Silver Falls State Park in Oregon is the largest park in the state at close to ten thousand acres. It features moderate trails through dense Oregon forest that bring you to a total of ten different waterfalls. The well-maintained trails, paired with the uniquely beautiful falls, make Silver Falls hike in Oregon a popular place that everyone needs to see.
Silver Falls State Park in Oregon: How it Came to Be
Silver Creek Falls was originally inhabited by the Kalapuyan (Calapooia based on the modern spelling) tribe of Native Americans. The Calapooia tribes were nomadic and moved according to food supply and the season. They were not known for settling for a long term period on the grounds of the current Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, but did pass through when needed.
The first trustworthy records from the area date back to 1846 when the first town on the land was established. The town of Milford was constructed along Silver Creek in conjunction with logging efforts in the area.
For many years, people logged the area for its large and valuable timber. The town grew and more people came. Irresponsible logging and fires ravaged the land along and near the Silver Creek falls.
In the 50 or so years prior to the state’s purchase of the land, many locals would flock to the falls and river for hunting and fishing opportunities.
The landowner, Mr. Geiser, of the South Falls area was known for using his land to make money off those wanting to visit during the 1920’s. The cost was ten cents to visit the Silver Falls hike in Oregon at this time. Mr. Geiser was also known for using the falls for various stunts to draw a crowd and a commission.
Samuel Boardman, who was the founder of the state park system in Oregon, had this to say about one of Mr. Geiser’s stunts: “Before we acquired the South Falls. Geiser advertised circus stunts. He built a low dam just above the lip of the South Falls, got a chap with a canoe. Ran a wire through a ring on the bow of the canoe, anchored the wire to the bottom of the pool, a 184-foot drop. The voyager got into the padded canoe, the dam was pulled. The canoe failed to follow the wire, but turned sideways. The voyager was fished out with a set of broken ribs. The canoe demolished, Geiser couldn’t get any more human guinea-pigs, so he built a track in the bottom of the creek, sent ancient cars over the brink for the plunge. These Fourth of July stunts drew very well. I believe the entrance fee was twenty-five cents.”
In 1931, Samuel Boardman and his associate June Drake convinced the Salem Chamber of Commerce to purchase the land from Mr. Geiser in hopes of starting a state park. The state agreed, and by 1933, the park was opened. Additional land around Silver Creek Falls was either gifted to the state or purchased to create the full Silver Falls hike in Oregon.
By the time 1935 came around, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the federal government decided to declare the Silver Creek Falls State park in Oregon a Recreational Demonstration Area. With the help of the Corps, additional land was added to the park, and members worked tirelessly to replant trees and repair the damage done by years of logging overuse and fires.
The CCC also built many outbuildings inside the park. These include the Main Concession Building and the South Falls Lodge, as well as Myrtlewood furniture for the South Lodge. The furniture was made to mimic the myrtlwood furniture Samual Boardman created for the Main Lodge.
The CCC camp was removed in 1942 once the trails were finished and buildings constructed. In 1947 the park was transferred from the federal government back to the state of Oregon. A few more land purchased increased the park to the size it is today. The South Lodge was remodeled in the 70’s and converted into a visitors center.
Today, Silver Falls State Park in Oregon sees almost a million people per year and is one of the most prime Oregon hiking destinations. All visitors enjoy hiking, swimming, picnicking, camping, horseback riding and more.
Hiking Silver Falls State Park in Oregon
If you love Oregon waterfalls, this is the hike for you. As you can see from the Silver Falls hike Oregon map below, the trail is packed full of waterfalls, and miles of trails. To do the “Trail of Ten waterfalls” in one day, we recommend beginning at the South Falls Lodge, or the South Falls Day Use Area.
It is best to begin here for a couple reasons. The first would be parking. The South falls has a much larger parking lot, so you will find parking even on more crowded days. Another reason is the South Falls Day use area has real restrooms, while the North Falls parking area only has vault toilets.
From the trailhead, it is tempting to head right to the South Falls to begin the journey, but we highly recommend taking the other route along the rim trail. If you are doing this 7.2 mile hike in one day, you will want to begin with the most boring part, rather than having to make the long trek around the rim while exhausted.
Follow the Rim trail until you reach the North Falls trailhead area. From here, a trail to the right will take you up the short, out and back style path to the Upper North Falls. Once you reach the intersection again, follow the sign down to the North Falls. This trail is steep and features some stairs.
Once you make it down, the trail leads into a cavernous area directly behind the cascading water of North Falls. The cave like area is cool and damp, just perfect for a hot summer day. If you visit in the fall or winter, be sure to dress accordingly, you will get damp on many of the trails.
Still Eight More Waterfalls to Go in Silver Falls State Park Oregon
The next stop on the trail of ten waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park in Oregon is the Twin Falls. These falls are easily reached by following the trail away from the North Falls. Next, you’ll follow Winter Trail out and back to Winter Falls, which you may have briefly seen from the rim trail depending on tree growth.
Once you backtrack to the winter falls turn, take a left and follow the trail to Middle North Falls and Drake Falls, named after June Drake, an essential contributor to the park’s creation. After Drake Falls, the trail will have a small fork with a small wooden sign that says Double Falls.
Double Falls is one of my personal favorite falls, so be sure to take the very short, easy trail that leads to its base. Double Falls is the tallest fall in the park, and one of the most unique.
After backtracking onto the main trail of the Silver Falls hike in Oregon and continuing on, the Lower North Falls are just a short distance away. This is another waterfall you can follow a trail to view the tumbling water from behind.
