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Oregon Parks and Recreation Department continues its nine-year tradition of offering free guided 'First Day Hikes' in state parks across Oregon.

OREGON STATE PARKS - A hiker and his pooch get some fresh air and exercise on a trail at Champoeg State Heritage Area.What better way to kick off a new year than to get moving out on a trail for some fresh air and mild activity.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) fosters that idea each new year, partnering with America's State Parks to offer free, guided "First Day Hikes" on New Year's Day in parks throughout the state. Included among those are several parks in the immediate area: Champoeg State Heritage Area, Willamette Mission State Park and Silver Falls State Park.

This year marks the ninth consecutive year OPRD has offered these hikes. The usual $5 state-park parking fee is waived on Jan. 1 to accommodate all interested hikers.

Here are specifics for some hikes within 40 miles of the general area:

--Champoeg State Heritage Area: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., meet at the visitor center;

--Willamette Mission State Park: 10 a.m., meet at the Wheatland Ferry;

--Silver Falls State Park: 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., meet at South Falls Lodge porch;

--Tryon Creek State Park: 9 a.m., meet at the nature center;

--Milo McIver State Park: 10 a.m., meet at the --Maple Ridge Trailhead in the Lower Boat Launch parking lot.OREGON STATE PARKS - Champoeg State Park highlights a site that is rich in Oregon history.

The Willamette Mission outing is described as an easy, one-mile hike on the Mission Trail, hiking along the Willamette River to the Mission Ghost Structure, which marks the site where the first mission in Oregon once stood.

Organizers request that no dogs be brought to this hike. For information about Willamette Mission's hike, call 503-393-1172. OREGON STATE PARKS - Willamette Mission State Park visitors can get a glimpse of where the first mission in Oregon once stood.

Champoeg's two treks are moderate, two-mile hikes on the Townsite Trail. Participants with hike through the old town site and out to the Territorial Government Monument.

"We'll look for bald eagles, hawks, blue birds, and a variety of other wildlife," noted Dan Klug Champoeg's interpretive park ranger.OREGON STATE PARKS - Among the features at Willamette Mission State Park is the world largest black cottonwood tree.

Dogs are welcome but must be on a six-foot leash. The hike recommended for children who are at least five years old. For information about the Champoeg hikes, call 503-678-1251 ext. 222.

Silver Falls hikes will be a moderate, one-mile outings. Park Manager Guy Rodrigue noted that two hikes will be offered at Silver Falls this year, and each will be repeated, for a total of four hikes.

The 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. hikes will encompass the 1 mile loop around South Falls. Visitors will learn about the geology and history of the park and walk behind 177-foot tall South Falls. Dogs are not allowed on these hikes.

The 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. hikes will explore the temperate rainforest of Silver Falls. Dogs are permitted on a 6-foot leash only during the 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. hikes.

For information about Silver Falls hikes, call 503-873-8681.

These are among 37 hikes in 31 parks across the state. All hikes will be guided by a park ranger or volunteer who will share stories about the park's history, geology, wildlife and plants. 

OPRD officials recommend registering for a specific hike Oregon State Parks Store: bit.ly/ParkStoreEvents. Online registration is not required, but it does help parks staff plan the hike and provides participant contact information should hike details change.

OPRD advises visitors to plan for inclement weather, dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, bring water and remember to carry binoculars for viewing wildlife.

OPRD has sponsored First Day Hikes annually since 2012, part of a larger national event organized by America's State Parks. OPRD welcomes hikers to share First Day Hike photos via Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #ORfirstdayhikes or tagging "Oregon State Parks" on Facebook.OREGON STATE PARKS - Last years First Day hikers prepare for their outing at Champoeg State Heritage Area.


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