Tucked in the Cascade Range’s western foothills, Oregon’s largest state park boasts our most dazzling collection of waterfalls. Ranging in height from 27 feet up to 178 feet, the park’s star attractions carve through the thickly forested walls of Silver Creek Canyon in an area known as the Trail of Ten Falls, where hikers can spend the day getting up close to, and sometimes behind, 10 silvery giants. The park is among the region’s most heavily visited, but come November, when cooler weather and rain tend to thin the crowds, falls such as the aptly named, 134-foot Winter Falls, which relies on winter runoff, are just beginning to hit their peak.
ROUTE: The park’s series of tumbling falls can be accessed from multiple points along Rte 214, including both the South Falls and the North Falls Trailheads. Hikers who want to take in all the falls should pick up a Silver Falls State Park trail map, available at the trailhead. For more information, visit the South Falls Lodge—grab an espresso and warm up beside a towering stone hearth while you’re there—or go to www.silverfallspark.org.
If you opt to visit all of the falls, begin at the South Falls Trailhead, where the surge of Silver Creek welcomes you to Oregon’s most-visited state park. The trail follows the creek as it cuts through a canyon of mossy rock, delivering you to gape-inducing sights like the Middle North Falls, a 106-foot sheet of thundering white water so powerful you’ll feel its breeze and its spray from several hundred feet away. By taking a dirt footpath from the main trail, you can view the glittering fury from a cave directly behind it—just be prepared to get wet. For a gentler sight, stop by the park’s tallest cascade, Double Falls, where a slender stream tumbles 178 feet into a shallow pool. It’s a grand spot to pull up a rock, unpack your picnic, and revel in the refreshing mist.
DIRECTIONS: Take I-5 through Salem and turn east onto Rte 22. Continue five miles and take Exit 7 to Rte 214 and turn left. Go 4.5 miles to a stop sign and turn left to stay on Rte 214. Continue just over 12 miles to the entrance of Silver Falls State Park. Once inside the park, take the South Falls turnoff to the left, which leads to a parking area. A $3 day-use permit, available at the trailhead, is required.