15 Feb Oregon’s Best-Kept Secret: Silver Falls State Park
Hopefully it’s not a secret to other Oregonians, but I do wonder if many outside of the Pacific Northwest even know that Silver Falls exists. If we’re comparing natural beauty, this state park easily contends with big name destinations on a global scale.
Although it’s also Oregon’s largest state park, perhaps it has yet to gain its world renown because it’s not particularly close to any other major destinations. (Not that I’d want it to become world famous and draw in too many tourists, but it certainly could- it’s that amazing. Lord of the Rings could have been filmed here.)
Silver Falls State Park was one of the first stops we made when returning to Oregon after 2+ years abroad in the Peace Corps, and we’ve made numerous visits both before and after.
If you haven’t been, here’s what you’re missing. (Please excuse the photo quality – I only had my phone on me this time.)
- 10+ waterfalls within the 9,000 acre park
- You can walk behind two of the waterfalls
- Hikes with waterfall views range from a few hundred yards to the 9-mile “Trail of Ten Falls” (not counting backcountry trails)
- Day pass: $5 per car
- Nearest towns: Stayton and Silverton, Oregon
- Park includes: campsite, picnic shelters, playground, lodge, and conference center
One thing I was reminded of on this past visit was that this place is perpetually green, no matter the season, thanks to the vibrant moss, ferns, and evergreen trees. Another thing that is pretty common year-round is that the trail gets a bit mucky. If there has been rain any time in the previous week, make sure you wear shoes that can get a little wet and/or dirty.
When it comes to hiking in the park, there is something to suit just about every ambition. If you want minimal exertion, take the flat, paved path from the main (South) parking lot to the look-out above South Falls. Go just a few yards down on the trail and you’ll have one of the best waterfall views in the State.
For a quick trip with some elevation change, continue around the loop (about 0.5 miles) at the base of the South Falls. You’ll even get to walk behind the waterfall if you want.
The next level up would be hiking from the main South Falls to the Lower South Falls, in which you have the opportunity to walk behind both waterfalls. You can make a 2-3 mile loop by returning to the parking lot via the Maple Ridge Trail.
To add five more waterfalls to your trip, hike past the Lower South Falls and cut back on the Winter Trail and Rim Trail for a 5-6mile loop. The full Trail of Ten Falls loop is about 9 miles and can be accessed from either the North or the South Falls parking lots.
Main South Falls (just steps from the parking lot)
Lower South Falls
Trail along the South Fork of Silver Creek
Moss illuminated by sunlight on South Falls trail
Need a place to stay around Silver Falls? Search here for a nearby hotel or hostel (Disclosure: we will get a commission on your booking, at no additional cost to you). Or find a cool apartment to rent on Airbnb.com – check Silver Falls or Silverton, Oregon. Sign up for a new Airbnb account with this link and for a limited time, you can get up to $40 off your first booking!
If you get a chance to visit Silver Falls State Park, I can’t recommend it highly enough. You won’t find a better destination to witness the best of Oregon’s natural beauty, in my opinion.
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