The last two falls on the hike will return you to the lodge and parking area. Be sure to stay on the Canyon Trail, do not take the Maple Ridge Trail, as the Canyon trail will offer better views of the falls. Along the trail you will first come to Lower South Falls, which you can walk behind.
The South Falls are the last falls on the Trail of ten waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, and also the falls that will return you to the parking area. You can access these falls from behind if you so choose. If you are looking for a shorter hike, you can access either both or just one of the South Falls from the parking area.
The South falls has a small loop that can be accessed from the trailhead. If you are looking for a larger loop, take the Canyon trail down past both South falls, upper and lower, and return on the Maple ridge trail.
Oregon Waterfalls You Don’t Want to Miss
While Silver Falls State Park in Oregon has ten stunning waterfalls, there are a few that are more worthwhile if you are short on time.
I have included this one first for one reason, this is my favorite fall in the park. Double Falls is quite literally two falls. If you look closely at what is assumed to the top of the falls, a short but strong stream of water tumbles down from up above the falls, creating a second fall. Also, halfway down the first fall, water seems to literally shoot out of the rock canyon. It is quite a sight. The landscape around Double Falls is comforting and serene with trees and canyon walls creating an alcove around you.
Together, Double Falls create the tallest falls in the park, coming in at 184 feet tall. South Falls, comes in second at 177 feet tall.
North falls are some of the most photographed falls in Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. The reason for this is two fold. First, the falls are magical and easy to access. The trail from the parking lot to the falls is just a little over three tenths of a mile one way.
The North Falls are very Instagram worthy, and every aspiring photographer should take a moment to photograph them. The trail will take you deep into the alcove behind the falls. The deep cavern even has some trees growing in it. From outside of the alcove, the falls jet out from the top of the flat canyon top and crash into the river below.
The South falls are the second highest falls in the park at 177 feet tall. The water flow at the South falls is impressive and powerful. The water launches over the edge and beyond the trail and into the river basin. The South falls offer swimming and wading areas a little way from its base, and features a bridge for perfect viewing.
Lower South Falls
The Lower South falls boast a large sheet of water falling in unison down the rocks. Bright green vegetation and moss covered trees line the falls and add a level of mystery and even bring a little magic. During dryer months the South falls trickle down and splash off the rocks below.
Silver Creek Falls State Park in Oregon: Two Days Instead of One
If you aren’t feeling up to a 7.2 mile hike, or are camping at the park and need to spread out your adventure, try seeing all the falls in 2 hikes rather than one. While the Upper North falls, North Falls and the two South Falls can easily be accessed by short hikes via their trailheads, seeing the remainder of the falls does require some hiking.
For the first day, we recommend beginning at the South Falls parking area and beginning on the Canyon Trail to tackle the Silver Falls loop trail. This will take you to and past both the South Falls and the Lower South falls. From here, continue on the Canyon Trail to the Lower North Falls. Then take the short out and back trail to the Double Falls. Back on the Canyon Trail, follow it to Drake Falls and Middle North Falls.
Next, you will take a right onto the Winter trail towards Winter Falls. Winter Falls will be the last falls on day one. Winter Trail will take you through some switchbacks and up onto the Rim Trail. Rim trail will take you along the canyon rim and back to the South Falls parking lot where you began. You will cover about 5 miles on this hike.
For the Second Day, begin in the North Falls Trailhead. On busy days such as holidays and weekends, you may want to get an early start so you can snag a parking spot at this trailhead.
First, from the trailhead, follow signs to the Upper North Falls. This is a short out and back trail. Once back, connect with the Canyon Trail towards the North Falls. The trail will lead behind the falls and eventually to Twin Falls. From here, you have two options, depending on how much you’d like to hike.
You can head back the way you came and return to the trailhead in just a mile. If you would like to see Winter Falls again and hike a little longer, continue down the Canyon trail until Winter Trail forks off to the left. Follow Winter Trail again to the Rim Trail. This time, take a left back towards North Falls and the trailhead where you began. This journey will take an additional 1.3 miles from Twin Falls.
Silver Falls State Park in Oregon and COVID-19
While Covid-19 has changed the world as we know it, it has increased traffic to this state park. The North Falls and South Falls areas tend to be more populated than the rest of the trail. If you are concerned, it may be best to wear a mask in the tight areas on the trails. This will also ring true for many of the popular hikes in the state of Oregon.
Things to Know Before Tackling the Silver Falls Hike in Oregon
If you plan to tackle the entire trail of ten waterfalls, be aware that pets are not allowed, and most of this trail is not accessible for strollers. Ensure all members of your party are able to hike the entire thing, including elevation changes and rough terrain.
The Silver Falls bike bath is an easy and paved trail that allows dogs and is easy to traverse with strollers and small children, but it does not have any waterfalls.
Silver Falls State park in Oregon can be very crowded, especially in decent weather and on weekends and holidays. If you are hoping to avoid crowds, consider hiking early in the morning, during bad weather, and on weekdays.
During muddy weather, expect for some trails to be slippery and muddy.
Due to the long distance of the Trail of 10 Waterfalls, be sure to hike prepared. Bring food, water, and some first aid items if necessary. Cell service is not available for most of the hike.
There are many horse trails at Silver Falls State Park. the longest horse trail, the Buck Mountain Loop has a very steep section with large inclines. The rest of the horse trails are well maintained and easy to traverse, and the parking access is easy for even larger trailers.