Silver Falls State Park, Oregon


We’ve had a string of unusually warm and sunny days, and today I decided to drive down to Silver Falls State Park, located about 30 miles southeast from Silverton on OR-214.  At 9,064 acres it is Oregon’s largest state park.  There are about 25 miles of trails, but the highlight is the Trail of Ten Falls, which loops around the North and South forks of Silver Creek.  The two tributaries have carved canyons through several hundred feet of basalt flows, creating ten waterfalls in the process.

I started at the North Falls Trailhead.  About a quarter of a mile to the east is the 65-foot Upper North Falls.  Along the way, I saw these thin “blades” of bark from a hollowed-out tree.

I went back to the bridge at the trailhead, and continued west to the top of the 136-foot North Falls.  From there the trail soon begins to descend into the canyon via stone steps.  In places the trail is just a narrow pass between the basalt cliff and the Fence At The Edge Of Infinity.

The trail doubles back a short distance and then curves around an open cave behind the falls.

The acoustics of the cave make the sound of the falls even more thunderous than usual.

I retraced my steps back up to the trailhead, about 3/10ths of a mile.  In order to save about a mile of hiking, I had decided to drive to the North Falls Group Camp and pick up the trail from there.  I don’t think you’re supposed to park at the Group Camp unless you are camping, but the place was deserted.  In hindsight, adding the backtrack from North Falls to what turned out to be a steep 3/10ths-mile descent from the campground, I don’t think I really did myself any favors.  I should have just continued along the Canyon Trail.  By the way, the park website describes the trail as ”…a moderate hike with 800-feet elevation variation, sturdy shoes and a camera are encouraged.” 

Silver Falls City, Oregon began around 1888 near the top of South Falls, where the main entrance to the park is today.  The future parklands were heavily logged except some areas down in the canyon.  A photographer named June Drake began to campaign for a national or state park around 1900, but the National Park Service rejected the idea due to the unattractive stumps from logging.  Finally during the 1930’s, after the town was almost uninhabited, the state began buying property for a park and the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Projects Administration cleared trails, planted trees, and built facilities.  The original park acreage was much smaller than it is today; more land has been added over the decades.