Outdoor Adventures to Explore Near WOU

snowshoes in snow bank

Growing up in southern Oregon, Western Oregon University senior Maddy Olson had heard of Silver Falls State Park, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation and Opal Creek Wilderness and Cascade Head Trail.

Thanks to WOU’s Outdoor Program, a part of Campus Recreation, she has had the opportunity to hike all three places, discovering stunning waterfalls, magnificent ocean views and towering old-growth forests.

“I like WOU’s Outdoor Program because students get to go to places they have never been before,” she said. “It’s a fun and safe way to learn about new hiking trails and get outside to discover new places while spending time with like-minded people.”

She recently hiked Silver Falls State Park with fellow students. “I had never been there before and I think we spent 30 minutes at each waterfall taking pictures,” she said. “The trip was amazing. We met with a park ranger who shared the background of the park, and we got to learn the history of how the waterfalls were discovered.”

Olson invites students and employees to two events hosted by the Outdoor Program this winter term.

WOU students used snowshoes to hike Opal Creek.

The Central Oregon Avalanche Center will present Know Before You Go at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23 at the Peter Courtney Health and Wellness Center. The free avalanche awareness program teaches people the basics of what avalanches look like, how people trigger them and how to recognize avalanche terrain. Participants will learn the basics of avalanche rescue equipment and where to obtain information about current avalanche conditions.

Olson will be leading a snowshoe adventure to Opal Creek on Saturday, Feb. 22. Participants leave WOU at 9 a.m. and return by 5 p.m. Transportation and the necessary gear, such as snowshoes and poles for the snow hikes, are provided by the program. The cost is $15 per person.

Students enjoy a hike at Opal Creek.

Depending on the weather, participants will either hike or snowshoe to travel the easy 7-mile loop to see waterfalls, an old mining town, a former sawmill site and diverse plant life in the largest primeval forest in Oregon’s Cascade Range.

WOU Campus Recreation Assistant Director Zachary Hammerle said the Outdoor Program is all about providing students with new experiences.

“We have taken international students who got to see snow for the first time,” he said. “We have students who have never hiked and those who are experienced hikers. All the students are in awe at the scenery.”

Hammerle said the outdoor adventures provide students with an opportunity to meet new friends, discover Oregon’s numerous hiking trails and have fun.

Olson said the Outdoor Program provides opportunities for WOU students to get out and explore nearby places.

“I think it’s peaceful to go on hikes because they provide you with a different sense of energy than being in class,” Olson said. “Being in the fresh air definitely helps me. There are a lot of positive benefits from being outside.”

Visit Outdoor Program for information regarding trips.

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