Fondly dubbed the "Crown Jewel" of the Oregon State Park system, Silver Falls State Park is a must-do in the Salem or Portland area. Located 20 minutes from Silverton and Sublimity outside of Salem, Oregon, Silver Falls is home to many waterfalls.
About Silver Falls State Park
In 1934, President Roosevelt deemed the region a "Recreational Demonstration Area" and made it a park. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) constructed the South Falls Lodge, which does not have accommodations but has a cafeteria and seating. Before Roosevelt took over, June D. Drake, a Silverton-based photographer, led a 20-year campaign to protect this precious area. According to the Native Land map, the site belongs to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and Molalla Indigenous Peoples.
Hiking Trails at the Park
While there are tons of hiking trails and activities to partake in at the park, by far the crowd favorite and most visited is the Trail of Ten Falls. I mean, where else can you see ten waterfalls on one hike AND walk behind some of them too?!
This 7.2-mile loop has an elevation gain of roughly 800 feet. It is arguably one of the most scenic waterfall hikes in the Pacific Northwest. Meandering through gorgeous forested landscapes and showcasing incredible waterfalls, there is no question why this trail has been nationally recognized. The famous South Falls is the second-tallest in the bunch at 177-feet tall. South Falls is also one you can walk behind, which is a breathtaking experience.
You can walk the entire loop, or you can choose one of the many other options for making this moderate hike shorter (but then you see fewer waterfalls)! The primary route for this falls is starting at either the South Falls and going clockwise or beginning at the North Falls parking lot trailhead.
Trail of Ten Falls Route
Start at the nature store and walk past the South Falls Lodge, picnic area, and Parking Area A (closed in winter months). The Rim Trail starts your journey through an awe-inspiring old-growth forest of Douglas firs and hemlocks. At mile 1.1, you will see the Winter Falls trailhead but continue on the Rim Trail before hitting the North Falls viewpoint (stay left after the North Falls trailhead).
Follow the path next to the Silver Creek under the pedestrian bridge and then the road bridge. After crossing a few small streams, you will find the pool below the Upper North Falls (65-feet tall) cascading off the basalt cliff created by lava flows.
You then head back to the highway and trail junctions, taking a right at the second junction marked as the Canyon Trail and behind a steep descent to North Falls (136-feet tall). Next up is approximately a mile-hike to the 31-foot Twin Falls. Winter Falls (134-feet tall) is the following fall on the agenda is a 0.3-mile off-shoot of the main trail across a footbridge and up a creek.
The Middle North Falls (106-feet tall) steals the show just a tenth of a mile from Winter Falls. Around the corner from Middle North Falls, you will find the 27-foot Drake Falls, named after the photographer whose life mission was to preserve this sacred region in Oregon. Double Falls is next, the tallest waterfall in the park at 178-feet tall (this one may be dried up in the summer).
Retreat on the Canyon Trail, where you will cross a bridge over the North Fork and hike switchbacks up to a basalt overhang. When you hit the Maple Ridge Trail junction, you will go right and head back down to the South Fork of Silver Creek. You will then see the majestic Lower South Falls, where you can walk behind the falls in a cave-like bend.
Next up is the most well-known and loved of the park, the South Falls. Hikers can feel the mist of the falls on your skin as you make the stroll in the grotto behind this powerful force of water, making for a one-of-a-kind photo op. This fall is up there with Multnomah Falls (in the Columbia River Gorge) as one of the most photographed falls in Oregon. One strict rule here is that absolutely no pets are allowed on the Canyon Trail (they can be leashed on all other trails, though).
Activities & Camping Options
In addition to the epic hiking trails, Silver Falls presents prime opportunities for backcountry excursions, mountain biking on the bike paths, and even horse trails for horseback riding. The South Falls Day-Use Area offers lawns, barbecue grills, picnic shelters, tables, a playground, an off-leash dog park, a creek, and a swimming hole.
Camping is another way to enjoy a few days at this incredible Oregon State Park. There are tent sites (some with hookups), group sites, a youth camp, cabins, flush toilets and showers, a dump station, and accessible options. There are even five primitive sites for horse camps and one group site for larger groups with horses.
Book a reservation six months in advance at oregonstateparks.reserveamerica.com. Management reopened the Smith Creek Village at Silver Falls (formerly Silver Falls Lodge and Conference Center) in May 2021. It will begin to provide lodging options for guests.
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