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Silver Falls Perimeter Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mossy vine maples, Perimeter Trail (bobcat)
South Fork Silver Creek, Perimeter Trail (bobcat)
Upper North Falls, Silver Falls State Park (bobcat)
Tall Douglas-firs, Buck Mountain Trail (bobcat)
The Perimeter Loop shown in red (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo



Silver Falls is Oregon’s largest state park at 9,200 acres and thus offers more to the hiker than the canyon hikes to the waterfalls. The southern and eastern area of the park is a forested “backcountry’’ with a network of trails for hikers, bikers, and horses leading along mostly gentle slopes. This long loop uses the Perimeter Trail to head around the borderlands of the park, rising above 2,000 feet, and crosses the upper reaches of Bear Creek, the South Fork Silver Creek, and Howard Creek. Here and there, you will pass groves of ancient Douglas-firs among the mostly secondary woodland. Bears and cougars pass through here, and elk live here, but you're more likely to spot a couple of deer in the lush understory. About halfway through the loop, you'll pass the junction with the Lost Creek Trail, which leads down to the Santiam State Forest's Shellburg Falls Recreation Area and then drop to the salmonberry-choked bottomlands of Howard and Smith Creeks. Close the loop by using the Rackett Ridge Trail to ascend to the Perimeter Trail.

From the North Falls Trailhead, cross the footbridge over the North Fork Silver Creek and walk down to the right, turning left at the creek for the Upper North Falls. The paved trail heads under the road bridge and comes to the Perimeter-Upper North Falls Trail Junction. Head up into woods of Douglas-fir, hemlock, maple and sword fern and cross a footbridge. Make 12 switchbacks up in mossy woods with some larger Douglas-firs. The trail levels, passing a fire road on the right and drops along the track of an old fire road at the crest of a ridge with a salal understory. At a junction, the fire road continues straight, while the Perimeter Trail heads off to the left on the level. Pass through some clearings in secondary forest before you reenter old growth. Cross three small creeks in mossy woods with an understory of vine maple. The trail heads up and makes five switchbacks before it levels and then rises in hemlock woods. There’s a final drop to the Perimeter-Rackett Ridge Trail Junction, which has a map sign.

Here, one takes the center trail (To the right is the Rackett Ridge Trail and to the left is a fire lane) and descends the salal/Douglas-fir hillside. The trail begins to follow an old road bed and reaches an alder bottom, where it crosses a creek. Reenter mossy woods before the trail rises and drops in secondary forest again. Dark snags jut up from an old burn. The path switchbacks twice, traverses down, and switchbacks two more times to cross Bear Creek. After this, traverse a slope. The trail approaches the eastern boundary of the park and a clearcut becomes visible. Switchback twice down to a footbridge over the South Fork Silver Creek. The trail switchbacks up four times, traverses and makes five more switchbacks and another traverse. Switchback one more time and traverse up to cross a small creek. The trail heads up and then levels to reach the wide, four-way Buck Mountain-Perimeter Trail Junction.

Continue straight on the Buck Mountain Trail, descending to cross two solid footbridges over the upper tributaries of Howard Creek. At a junction after the second footbridge, go left on a narrow trail to wind up and then traverse along a sword fern cloaked slope. Soon the trail runs near the ridge crest in secondary Douglas-fir forest with a dense carpet of Oregon grape, sword fern, and salal as it gradually drops to the four-way Buck Mountain-Lost Creek Trail Junction. Keep right on the Buck Mountain Loop and pass the 4-mile marker. Now drop more steeply and cross a creek on a gravel causeway through a salmonberry thicket. Pass a fire road and reach the Buck Mountain-Smith Creek Trail Junction, where you stay right.

The trail narrows under alders and passes through more salmonberries before it gets to the Buck Mountain-Cut Off Trail Junction. Make a gradual descent from here as you walk through a more open, brushy area of lichen-draped ocean spray and hazel. After the 6-mile marker, head through a dense copse of hemlock and traverse down the slope under mossy maples. Cross a creek and then switchback to recross the creek to reach a soggy bench colonized by salmonberry. Come to the Howard Creek-Buck Mountain Trail South Junction and go right and steeply downhill on a graveled track. Cross Howard Creek and head up to reach the Howard Creek-Buck Mountain Trail North Junction. Go right here to head up the slope on a wide track. The Buck Mountain Trail loops up and then drops; you’ll see a short connector leading left which cuts off this meander in the trail. After this, reach the Buck Mountain-Rackett Ridge Tie Trail Junction.

Keep straight (left) here on a fire road with old growth trees towering above. Cross the South Fork Silver Creek on a road bridge, pass a gate, and reach the Rackett Ridge-Rackett Ridge Tie Trail Junction. The Rackett Ridge Trail continues on the right, heading along the south side of the paved road to Camp Silver Creek. The trail reaches the paved road. Go right for 50 yards, crossing a road bridge over a creek, and then resume the trail as it heads up the opposite side of the road. Reach a fire lane and head up to the left, winding up, dropping, and then ascending again. Traverse secondary woods again and reach the ridge crest. Continue to hike up the slope and trend to the right. The trail levels and then rises again among some old growth trees. The road switchbacks twice and proceeds on the level along the ridge in secondary forest of Douglas-fir and salal. There’s one more slight rise to the Perimeter-Rackett Ridge Trail Junction, where one goes left.

Descend the lower three miles of the Perimeter Trail to the Upper North Falls-Perimeter Trail Junction. Since a Silver Falls hike would not be complete without at least one waterfall, take the paved path leading right to the Upper North Falls. Pass below a couple of small spates coming down the bank. Cedars and big-leaf maples dominate this shady valley. At the end of the trail, stop to admire the 65-foot Upper North Falls plunging in a dark bowl and swathed in a mist of their own creation.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $5 day-use fee or $30 State Parks annual pass
  • Dogs on leash
  • Restrooms, information kiosk, fee station, drinking water at trailhead


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

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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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