If asked to describe Silver Falls State Park in one word, I’d call it “wet.” Both misty and mystical, the Trail of Ten Falls packs an unbelievable amount of water into nine miles. Let’s just say you’ll get a little damp, but you’ll barely notice as around each corner, you run into waterfall after majestic waterfall. And yes, there really are 10 waterfalls on this hike, even more if you count the bonus flows that abound during the winter and spring months.
The hike starts in Silver Falls State Park at the South Falls’ day-use area — it’s a great place for a picnic before setting out. The day-use area also hosts the Silver Falls Lodge and Conference Center, a rustic cabin-like building that adds a historic touch to the area. Opened in 1933, the park is on the National Register of Historic Places and features the handiwork of the CCC and the WPA.
You can grab lunch here or wait until the end of your trek if you’re itching to start chasing down waterfalls. The first one roars only a few steps away from the lodge.
South Falls thunders mightily year-round, but the waterfall impresses most in the winter and spring, when peak flow hits and the entire Silver Falls basin gushes with water. As the first waterfall on the circuit, South Falls is impressive. You’ll get to view it from every angle as you hike down and around it.
As you can see from my pictures, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the spray, particularly if it’s also raining. Wipe your camera lens often. If it’s a hot day, the mist will feel wonderful. If it’s cold, make sure to bring extra layers, preferably waterproof ones.
The trail dips behind South Falls’ mighty stream, offering up a thrilling close encounter with the pounding water. The deafening sound of the falls slamming against the rocks is pretty unforgettable. It’s also a good reminder of just how dead you’d be if you tried swimming in it.
This trail takes you up and down, constantly offering something new. One minute you’re down by the calm creek water, and the next you’re at the top of a waterfall.
Next up is Lower South Falls, crashing in at 93 feet tall. Don’t worry, you get to go behind this one, too.
Pictures really don’t do justice to the awesome feeling of standing right next to water flow this intense.
Before you know it, you reach waterfall number three: Lower North Falls.
You’ll never guess what comes next: another waterfall! You have to jump off the main trail to see it, but the extra few tenths of a mile are completely worth it to take in Double Falls.
Double Falls qualifies as a breath-taker. It’s truly a waterfall’s waterfall, shrouded in luscious moss as it tumbles down the rocky cliff face. This is a great spot to stop for a snack break.
Cute little Drake Falls comes next, followed by Middle North Falls, another waterfall you can walk behind. Take a slight diversion off Canyon to blast yourself with Middle North Falls’ spray. Go back the way you came to get back onto Canyon Trail.
After this, you’ll hit a crossroads. You can go right to cut your loop short and book it to Rim Trail, or you can continue following the Canyon Trail on to Twin Falls.
I recommend staying on the Canyon Trail, because otherwise you’ll miss a few waterfalls. Trust me, it’s worth the full nine miles of hiking, and North Falls, which comes after Twin Falls, should not be missed.
Twin Falls comes first, a dainty 31 feet in height.
Oh look, another waterfall! North Falls, measuring in at 136 feet, roars so loud that you have to shout to your hiking partners to be heard. As you hike behind the falls, you submerge into a dark, subterranean environment. It’s murky, wet, and delightful.
Eight down and two to go. You’ll ascend fairly rapidly after this, taking a staircase up to the North Falls parking lot. Follow the signs to Upper North Falls to hit Number Nine. Expect an increase in population for this last leg of the hike, since it’s easily accessible by car.
Push your way through the Oregon mist — you’re almost there!
Number Ten requires a quick jaunt through switchbacks to reach the bottom, where you’ll behold Winter Falls. It’s a lovely cap to this fall-filled excursion.
You’re not quite done yet. Retrace your steps to the top of Winter Falls and hoof it 1.5 miles back to Silver Falls Lodge to get a snack. You’ve earned it!
Tags: oregon, salem, silver falls state park, ten falls, waterfalls, wet