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Silver Falls Lower Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

South Falls (Steve Hart)
Silver Falls Lodge, Silver Falls State Park (bobcat)
Big Douglas-fir on the Rim Trail, Silver Falls State Park (bobcat)
Middle North Falls (Steve Hart)
The South Fork Silver Creek in winter (bobcat)
The route of the lower loop at Silver Falls State Park (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: MapBuilder Topo
Falling

Contents

Hike Description

This loop takes in seven of the ten major waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park, Oregon's largest state park. They include the highest waterfall in the park, narrow Double Falls at 178 feet in two drops, and the waterfall with the highest single drop, South Falls, which plunges 177 feet over a basalt overhang. Lower South Falls is similar to South Falls, and you get to walk behind both of these waterfalls. Middle North Falls is the third plunge on this loop which you can walk behind, and Lower North Falls is a pretty sliding spill on the North Fork Silver Creek. Drake Falls is another slide waterfall, while Winter Falls ranges from a wispy spray at the end of summer to a pretty drop during the wet season. The loop can be hiked in either direction: This description takes you along the rim of the canyon first before you descend to begin viewing all the waterfalls.

Walk past the restrooms and nature store to pass in front of the South Falls Lodge, which has a small cafeteria. Bear right to follow a trail which displays interpretive signs on the history of Silver Falls State Park. You'll head through a picnic area and pass Parking Area A, which is closed in winter. Cross a road to begin the Rim Trail, which heads in a generally eastward direction. Enter a magnificent cathedral-like old-growth forest of towering Douglas-firs and hemlocks. At mile 0.5, you'll cross a 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. After you pass the small swamp near the lip of Winter Falls, you'll arrive at the Winter Falls Trailhead at mile 1.1.

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 belief 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 along Winter Creek, shaded by hemlocks and maples and choked with salmonberry. 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. Otherwise, make a left to begin your descent along the North Fork of Silver Creek.

You're now in the highest density of waterfalls anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. It's only a few steps to pass near the top of Middle North Falls. In another tenth of a mile, there's a side trail that goes behind the 106 foot high falls. This side trail continues along the slope to an overhang where you can shelter from the rain and get a good look back at the falls. A little farther down the trail is your last view of Middle North Falls, but it's a dramatic one framed by mossy maples. Just around the corner, also on the North Fork, is the single 27 foot drop of 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 North Falls. Pause here to look up Hullt Creek's 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 two-tiered Double Falls, actually the tallest waterfall in the park at 178 feet. In late summer, Double Falls can be a disappointing trickle.

Back on the Canyon Trail, you'll continue past a gorgeous look back at 30 foot Lower North Falls. Cross a footbridge over the North Fork, and switchback up, passing above a constriction in the creek at a basalt overhang. Undulate along above the creek, and pass a fire road leading up to the left. Duck under a bowed yew, and head up through a mossy thicket of vine maple. Reach the junction with the Maple Ridge Trail, and go right (There's a bench here to rest on if you're so inclined.).

Switchback down 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. 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 in mossy woods of Douglas-fir, hemlock, cedar, and big-leaf maple with a dense understory of salmonberry, Oregon grape, sword fern, and salal, the trail arrives at a splendid view of the most popular waterfall in the park, South Falls. South Falls is the second highest waterfall in the park at 177 feet, and it has the highest single drop. Though the Canyon Trail crosses a bridge here and heads up the canyon wall, keep right on an alternate route that crosses behind the waterfall in yet another natural grotto. There's even a bench inside the grotto. South Falls rates as one of the most photographed waterfalls in Oregon, along with Multnomah Falls and Punch Bowl Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. 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 left to Frenchie Falls, which is a tiny drop that stops completely in the summer. Soon you'll come to the South Falls Viewpoint to get an oblique view of the waterfall. Head in from here to pass the South Falls Lodge, nature store, and restrooms to reach your car.


Maps

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • $5.00 day-use fee or State Park Pass
  • No dogs on the canyon portion of the Trail of Ten Falls (Dogs permitted on Rim Trail)
  • Campground, picnic areas, restrooms, cafeteria, nature store, interpretive signs

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades by William L Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Silver Falls Park in Oregon by Mark & Diane Pearson (Kindle)
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson

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.

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