Great Oregon Hikes: Silver Falls State Park

I got out this week to do one of the best hikes in Oregon at one of the best times to do it: Silver Falls State Park in spring.

Lower South Falls on the Canyon Trail.
Lower South Falls on the Canyon Trail.

The water is raging. The trees are brilliant green. The temperature is perfect. The crowds aren’t bad — yet. Granted, I did this on a Wednesday, which I recommend, but there is hardly a better place to be.

There are a few trails here, but the one everybody wants to do is the Canyon Trial, aka Trail of 10 Falls, which kind of speaks for itself. It’s a seven-mile loop that visits 10 waterfalls — actually more in the spring — without too much effort. But here’s the thing” You totally don’t have to do seven miles to be amazed. Hell, you barely need to start down the trail!

In fact, we did about a five-mile loop, since traffic out of Portland was triple heinous, and I knew it would be bad on the way back. Point is, there are several options for cutting this thing short if you’re not up for seven miles.

One important note: Your dog cannot go on the Canyon Trail, on leash or not.

Related: What are the Best Waterfall Hikes Near Portland?

South Falls
South Falls

The trailhead for this one is at South Falls in Silver Falls State Park. It’s about a 90-minute drive from the middle of Portland, unless traffic sucks; use Google Maps to get there, and consider stopping for a coffee or snack in Mount Angel or Silverton on the way.

The trailhead (where it’s $5 to park your car; cards accepted) is in a historic area, where Oregon State Parks built a whole recreation center back in the early 20th Century. The original buildings survive to this day, including the gift shop and the magnificent South Falls Lodge, with its fireplace and amazing furniture, all hewn from two(!) myrtle logs that had to be dried in a kiln at Oregon State University for a month. They are still there, and they have never warped.

By the way, one of the loggers that worked in the area in 1922? Clark Gable. I shit you not; look for it in interpretive signs around.

Get yourself a coffee at the lodge, or wait until after when you will want to relax by the real wood fireplace. Or do both! Either way, head down the paved trail for 177-foot South Falls.

You can enjoy the amazing view of this one without setting foot on the trail, although for this particular view (and the one just above) you’ll need to go about a minute down:

(Videos from my Youtube Channel)

It is certainly worth it to go behind the falls; you can make a loop of this in 0.6 mile.

The next falls, Lower South, is 0.7 mile down the trail:

You can go behind this one, too — and check out the rainbow in the spray!

A quarter-mile past this is another chance to cut the hike off, making for a two-mile loop.

We kept going, past 30-foot Lower North Falls (the picture at the top of this post), 178-foot Double Falls, 27-foot Drake Falls, and then 103-foot Middle North Falls. All of that is within about 3.5 miles of the South Falls trailhead. We took the turn towards Winter Falls, passed under a ridiculously large tree that fell across the trail, and were sitting by the fireplace 1.5 miles later.

Giant Douglas Fir along the Rim Trail
Giant Douglas Fir along the Rim Trail

If you want to add the rest of the falls, you would stay on the trail just past Middle North Falls, you’ll pass a great picnic site at Twin Falls, and then North Falls, which with South Falls is the other great site in the park. You can also go behind it in a huge natural amphitheater. Adding 0.4 miles out and back past that to Upper North Falls, then coming all the way back on the Rim Trail — that’s the 7-mile loop.

Oh, and the Rim Trail alone is worth hiking, for some of the biggest and most beautiful trees you can see anywhere in Oregon for very little effort. You could just start up it form the Lodge area and see them in less than a mile.

When in doubt, get a map at the Lodge, or, I know … buy my book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland!

Here is my Gaia track, which you can see in full here. We did 5.2 miles in a very relaxed 2 hours, 45 minutes, and a total elevation gain of 795 feet, which is broken up into five or six small inclines. Super chill.

And now, here is the photo gallery:

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