Our Favorite Salem Parks (Salem, Oregon)
Here is the thing about Salem, Oregon: one minute you are at a busy intersection, surrounded by all of life’s conveniences. You take a turn and travel less than a mile and you are in the middle of nature, surrounded by space to move and explore.
I like parks that force me forget about so many of life’s troubles like traffic and money and media. Get me and my three boys centered in trees shooting to the sky and we can let our imaginations entertain us for hours.
There are four parks that we go to regularly in the Salem area, every season of the year.
Minto Brown Island Park
This park is set back in nature along the Willamette River. It has paved trails that seem to go on forever to bike, run, walk, or meander. Off of these paved trails are many rustic trails that lead to excellent exploring spaces or the perfect place to stop and fish. There is a playground, picnic area, and a separate dog park.
There isn’t a better place in Salem to discover a variety of wildlife and the habitats they live in.
- Unfortunately, there is no public restroom, but port-a-potties are located right next to the parking lot.
- The river provides excellent spots to throw rocks, but I would not recommend swimming in it.
- The trails are just complicated enough for you to get turned around. It’s best to stick with a buddy.
- Blackberry bushes provide a tasty snack in the summer. They are scattered everywhere!
- Recently cougars were spotted inside the park. They have not bothered anyone, but be aware and know what to do if you see one.
Bush’s Pasture Park
Located in the center of Salem, I refer to this special park as Salem’s Living Room.
It is a 90 acre park in the shape of a square. At each corner of the park there is a different type of playground. I like to take the mile loop around and hit each one with my boys. The rest of the park is covered with tall trees and open fields.
Willamette University’s stadium sits in the middle and is open when events are not happening. We like to run races on the track and make our way to the top of the bleachers. This park is beautiful every season of the year.
- There are public restrooms located at three of the four corners of the park.
- Picnic areas for large and small groups are spread out everywhere.
- You will find of plenty of space to start up a soccer, frisbee, or football game.
- This is the home of many squirrels and we like to bring them peanuts sometimes.
- Many families like to bring bikes and scooters to ride on the cemented paths.
- A soap box derby track is a fun place to run or ride down.
- Look for the beautiful gardens that grow a variety of flowers.
Any town that lays along a river can consider itself lucky. Salem’s riverfront holds a park with:
- large grass fields
- a long stretch of sidewalk for biking, running, or walking
- a nice playground
- seasonal water fountains for kids to splash in
- an amphitheater to watch shows or create your own
At the south end of the park there is a pedestrian bridge that supplies the perfect little walk across the river.
The view from above is incredible and if you make it to the other side there is a beach area ready for rock-throwers and toe-dippers.
One of the biggest draws to the riverfront is the amazing handcrafted carousel. Rides cost $1.50 each, but ride packages are available to purchase. We bought a 20 ride punch card.
I had to throw in my favorite small and quiet neighborhood park. Englewood Park is attached to Englewood School and is nestled into an older, charming residential area. This is the best park to go to in the heat of summer because of the immense shade that comes from over 350 towering trees. It is an easy place to chat with friends while your children play because they are easily seen wherever you are.
- There is no public restroom.
- A small seasonal fountain is perfect for toddlers.
- Because of all the shade, it can get chilly so wear layers of clothes.
- If your kids are like mine, they will find multiple sticks that magically turn into guns.
It is so nice to know that whenever my budget is tight, there is always a park I can go to without paying a dime. Whenever I make the choice to take advantage of these designated pieces of land, my day with my boys becomes something special.
Christi Kurtz lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband and three sons.
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