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Trail of Ten Falls Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

TKO put tools to trail here.png
South Falls (Steve Hart)
South Falls Lodge (RSDW)
Big Douglas-fir on the Rim Trail, Silver Falls State Park (bobcat)
Turkeytails on a rotting log (bobcat)
Double Falls, on Hullt Creek (bobcat)
Middle North Falls (Steve Hart)
On the North Fork Silver Creek in winter, Canyon Trail (bobcat)
Trail of Ten Falls route
  • Start point: South Falls Lodge TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Upper North Falls
  • Trail log: Trail Log
  • Hike type: Loop with a spur
  • Distance: 7.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1300 feet
  • High point: 1,590 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year (best in spring)
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

Silver Falls State Park is the crown jewel of the Oregon State Parks system, being both Oregon's largest State Park (9,000 acres) and boasting one of America's most impressive waterfall day-hikes. There are no less than ten falls on this 7.8 mile loop, which can be reduced via two cutoff trails, and most of them are flat-out gorgeous. Unfortunately, while the hike is not very strenuous (most folks will handle the rolling elevation, with about 1,300 feet of total accumulation, in three to five hours.), dogs are not allowed on the Canyon Trail portion of the hike—which is where the waterfalls are found. Unless it's a foul-weather day in the middle of a week in winter, count on seeing plenty of other visitors on the trail.

Visitors also are bound to appreciate South Falls Lodge, which isn't particularly large and doesn't provide accommodations, but features a cafeteria and seating in a rustic space that smells of firewood smoke and stone walls. Silver Falls was designated as a "Recreational Demonstration Area" by President Roosevelt in 1934 and developed as a park by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which included the lodge's construction. Before that, it was the life passion of June D. Drake, a Silverton-area photographer who led a 20-year campaign to designate the area a park. For his efforts, one of the ten falls here bears his name.

The description below takes you in a counterclockwise direction, beginning with a hike along the rim of the canyon. Alternatives are to hike clockwise by first visiting South Falls or to begin the hike from the North Falls Trailhead.

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. The roadside strolling is half over at this point. Continuing on the Rim Trail, you'll pass a couple of small meadows and, half a mile from the Winter Falls Trailhead, 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.) From here, it's a quick walk to a trail junction to which you'll return. Make a right, and then where you meet the path that leads to the North Falls Trailhead, stay left.

Hike down alongside the creek and under a pedestrian bridge 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. As pretty as "Upper North" is, don't get too distracted. You've got nine more to go!

Return to the highway and the trail junctions. Go right at the second junction after the road bridge, signed as the Canyon Trail for North Falls, and start down. There are a lot of stairs to descend, but you'll be amply rewarded by the views of North Falls. North Falls is one of the very tall 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 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 the waterfall through the grotto, and then heads down the north side of the creek.

It's about a mile heading down the North Fork Silver Creek to the next waterfall. Large mossy boulders lie in the creek below North Falls. In the winter, you'll also encounter a couple of small seasonal falls in this section. Pass through a salmonberry thicket shaded by red alder and big-leaf maple, and keep left at the trail that leads up to the North Falls Group Camp. 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. The Twin Falls Trail leads up from here about half a mile to the North Falls Group Camp and the new (2023) North Canyon Trailhead.

Next come to another trail junction, this time with the Winter Trail. Winter Falls is only 3/10 of a mile across the creek on this trail. Go left to cross a footbridge and head up along a creek shaded by hemlocks and maples and choked with salmonberry. The trail rises to a bench at a switchback close to the 134 foot Winter Falls. Winter Falls is a great show in the winter and spring, but it merely trickles in late summer. It's well worth the side trip, though, if the water levels are high enough.

Returning to the main loop, head down the Canyon Trail. Now, you're 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 further 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, western hemlock, western red-cedar, and big-leaf maple with an understory of salmonberry, Oregon grape, sword fern, and salal, the trail comes to 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.


Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • $5.00 day-use fee or State Parks Pass
  • No dogs on the canyon portion of the Trail of Ten Falls
  • 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
  • 52 Hikes for 52 Weeks by Franziska Weinheimer (Hike Oregon)
  • I Heart Oregon (& Washington) by Lisa D. Holmes
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Extraordinary Oregon! by Matt Reeder
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Oregon Hiking by Matt Wastradowski
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Craig Hill & Matt Wastradowski
  • Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Hike It Baby by Shanti Hodges
  • Hiking Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hike America: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Best Hikes Near Portland, Oregon by Fred Barstad
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Hikes: Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon's History by William L. Sullivan
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • 100 Oregon Hiking Trails by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 60 Hiking Trails: Central Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • Best Trail Runs: Portland, Oregon by Adam W. Chase, Nancy Hobbs, and Yassine Dibboun
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Silver Falls Park in Oregon by Mark & Diane Pearson (Kindle)
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson

More Links


North Falls (Steve Hart)
Behind Middle North Falls (Steve Hart)
North Falls (Steve Hart)
Double Falls (Steve Hart)
Winter Falls (Steve Hart)
South Falls (Steve Hart)
Drake Falls (Steve Hart)
Lower North Falls (RSDW)
South Falls Lodge (RSDW)
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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