I never forgot my first visit to Silver Falls State Park about 13 years ago. It’s not easy to forget a place where you can see ten waterfalls on one trail. Four of the waterfalls you walk behind, experiencing up close the power of water. Not only are the waterfalls impressive, but the canyon you hike through is a wonder as well with a thick temperate rainforest of huge Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Maple trees covered in moss with a trail bordered by ferns and shrubbery.
Silver Falls is Oregon’s largest state park and has been touted as the “Crown Jewel” of the Oregon state park system. It is located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains about a 45 minute drive from the capital city of Salem.
During our recent trip to Oregon, I took to this trail one day in early November. I wasn’t sure what to expect about water flow since it was in the middle of fall and I hoped the waterfalls still had a good amount of water in them. I was also not sure about hiking the whole Ten Falls trail as it is long and rather rigorous. So far in our RV travels I hadn’t hiked almost nine miles on one trail and I would be doing this by myself as Mark not being a hiker would not be joining me. There are opportunities to see some of the falls by cobbling together shorter trails or driving to a few different starting points, but I really wanted to do the whole trail again and see all the falls.
Although long, the trail is so beautiful and easy to follow that it didn’t seem that hard and the time passed quickly. I met nice people along the way too, so it wasn’t a lonely hike. Although the falls were not running at capacity as they would have been earlier in the year, they still had a good amount of rushing water. It seems to see really good falls at most parks requires climbing stairs and this park is no exception. I had to hike into a canyon and out of it, with some up and down along the trail as well.
At one time there was a town located above the canyon and near South Falls, the most well known of the falls and the starting point of my hike. Silver Falls City was formed in 1888 primarily as a logging community. A local entrepreneur sold admission to the falls area and there were even some attractions including pushing cars over the falls and a daredevil stunt involving riding over South Falls in a canoe. One of the biggest advocates for creating a park here was a photographer who began a campaign with photos in 1900. But the National Park Service rejected the area for park status because there were so many unattractive stumps after years of logging. When the Great Depression hit, the timber industry was over. In 1933 the state park was formed and in 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps was employed to develop park facilities including trails, bridges and retaining walls. The South Falls Lodge was completed in the late 1930’s and remains open today.
I mentioned in my opening paragraph that you can walk behind four of the waterfalls. Behind the North Falls drop is the most impressive opening – a huge cave like overhang. It is definitely a place to sit a spell and just admire looking out at the falling water.
One of my favorite falls here is Lower South Falls. Although not as tall as South or North Falls, it drops 93 feet in a wide beautiful sheet. The trail goes behind as well, although the recess is narrow.
The tallest waterfall in the park is Double Falls which drops 184 feet and is located next to a short spur off the main trail. There was not much water in it, so it fell in a thin stream. In the photo below, you can barely see the top tier of the falls to the right of the main drop.
Middle North Falls at 106 feet is the Park’s fourth waterfall you can walk behind on a narrow trail.
A couple of the waterfalls are quite small and not very dramatic, but still worth a stop as I came by. Drake Falls was the only one I did not photograph as it was the least visible of the falls and could only be viewed from a small deck.
I finished up my adventure by taking a spur trail to see impressive Upper North Falls. It had a large wide pool in front of the 65 foot drop and there were many slippery rocks to walk on to get closer. I walked part of the way but decided not to go right next to the pool. I’d rather not take the risk of falling and hurting myself so I can be sure and walk to more beautiful places like this in the future!
Although I had planned to see ten waterfalls on my trek I actually only saw nine. Unfortunately, the spur trail to see Winter Falls was closed when I visited. The chance to see nine waterfalls in a gorgeous rainforest was one of my best days exploring during our RV travels! If you ever find yourself in the north central part of Oregon make your way to Silver Falls State Park. It is a winner!
I thought I would close with a photo from our campsite in Southern Oregon. We had just arrived when this flock of ducks waddled by to say hello! Stay tuned for one more post about our Oregon travels. Next up – fun food factory tours.