Hike of the Month

Hike of the Month: Trail of 10 Falls at Silver Falls State Park

A stunner year-round, the picturesque waterfall trail at Silver Falls State Park is bursting with color in autumn.

By Michelle Harris

Upper North Falls, part of the Trail of 10 Falls at Silver Falls State Park

Some parks boast one glorious waterfall that bestows bragging rights aplenty. But Silver Falls State Park is Oregon’s upstager extraordinaire, packing 10 waterfalls into one scenic trail loop that threads through Technicolor foliage in the fall, from red alder to yellow-hued maple.

Clocking in as our largest state park at 9,200 acres, Silver Falls makes up a huge swath of land once inhabited by members of the Kalapuya and Molalla tribes. A small logging town existed here for a few decades, with a hotel, tavern, and blacksmith shop, but it had been abandoned by the time the area was converted into a park in the 1930s. A product of the Great Depression, unemployed men were hired through the Civilian Conservation Corps to construct park trails, bridges, and buildings, with more than 5,000 acres added to the park by 1948. Silver Falls State Park now includes hiking and horse-riding trails, fishing, swimming, and camping.

The Trail of 10 Falls loop can be accessed from any of the four trailheads. Our tip? Park at the South Falls Day Use Area, the largest lot, with a fee station in case you aren’t already packing a state parks annual parking pass. It’s right near the historic South Falls Lodge, where you can warm up by a cozy fire while enjoying hot chocolate and nibbles from the adjoining café after your hike.

A short walk from the lodge is rewarding on its own, but you’ll want to carve out at least three hours if you aim to complete the entire loop. From the parking lot and lodge, you’ll pass the South Falls Nature Store, a shop inside a rustic cabin, on the way to the overlook for South Falls. The 177-foot waterfall was the site of a dramatic stunt in 1928, when “Daredevil Al” Faussett plunged over the cascade in a dugout canoe—he survived the drop but (to no surprise) was badly injured.

The trail meanders down through the canyon and eventually ducks right behind South Falls, one of the four waterfalls on this trail you can walk behind—spoiler alert, you will get wet. To stay on the 10 Falls loop, follow the Canyon Trail, which passes by the bulk of the waterfalls, cascading down basalt rock and even more magnificent given the splash of autumn colors as a backdrop. Keep an eye out for wildlife, especially Steller’s jays hiding in the trees. Don’t forget to take the spur trail to admire Upper North Falls if you want to mark off the full 10, and then complete the loop by veering onto the Rim Trail.

Post-Hike Watering Hole

Head to Silverton’s quaint downtown, a 20-minute drive from the park, for pints and burgers at Silver Falls Brewery, where you’ll find a variety of craft beers on tap. Order a Double Falls IPA while you’re at it to keep the theme alive.

  • Drive Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • Distance: 7.2-mile loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Permit: $5 day use parking fee
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