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Silver Falls Lower Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

South Falls (Steve Hart)
Middle North Falls (Steve Hart)
North Falls (Steve Hart)

Contents

Hike Description

There are a number of loop hikes in Silver Falls State Park. This is probably the most popular loop taking in 7 of the 10 major waterfalls. It can be hiked in either direction, but if you're like me and want to hurry through the boring section go this way. If you're late in the day, go the other way and hike back after dark.

Start at the South Falls Lodge Trailhead, in parking lot A. You'll start out in a generally eastward direction on the Rim Trail. At mile 0.1, you'll cross a side road, and at mile 0.5, you'll cross the bike trail. From here, you'll parallel the bike trail and Highway 214. At mile 0.7, you'll walk on the bike path for a short distance and at 0.9 there's a side trail connecting to the highway. When you get to the Winter Falls Trailhead at mile 1.1, the roadside strolling is over.

Turn left on the Winter Trail and start down the steep hill. One switchback, a quarter mile and 200 feet lower, you'll come to the base of Winter Falls. Winter Falls gets its name from the fact that it only runs in the winter. In reality, it runs most of the year, although it does slow to a trickle in the late summer. Continue beyond Winter Falls another 3/10 of a mile and you'll come to a modern steel bridge over the North Fork of Silver Creek. Just across the bridge you'll come to a junction with the Canyon Trail. Twin Falls is 3/10 of a mile to the right, if you're up for a side trip.

To continue the loop, turn left and head down the Canyon Trail. Now, you're in the highest density of waterfalls anywhere in the northwest. It's only a few steps to the top of Middle North Falls. The cliffside lookout here is currently closed do to tree damage, but the view is fine from the trail. In another tenth of a mile, there's a side trail that goes behind the falls. A bit further down the trail is your last view of Middle North Falls, but it's a dramatic one. Just around the corner is Drake Falls, best viewed from a wooden viewing platform next to the trail. Take a few more strides and you'll be on a footbridge over Hullt Creek. Looking down the creek, you'll see the lip of Lower South Falls. Pause here and look up the side canyon to the right and you'll see Double Falls. There's a side path that leads the short 1/10 of a mile to Double Falls. Back on the Canyon Trail, you'll continue past a gorgeous look back at Lower South Falls and then you'll cross another footbridge over the North Fork.

Next comes a brief climb, followed by a leisurely stroll down the creek. After the rush of all the falls, the pleasant, yet non-dramatic creekside stroll is almost a welcome relief. There's a beautiful side waterfall falling from the cliff across the creek that only flows in the winter and spring. Eventually the trail climbs a bit to a junction with the Maple Ridge Trail. Go straight ahead here, drop to the South Fork of Silver Creek and proceed up the South Fork Canyon.

Soon, you'll come to Lower South Falls. The creek plunges off of a lava lip in a wide sheet here. Like most waterfalls, Lower South Falls is more dramatic in the winter and spring when water flows are highest. Maps make it seem that there is a nearby trail bridge here. The reality is much more interesting as the trail loops behind the waterfall itself in a large cave like grotto. After crossing behind the waterfall, the trail climbs several switchbacks of stairs and continues upstream.

After a long half mile, the trail comes to the most popular waterfall in the park, South Falls. South Falls is the second highest waterfall in the park and it's the highest single drop. Though the Canyon Trail crosses a bridge here and heads up the canyon wall, an alternate route crosses behind the waterfall in yet another natural grotto. There's even a bench here, to rest on, inside the grotto. South Falls rates as one of the most photographed waterfalls in Oregon, along with Multnomah Falls and Punchbowl Falls. After passing the falls, the trail climbs the side of the canyon, providing several beautiful looks back at South Falls. There's a short spur trail to Frenchie Falls, which is a tiny drop that stops completely in the summer. Soon you'll come to the trail junction you passed earlier and a quick stroll brings you back to your car.

Maps

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • State Park Pass required. $5.00 daily at the parking lot gatekeeper.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Afoot and Afield Portland/Vancouver, by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades - 3rd Edition, by William L Sullivan
  • Silver Falls Park in Oregon by Mark & Diane Pearson (Kindle)

More Links


Contributors

Double Falls (Steve Hart)
Middle North Falls (Steve Hart)
South Falls (Steve Hart)
Winter Falls (Steve Hart)
Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.