Falls at Silver Falls State Park welcomes many visitors.
Photo by William Sullivan
to Silver Falls State Park
canyon with 10 waterfalls
the Hike: The popular trail through Silver Falls State Park's
forested canyons visits 10 spectacular waterfalls, five more than
100 feet high. The path even leads through mossy caverns behind
the falls' shimmering silver curtains.This loop is suitable for
families with beginning hikers because side trails provide shortcuts
back to the car. Dogs are not allowed on the trail.
The full loop to see all 10 waterfalls (from South Falls to North
Falls) is a moderate hike of 6.9 miles, gaining 700 feet of elevation,
but the recommended shortcut (omitting Twin and North Falls) trims
the loop to 5.1 miles.
a shorter, 2.8-mile loop, turn back after Lower South Falls. For
an even shorter 0.7-mile tour, simply loop to the bridge at the
base of South Falls.
Open all year. The park is usually snow-free even in mid-winter,
but the falls are still quite full and the wildflowers are at their
best from late March to May.
There: From Interstate 5 exit 253 in Salem, drive 10 miles east
on North Santiam Highway 22, turn left at a sign for Silver Falls
Park, and follow Highway 214 for 16 miles to the park entrance sign
at South Falls.
from the north, exit Interstate 5 at Woodburn and follow Highway
214 southeast through Silverton 30 miles.
the South Falls parking complex, follow signs to Picnic Area C,
and park at the far end of the lot.
A special $3-per-car fee is charged to park anywhere in the state
Tips: From the South Falls Picnic Area C parking lot, follow
a broad path downstream a few hundred yards to historic Silver Falls
Lodge, built by Civilian Conservation Corps crews in 1940. After
inspecting this rustic stone-and-log building, continue a few hundred
yards to an overlook of 177-foot South Falls. From here take a paved
trail to the right. Then switchback down into the canyon and behind
the trail to the foot bridge near the Middle North Falls.
by William Sullivan
hundred yards beyond South Falls is a junction at a scenic footbridge.
Don't cross the bridge unless you're truly tired, because that route
merely returns to the car. Instead take the unpaved path along the
creek. This path eventually switchbacks down and behind Lower South
Falls' broad, 93-foot cascade.
Lower South Falls the trail forks again. If you're wearing down,
you can turn right and climb the steepish ridge trail to the canyon
rim and parking lot, for a total trip length of 2.8 miles.
you're ready for a longer hike continue straight, heading up the
north fork of Silver Creek to 30-foot Lower North Falls. At a footbridge
just above the falls, take a 250-yard side trail to admire tall,
thin Double Falls. Then continue on the main trail past Drake and
Middle North Falls to the Winter Falls trail junction.
this point, turn right for the recommended 5.1-mile loop. This path
climbs to a parking area above Winter Falls. From there, keep right
on a 1.6-mile return trail through the woods to the South Falls
area, the lodge, and your car.
Silver Falls City, platted here in 1888, was an early center for
logging and some fairly unsuccessful homestead farming. Future US
President Herbert Hoover surveyed some of the land here while serving
as a young engineer.
inside Silver Falls Lodge, built in 1940.
1900, June Drake, a Silverton photographer, began pushing for park
status. His early photographs of the falls have become classics.
An inspector for the National Park Service rejected the area for
national park status in 1926, however, because logging had scarred
the area with "thousands of stumps that from a distance look like
so many dark headstones."
that, the private owner of South Falls charged admission to let
people watch as he floated derelict cars over the falls. In 1928
a paying audience watched daredevil Al Faussett canoe over 177-fout
South Falls. He had to spend months afterward in a hospital, recovering
from his injuries.
1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that Silver Falls
would be one of his largest Recreational Demonstration Projects.
He bought private land and employed young men in the Civilian Conservation
Corps to develop park facilities. Since then the forest has regrown
so that most visitors do not even notice that the area was once
All waterfalls in the park spill over 15-million-year-old Columbia
River basalt. At that time the Columbia River flowed through this
area to the sea at what is now Newport. Repeated lava flows poured
down the river channel from vents in Eastern Oregon, gradually pushing
the river northward. As the lava slowly cooled, it sometimes fractured
to form the honeycomb of columns visible on cliff edges. Circular
indentations in the ceilings of the misty caverns behind the falls
are tree wells, formed when the lava flows hardened around burning
trees. The churning of Silver Creek gouged the soft soil from beneath
the harder lava, leaving these caverns and casts.