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Silver Falls Upper Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

North Falls from above (Steve Hart)
Upper North Falls (Steve Hart)
North Falls from the North Falls Viewpoint (Steve Hart)
Winter Falls (Steve Hart)
The upper loop at Silver Falls State Park (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: North Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Canyon-Winter Trail Junction
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop with spur
  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 380 feet
  • High point: 1510 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round (best in spring)
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes
Falling

Contents

Hike Description

You can see all the waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park in two trips if the Trail of Ten Falls Loop Hike seems a little daunting. The upper loop described here keeps you to the North Fork of Silver Creek and its drainages, taking in four of the ten waterfalls although another four are only a half-mile diversion away. Like all loops this hike can be done in either direction. See the Silver Falls Lower Loop Hike for a description of the hike around the other end of the canyon.

First, take the 0.3 mile spur to Upper North Falls. From the parking area, take the footbridge over the North Fork Silver Creek, and turn right and then right again to pass under the footbridge and then the road bridge. Reach the junction with the Perimeter Trail, and keep left. The trail heads along the North Fork Silver Creek, crossing a few small streams, to the wide, shallow pool below the Upper North Falls, 65 feet tall. This isn't the largest waterfall in the park, but it's more remote than most, and it makes a fine morning introduction. Here you can see all of the standard features of Silver Creek waterfalls. The water cascades off a basalt cliff formed by ancient lava flows. You can see pieces of rock that have fallen from above and the beginnings of a cave-like grotto behind the waterfall.

After whetting your appetite, return to the footbridge, and keep left at the next two junctions. For the next mile, you'll be above the canyon on the Rim Trail. The park road is never far away, and soon you'll come to the North Falls Viewpoint. From here, you can look deep into the canyon at North Falls (The view may be better if you make a quick scramble up to the highway turnout.). In the next half-mile, you'll pass a couple of small meadows and arrive at the Winter Falls Trailhead.

Turn right 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. Middle North Falls, Drake Falls, Lower North Falls and Double Falls are all accessible by hiking less than a half mile to the left.

For this hike, turn right and head up the North Fork of Silver Creek. In 3/10 of a mile, a short loop leads to a side on view of 31 foot Twin Falls, a pretty, if smaller waterfall that gets its name from a large block of rock in the center of the stream that splits the flow into two forks. In dry summers, only one of the channels will actually be flowing. After a big rainstorm in spring, Twin Falls may appear as a single roaring drop.

Continuing up the North Fork, pass the trail that leads up to the North Falls Group Camp. Then hike through a salmonberry thicket shaded by red alder and big-leaf maple. You'll encounter a couple of seasonal waterfalls in this section during the winter and spring months. Large boulders decorated with moss and licorice fern lie in the creek. Then you'll get a frontal view of North Falls. North Falls is one of the very large falls in the park at 136 feet. Just as amazing is the huge grotto behind the waterfall. Millennia ago, lava flows buried softer soils here and even the trees that grew here. In more recent times, the waterfall has eroded away the softer material, while the hard basalt remained intact, creating the cave-like area behind the falls. There are vertical holes extending up from the grotto where the lava cooled around the trees as they burned.

The trail circles behind North Falls and starts up a long series of stairs. At the top of the stairs is the junction with the Rim Trail that you passed earlier. Go left to return to your car.

Maps

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • $5.00 day-use fee or State Park Pass
  • No dogs on the canyon portion of the hike (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

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.