Silver Falls State Park: A Hidden Gem in Oregon’s Wilderness

by | Nov 1, 2016 | Adventures, Hiking | 1 comment

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I recently visited one of the most gorgeous places I've had the opportunity to explore in Oregon, known as the Silver Falls State Park. It's often referred to as the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Parks system.

Silver Falls State Park is actually the largest in Oregon, with 9,200 acres of spectacular waterfalls and trails to explore. Let us show you why Silver Falls State Park should rank high on your list of must-visit locations in 2023!

Silver Falls State Park

This incredible park is nestled in the foothills of Oregon's Cascade Mountains, and you'll find it less than an hour east of Oregon's state capital, Salem. Upon my visit just right before Halloween, I was immediately taken away by the incredible fog and the beautiful fall foliage.

Walking behind the 177-foot curtain of water was absolutely incredible, with the light rain mist and the water of course from the falls also making it quite the experience.

silver falls state park

This 7.2-mile loop is considered to be a moderate hike, with an overall elevation change of 800 feet. While going deeper into the luscious forest, you will find several connecting trails with separate access points that make shorter routes.

Silver Falls State Park includes 10 waterfalls alone along the Trail of Ten Falls, as well as five more below the confluence of the North and South forks of Silver Creek.

Some of the falls include Elbow Falls, Canyon Falls, Lisp Falls, Sunlight Falls, Winter Falls, Drake Falls, and many more.

silver falls state park

 History of Silver Falls State Park

The history here is quite fascinating, as a once small lumber town known as Silver Falls City, which sat atop the South Falls and was formed in 1888.

In 1900, a photographer named June D. Drake campaigned for park status using his photographs to gain support. Drake Falls was later named after him.

However, in 1926, the area was rejected for park status by an inspector for the National Park Service because of unattractive stumps from years of logging.

RELATED: 13 Top Oregon State Parks You Didn’t Know Existed

silver falls state park

Silver Falls Lodge

It wasn't until 1935 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that Silver Falls would officially become a Recreational Demonstration Area.

The historic South Falls Lodge was completed in the late 1930s and was used as a restaurant from 1946 until the late 50s. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Silver Falls State Park Concession Building Area in 1983.

silver falls state park

Today, the Silver Falls area has over 25 miles of backcountry trails for visitors to enjoy hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and more. If you venture into the more remote park areas, you may even come across bears and cougars.

Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park

Visitors can walk behind three of the ten waterfalls,- North Falls Trailhead, South Falls Trailhead, or Winter Falls Trailhead. This is an awesome experience, especially at South Falls where you can look out through a 177-foot curtain of water.

However, South Falls Trailhead is the best choice as it offers facilities like a cafe, a gift shop, and picnic tables.

  • Trail of 10 Falls Hiking Distance: 7.8 miles for the entire loop trail.
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time to Complete: 2-5 hours
  • Location: Sillver Falls State Park, Oregon
  • Fees: $5
  • Type of Trail: Loop

This lush green trail is a moderate 7.2-mile loop that will take you past ten gorgeous waterfalls. The trail is well maintained and there are benches along the way to sit and rest, making it perfect for the whole family.

There is an overall elevation gain of 800 feet on the trail. For those that would like a shorter hike, there are several connecting trails with separate access points. Here's the total Trail of Ten Falls

  1. Twin Falls
  2. North Falls
  3. Upper North Falls
  4. Winter Trail Falls
  5. Double Falls
  6. Drake Falls
  7. Middle North Falls
  8. South Falls
  9. Lower South Falls
  10. Lower North Falls

The hike is amazing in the summer, but especially stunning in fall when the leaves have begun to change.

For those wishing to see more of the backcountry, Silver Falls State Park offers more than 35 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding.

Take Note : At the South Falls Day-use parking area, there are places to charge EVs.

Expert Hiking Tips:

  1. Begin your hike at the South Falls Picnic Area C parking lot and follow the broad path downstream towards the historic Silver Falls Lodge, built by Civilian Conservation Corps crews in 1940.
  2. After exploring the lodge, continue on the paved trail to the right and switchback down into the canyon behind the 177-foot South Falls.
  3. Don't cross the scenic footbridge unless you're exhausted, as it will only lead you back to the parking lot. Instead, take the unpaved path along the creek.
  4. This path will eventually lead you behind Lower South Falls' broad, 93-foot cascade. Beyond the falls, the trail will fork again.
  5. If you're feeling fatigued, turn right and climb the steepish ridge trail to the canyon rim and parking lot for a 2.8-mile trip. For a longer hike, continue straight and head up the north fork of Silver Creek to 30-foot Lower North Falls.
  6. For the recommended 5.1-mile loop, turn right at the Winter Falls trail junction, climb to the parking area above Winter Falls, and keep right on a 1.6-mile return trail through the woods to the South Falls area, the lodge, and your car.
silver falls state park

Camping At Silver Falls

If you are looking to stay overnight, the main campground offers tent sites, Silver Creek Youth Camp, cabins and RV spots as well.

You can make reservations up to 6 months in advance, and it's important to note that cabin stays require reservations.

The campground offers several amenities, including 48 electrical sites with water (18+ sites open year-round), 43 tent sites with water nearby (seasonal May–Oct.), and 14 cabins (seven pet-friendly, open year-round).

Guests can also take advantage of flush toilets and showers, a dump station (closed for now), and an accessible horse campground for equine lovers.

RELATED: The Best Camping in Oregon: Our Top 50 Places for Rest and Relaxation

The Silver Falls Lodge and Conference Center

During the day the South Falls day-use areas offer visitors spacious lawns, picnic shelters, horseshoe pits, BBQ stands, a playground, and a charming creek. Since the park opened in 1933, visitors have also been using this jaw-dropping park for potlucks, family reunions, and weddings.

The lodge offers a variety of amenities for all visitors to the park. Relax and enjoy comfortable lodging within the wooded setting, or feast at the many catered specialty events. 

Enjoy a preordered meal at the historic dining hall or order a box lunch to take on a hike or to your campsite. They also specialize in hosting special events! Visit their official website here or call 866-575-8875.

Please Note:

  • Check the official site to see what's open at the park, as well as find current rules for visiting. Public health crises', funding issues and natural disasters can cause closures to public lands and state parks.
  • No pets are allowed on the Canyon Trail. Leashed pets are allowed on the other trails within the park.
  • Bears and cougars live in remote areas of the park.
  • Please follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace.
  • Hiking, mountain biking, horse riding and camping are at-your-own-risk activities.
silver falls state park
South Falls at Silver Falls State Park
silver falls state park
silver falls state park
silver falls state park
silver falls state park
The photo I shot on the drive to Silver Falls State Park

Wrap Up

All in all, Silver Falls State Park is the ideal place to experience the best hiking trails this coming year. From beginners and families to avid outdoor enthusiasts, you can find stunning views and diverse terrain–no matter what your experience level is.

Whether you decide to camp, RV, come during daylight hours, or take on a backpacking adventure under the stars—the beauty of Silver Falls State Park is not to be missed.

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Written By Tyler James

Tyler James, founder of That Oregon Life, is a true Oregon native whose love for his state runs deep. Since the inception of the blog in 2013, his unbridled passion for outdoor adventures and the natural beauty of Oregon has been the cornerstone of his work. As a father to two beautiful children, Tyler is always in pursuit of new experiences to enrich his family’s life. He curates content that not only reflects his adventures but also encourages others to set out and create precious memories in the majestic landscapes of Oregon. Tyler's vision and guidance are integral to his role as publisher and editor, shaping the blog into a source of inspiration for exploring the wonders of Oregon.

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