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Joe Dancer Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

South Yamhill River, Joe Dancer Park (bobcat)
Snowberries, Joe Dancer Park (bobcat)
Leafy trail, Joe Dancer Park (bobcat)
The loop at Joe Dancer Park, McMinnville (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
Poison Oak



The South Yamhill River makes a couple of big loops on the southern edges of McMinnville, and Joe Dancer Park's 100 acres lie nestled in one of these. The park is situated not far from the McMinnville Bypass and so is a good place to stop and stretch your legs on the way to or back from the beach, especially during the wet winter months when access to the parking areas is gated (You need to park at Kiwanis Marine Park). Because there are several sports fields in Joe Dancer Park, it becomes a rather noisy and crowded venue in spring and summer. Joe Dancer was McMinnville's first city manager; he served for 26 years, from 1960 to 1986.

From the parking area, a gated road leads down to a former boat launch on the river. The banks here were severely eroded in the February 1996 floods. Then pick up a wide jogging trail leading east into the riparian woodland above the river banks. Douglas-fir, grand fir, white oak, big-leaf maple and white alder form the canopy. Pass under powerlines and, at a junction near the Ottley Skate Park, keep right on the jogging trail to emerge from the woods with forest to your right and open fields to your left. Hike along a blackberry hedgerow before the trail makes a bend to the left as you pass the last baseball diamond. A sign points to a trail leading into a maple woodland: “Dry Weather Trail Only” (At very soggy times during winter or spring, give this trail a miss). This trail leads through snowberry, licorice fern, fringe-cup and trailing blackberry to a spur left which affords a great view down the sheer bank to a sharp bend in the South Yamhill River. Loop back under the maples to the jogging track and resume heading north (It would be hard to pick up this entrance to the loop trail as it is not signposted and obscured by brush). Eighty yards later, pass the Dry Weather Trail sign again.

Walk along the edge of two baseball fields, passing a grove of sour cherries. The jogging trail peters out at a parking area and soccer fields. However, a narrow trail heads into the woods from here into a forested strip that separates the playing areas from the river. The trail steps down across a shallow gully and reenters the narrow riparian strip. Eventually emerge off this muddy track at a field where the jogging trail resumes. The trail bends left, passing a large white oak. At a blue post, go right into a wooded area to take a short loop trail loop that leads to a view of a bend in the river. The loop reemerges at an open field below a sewage disposal plant up on a bluff. Take the jogging track west past a restored wetland and up to a sidewalk.

Go left on the sidewalk at the east entrance to the park, cross a parking entrance road and head across a grassy sward to the Kiwanis Marine Park Trailhead at the west entrance of Joe Dancer Park.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash on trails; dogs not permitted on the playing fields
  • Restrooms, picnic tables, play structure, skate park, playing fields


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger

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Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.