Top 20 Oregon Trips

Silver Falls State Park

Silver Falls State Park

Walk behind stunning waterfalls at the Silver Falls State Park in Oregon.  

Silver Falls State Park is 1.5 hours drive south of Portland in the Cascade foothills, near the town of Silverton.

See 10 different waterfalls.

This gem of a park attracts one million visitors a year, with 10 magnificent waterfalls, and 30 miles of trails through temperate rainforest.

The spectacular trails wind along creeks and sheer ledges, through ravines, and across bridges. Retreat to a magical world where the mist-laden forest is rich with maiden hair fern, sword fern, lichen and moss, and a towering canopy of douglas fir and western hemlock.

Silver Falls State Park is worth visiting in all seasons, yet the waterfalls are most dramatic in winter and spring when water runoff is at its peak.  

There's also overnight lodging available at Silver Falls State Park in charming cabins and lodge rooms, and plenty of campsites.  Alternatively you can stay nearby at the charming township of Silverton.

Fees: A small day-use fee is required to visit the park.

BEST waterfalls to see at Silver Falls State Park.

Most visitors don't have the time or energy to hike the 8.7 mile Trail of Ten Waterfalls loop.  A better alternative it to take shortcuts to the waterfalls, by driving to the three day use areas at South Falls, Winter Falls and North FallsSee map

1. South Falls Day Use Area has a cafe, visitor center and a short walk to famous South Falls.

If you're visiting Silver Falls State Park for the first time, the best place to start is the South Falls Day Use Area.

The magnificent 177-foot South Falls is a short distance from the parking lot, and has the most impressive waterfall in the park.  If you hike for an additional mile, you'll reach the 93-foot Lower South Falls.   It's a phenomenal experience walking behind each of these waterfalls and witnessing powerful walls of water. 

Stop by the rustic South Falls Lodge and Cafe built between 1940 to 1941, to purchase refreshments at the cafe and obtain a map of Silver Falls State Park.  Don't forget to visit the popular swimming and picnic area at nearby Silver Creek.  

The South Falls Nature Store has a lovely selection of gifts, including books, field guides, local artworks, sweaters, soaps, games and cards.  It was constructed in 1938, before the Lodge.

The large lawned area has plenty of picnic tables and BBQ facilities.

Visitors can walk behind the waterfall at South Falls, along a deep cavern etched into the basalt cliff.   In summertime when the waterflow is less, you can see the four layers of lava that form the South Falls.

These cliffs and canyons were formed 15 to 17 million years ago by lava flows, cooling to form basalt.  This Columbia River basalt field covers thousands of miles in both Oregon and Washington State.  

Feel the refreshing spray on your face and listen to the sound of thundering water, as you walk behind South Falls at Silver Falls State Park.

This is what South Falls looks like in the dead of winter, when the waterflow is at its peak.

The path takes you down to a charming bridge, with panoramic views of South Falls.

Silver Falls State Park is enchanting in late fall and winter, with blazing red foliage, set against the raging waters.

Continue a mile along the canyon pathway to Lower South Falls, to see the twisted forms of moss laden branches.

The temperature forest at Silver Falls State Park is hauntingly beautiful in cooler months, often shrouded in a delicate mist.  Take the stairs down to Lower South Falls.

The path winds behind Lower South Falls, where you can experience the thundering waterfall upclose.

Lower South Falls looks completely different in summer, with significantly less waterflow.  Some of the waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park can slow to a trickle in summer.

Feel the full force of Lower South Falls by walking behind it.

After you've passed behind the waterfall, look back to see it from another perspective.

There is something so primal about this moss laden forest, dripping in moisture.

Retrace your steps to return to the South Falls Day Use Area.

Check out these gorgeous sword ferns along the way.

Return to the South Falls Lodge and Cafe to admire its beautiful craftsmanship.  It was constructed between 1940 to 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  The Corps was established by the U.S. government as a Depression-era initiative to get people back to work.  Many of the other facilities at Silver Falls State Park, including the trails and stone bridges, were also constructed by this group.

The lodge at Silver Falls State Park oozes atmosphere, and was constructed in the rustic Adirondack style, with textured stone walls, exposed beams, and hammered, metal light fittings.

Silver Falls State Park is the site of a historic district.  A small logging town emerged at the top of South Falls in the late 1880's, known as Silver Falls Town. The town capitalized on the incredible scenery by charging entrance to the waterfalls, and performing gimmicks like pushing cars over the edge of waterfalls.

Silver Falls State Park was eventually dedicated in 1933, largely thanks to the efforts of local photographer June Drake.  Drake campaigned tirelessly from 1906 to 1926 to have the park established as a National Park.  His efforts failed due to some logging that had degraded the natural landscape, so he applied pressure on the State of Oregon, and the park was eventually protected as a State Park.  Drake also purchased some of the acreage necessary to make this happen.

2. Winter Falls Trailhead has a 1.2 mile path along five waterfalls.

The Winter Falls Trailhead has a 1.2 mile path (one way), that takes you past five waterfalls (Winter Falls, Middle North Falls, Drake Falls, Double Falls and Lower North Falls).  At 178-feet, Double Falls is the tallest in the park, cascading over two levels. 

Start at the Winter Falls Trailhead at Silver Falls State Park.

The hike starts with spectacular Winter Falls (134 feet).  Winter Falls can slow to a trickle in warmer months, and is best viewed in fall and winter.  It's possible you might not see any water flowing if there's been low rainfall.

Continue along the creek.

Cross the stone bridge, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1940s.

Check out those incredible views from the bridge.

You're nearly at the next waterfall!

The Middle North Falls plunges to 106 feet.

Here's a better long at the Middle North Falls.  There's a trail that runs behind the waterfall, for visitors who want to get upclose.

Next up is the smaller, cascading Drake Falls (27 feet), named after photographer June Drake whose conservation efforts resulted in a State Park designation for Silver Falls State Park.

Pass the Lower North Falls (30 feet) to reach the impressive two-tiered Double Falls (174 feet).  This is the tallest waterfall at Silver Falls State Park.

3. North Falls Trailhead has a short walk to two waterfalls.

The North Falls Trailhead parking lot is in the most northern section of Silver Falls State Park, with a short walk to two waterfalls.  There's an easier 0.2 mile flat trail to Upper North Falls (65 feet), and a more difficult 0.25 mile clifftop trail to North Falls (136 feet).  You can view the North Falls from the clifftop trail, or continue down a series of stairs to a path that leads to a spectacular cavern behind North Falls.

This is the parking lot for the North Falls Trailhead.  Cross the bridge to start your hike, to either Upper North Falls or North Falls.

The hike to Upper North Falls is only 0.2 miles from the bridge.

Follow the path to Upper North Falls.

This is where the path ends, looking up at the 65 foot Upper North Falls on Silver Creek.  This is the most uppermost waterfall along Silver Creek, and is the only waterfall that isn't on the Trail of Ten Waterfalls loop.  The curtain-like waterfall plunges over an ancient basalt ledge.

Start back at the North Falls Trailhead to walk to the spectacular North Falls.

Here's the view of North Falls from above.

The path follows a narrow, fenced-in ledge along a sheer, 140 foot drop-off.  This probably isn't a great option if you're scared of heights.  The path then continues down 78 stairs to a lower elevation, and switches back to a path that leads behind North Falls, inside a deep cavern.

Look over your shoulder at North Falls plunging 136 feet off a ledge at Silver Falls State Park.

Ride along biking trails.

There are also 4-miles of paved bike trails at Silver Falls Park.  Information on bike trails can be obtained at the lodge in the South Falls Day use Area.

Lodging at Silver Falls State Park.

The Silver Falls State Park has log cabins, camping grounds, two ranches (bunkhouses that can accommodate 75 people each) and a conference center with 4 group lodges and 10 cabins.  Reserve a campsite or cabin.

The small township of Silverton is located 20-minutes from the park, and the two primary accommodation options include the Oregon Garden Resort, and Silverton Inn.  The Oregon Garden Resort is adjacent to the 80-acre Oregon Garden. This charming lodge has plenty of amenities including a restaurant, lounge, and external pool and hot tub.   The lounge is a hub of activity each evening, with a bar, live music, board games, and a roaring fireplace in winter.  The luxury rooms are situated near the lodge in a series of bungalows, and are very reasonably priced.  The Silverton Inn is located in the heart of downtown Silverton, and has close proximity to lovely gift shops and coffee houses. 

Where can I eat?

Visit nearby Silverton, for a good range of restaurants.

Things to do near Silver Falls State Park.

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