A nice waterfall can make an average trail special. So imagine what ten waterfalls could do? That’s exactly what you’ll find in Silver Falls State Park, located east of Salem, Oregon. One loop trail takes you to ten cascading, tumbling creeks, and you could easily complete the entire trail (7.2 miles) in just a few hours.
I was running a little short on time, so I didn’t see all ten waterfalls. But I did, however, see seven of them, during two hikes, plus one roadside viewpoint stop.
Silver Falls State Park is located along the Silver Falls Tour Route (Scenic Byway), which is mostly made up of Oregon Highway 214. From I-5 on the north side of Salem, take Route 214 southeast. If you’re in Salem, take Route 22 southwest, then turn onto 214 to access the park from the south side.
Even though I entered Silver Falls State Park from the north side, I decided to drive through the park and make my first stop at the South Falls Day Use Area. This is the most developed part of the park, with plenty of parking, a visitor center, and cafe. It’s also a good starting point for the entire Trail of Ten Falls loop. Or, you can just make a short loop hike from this trailhead, to see (arguably) the park’s most spectacular waterfall, South Falls.
South Falls Day Use Area
From the viewpoint near the parking lot, you can’t get a great view of South Falls, because you’re practically at the top of it! The good news is, some amazing views are just a short walk away. A one-mile loop takes you down the hill…
… and completely around the waterfall, including behind it!
This trail requires some caveman-style walking! Look closely, and you can see the waterfall’s delicate cascade, falling right in front of the hikers.
Once you come out the other side, the trail slopes downhill…
… to a footbridge, where you can get an excellent look at the 177-foot-tall waterfall. If you cross over the creek and hike back up the other side, you’ll complete a one-mile loop. For a longer walk, don’t cross the bridge. Continue on down the canyon to Lower South Falls (a 93-foot waterfall), then loop back for a 2.6-mile loop.
Either way, you’ll enjoy some beautiful sunshine-filtering moss-covered trees.
I took the shorter loop, and skipped Lower South Falls, then headed back to the car and backtracked up to the…
North Falls Viewpoint
If you drive all the way up to the North Falls Trailhead, you can hike down a trail that provides close-up access to North Falls, a 136-foot waterfall. I decided, due to limited time, that my limited view from the North Falls Viewpoint (at the side of the road) would have to do. After snapping a few long-distance pictures, I drove down to the…
Winter Falls Trailhead
There’s only room for a few cars at the Winter Falls Trailhead, but if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to grab a spot. This trailhead provides quick access to a half-dozen waterfalls.
The trailhead’s namesake falls, though, is disappointing for at least part of the year. Winter Falls is a seasonal waterfall, and in late August, it was dry.
… through a tunnel of moss-covered trees, to a trail junction. You’ll have the choice of going right or left. Right takes you to Twin Falls (I didn’t visit this one). Left takes you to Middle North Falls, Drake Falls, Lower North Falls, and Double Falls.
Middle North Falls is pretty nice…
… and just like South Falls, you can slip around the backside of the waterfall, then dip into a cave.
Drake Falls is partially hidden by trees.
Middle North Falls is also obscured slightly, but it’s still quite nice. This is as far as I went on the canyon trail. I turned around, then took a short side trail out to…
…Double Falls. As you can see, Double Falls is another seasonal waterfall. It wasn’t completely dry, but almost.
From here, I backtracked to the trailhead. The total hike was probably about two miles — although I could have added one more waterfall (Twin Falls) with just an extra 6/10 of a mile or so. But unfortunately, time didn’t allow.
The Bottom Line
It’s well worth your time to hike to several (if not all ten) waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park. Next time, I’ll try to allow enough time to enjoy the entire loop trail.
Here’s the time-lapse video showing the drive south through Mount Angel and Silverton…
… and westbound through Aumsville and Turner: