places halfway between our houses so we could hike together with our pups.
Oregon may be voted the most dog friendly state, but unfortunately, the Salem area does not always live up to this reputation. Fortunately, Minto Island Brown Park is the crowning jewel of Salem for all dog lovers, big and small.
Minto Brown Island park holds the title of Salem’s biggest park, and most often overlooked by those outside of the community. This 1,200-acre escape features wooded and open walking trails that accurately depict typical Willamette Valley landscapes. With the glorious river views, easy-to-moderate well maintained trails, and a 30-acre off leash area for dogs, this park is worth the drive.
Our Journey to Salem’s Largest Park
Our trip to Minto Island Brown Park began with aspirations to get in shape together with our trusty pups by our sides. My good friend and amazing Rodeo Queen Alexis and I met up at the main parking lot before deciding where we wanted to walk. Kimber shamelessly yelped and barked out the truck window as she saw her best friend Resi’s truck pull into view. She was too excited to care that she was drawing the attention of other park goers. Meanwhile, I was a little embarrassed.
Alexis and I were a little overwhelmed looking at the park map and the extensive trails that we had access to. So, we jumped in one truck and drove the mile down the park lane to get a feel for the place.
Eventually, we stopped in the third parking lot. Considering we all were getting back in shape, we opted for the shortest trail loop out of the 29 total miles of dog-friendly trails this park has.
All the trails are named after wild animals that call the park home. The color-coded red osprey loop was our trail for the day. The dogs happily trotted down the path on the unusually warm spring day in Oregon. After about 300 yards, both dogs were convinced the heat would kill them, but we pressed on.
Our hike started out next to an open field with a large bird’s nest to our right out on a raised platform. We can only assume it was an osprey nest based on the trail’s name. Further down the trail we encountered a fork in the way. The signage was very clear and directed us towards a more wooded area.
Soon, the wooded area opened up to the Willamette River, where I not so smartly went down the steep bank to let Kimber wade into the slow-moving section of water. Going back up was not as easy as going down, but Kimber helped pull me up a bit.
Next thing we knew we were back at the beginning of the loop, but we weren’t as tired as we had expected to be. So, after a quick rest for the dogs to drink from the special dog water fountain the park so graciously supplies, we walked down to the river dock.
Swimming Dogs and Food Options Near Minto Brown Island Park
The dock is ideal for fishing, while the nearby picnic tables are great for reading or eating with river views. We attempted to make our cow dogs swimming dogs, but they were not too thrilled with the idea. Kimber waded in happily up to her belly but slammed on the brakes hard when it came to going any deeper.
Alexis walked down the dock with Resi swimming along it while I laughed at her little half corgi legs trying to swim. After one attempt, she decided water was definitely not her thing and kept her feet dry from then on.
With lunch time quickly approaching, and us tired from our adventure, we sat down to find a local place to eat that was dog friendly and had gluten free options for me (unfortunately I’m not easy to feed.) After what felt like forever trying to get phones to load in the low service area of the park, we settled on getting takeout from Bo & Vine Burger Bar and even ordered online.
Driving into downtown Salem was definitely not my favorite part of this day, but it was beyond worth it for the phenomenal food we brought back to Minto Brown Island Park to enjoy. The lettuce wrap chicken breast with avocado I had was so juicy and flavorful. Alexis said her burger was the best she has ever had. But hands down, our favorite was the sweet potato fries with special house made dipping sauces. Kimber and Resi also approve of this delicious dining spot, they were both competing for dropped crumbs and food bits.
Visiting Minto Brown Island Park
This riverfront park located in West Salem is open daily sunrise to sunset. It is perfect for jogging, walking, picnics, fishing, swimming and wading, and features playground equipment for kids. The park shelter is typically available for park goers but can be rented for large groups at a rate of $32.00 per hour and can hold 64 people and comes with power.
This park features 29 miles total of trails with the shortest individual loop being 2.34 miles, and the longest one being 6.2 miles long. Multiple loops can be combined to create any length hike you’d like.
The trails at Minto Brown dog park are all named after local wildlife, and labelled with colored markers, to make it easier to find your way. The trails are all populated, particularly on nice days, so be sure your pup is good with other people and dogs.
From Minto Brown Island park, you can access the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge, which connects this park to Riverfront Park and Wallace Marine Park, both in Salem.
To find the bridge, head out on the Red Osprey Loop from parking lot number 3, on this map, and then make a right when you see the sign for the Minto Island Conservation Area Trail. This trail will take you to the bridge and the additional parks.
Minto Brown Island Park is a wildlife sanctuary with many viewing platforms where you may see wild birds.
What’s the Deal with Cougars?
According to some accounts, a cougar has been spotted at Minto Brown Island Park. Salem Keizer News reported a sighting on their Facebook page in April of 2018. Other reports go back to 2015.
If reports are true, you should know what to do in the event of a sighting. It sounds as if guidelines are similar to handling a bear encounter. Keep your distance, do not turn your back, make yourself look large and fight back if attacked. So far, there have been no reports of attacks by cougars in Minto Brown Island Park, so go and enjoy with a small dose of awareness.
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