Updated: May 21, 2015
Guide to Silver Falls State Park in OregonSilver Falls State Park in Central Oregon, near the town of Silverton, is a green oasis of forest and water covering over 9000 acres. Famed for its many scenic waterfalls, the park provides ample opportunities for hiking, swimming, picnicking, camping, or just plain old relaxing and enjoying the quiet sounds of nature. The lovely South Falls Lodge, which is the main center of the park, was built in the 1930s, a time of many public works project to help Americans get out of the Great Depression. The real highlight of this park though is the unique geology that led to all the waterfall formations, and the amazing "overhang" waterfalls that let you walk in and around and behind these thundering falls. Millions of years ago, lava flows covered what used to be seafloors. The softer lower layers eventually partially eroded as the land was lifted into the air, so today, water flowing over the lava outcroppings has a recessed area behind it, allowing trails to go behind some of the waterfalls in a natural amphitheaters, unlike most waterfalls that drop straight down rocky cliff fronts. In this guide, we will take a look at the basic information you need to visit Silver Falls State Park, including some photos, information on maps and camping, and more.
Silver Falls Trail Map - Silver Falls Waterfall MapOf course one of the most popular things to do at Silver Falls is of course to hike and see all the amazing waterfalls. You can see a complete map of Silver Falls showing trails and waterfall locations here. This is the official brochure of the state park, so you will also find maps on how to get to Silver Falls, maps of the campground area, and small photos of the 10 falls found along the main Canyon Trail. The most famous waterfall at the park is South Falls, located right by the lodge, picnic, and day use area. There is a 4 mile paved bike path that starts at the lodge. Since this is an Oregon State Park day-use area, you have to pay a fee for each vehicle entering the park - currently $3 per day. You can also buy an annual pass for $25, or $40 for a 2 year pass. When it comes to hiking, the main trail here is the Trail of Ten Falls, also called the Canyon Trail. Beginning at the South Falls Lodge, the trail follows Silver Creek as it descends past the amazing South Falls (177ft), Lower South Falls (93ft) and Lower North Falls (30ft), before passing Double Falls, Drake Falls, Middle North Falls, Twin Falls, and finally North Falls. From there, the Rim Trail loops you back to the Lodge area. Of course since waterfalls are involved, you spend the first half of the trail walking downhill following the river, and the return trip is uphill. The entire circuit is about 8 miles. Even a short loop from the Lodge to Lower South Falls and back along the Maple Ridge Trail (just over 2 miles) is pretty strenuous on the way back - pretty much uphill, STEEP, all the way, so be warned if you have small children. Below is a picture of South Falls.
Silver Falls State Park Camping - CampsitesCamping at Silver Falls is most crowded during the summer months, given Oregon's notoriously wet fall, winters, and springs. Of course all that rain keeps the park green and the waterfalls flowing, but hiking and camping in the rain and drizzle take a lot of fun out of the activity! Campsites with electrical and water hookups are $20 per night, while tent camping sites run $16. There are 52 electrical hookup sites and 45 tent sites. You can see what campsites are available and reserve and pay for Silver Falls campsites online at their main website, http://www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=151. Making reservations online includes an additional $6 fee. As you enter the campground, sites 1-44 are on your left, with the campground host to your immediate left. There is also a firewood storage area here, where you can buy a small wheelbarrow full of chopped, dry, wood for $5 a load (about 10-12 logs). The campground is laid out a bit like a butterfly, with sites 1-44 in a loop on the left and sites 46-100 in a loop on the right. The left side of the campground surrounds a more open meadowy area, while the right side is more wooded. A small creek runs by the edge of the campground, making the even numbered sites from 46-74 the most desireable, since you have a little more open space around you and access to the creek. On a recent visit, we found ourselves on site 51, on the "inside" of the right-hand loop. The problem here is that these sites in the middle are fairly small and cramped, with a footpath running down the center, and neighbors to all sides. As luck would have it, we had some bozos that had to start the engine of a very rough running RV at night to power their generator or something, so our sleep was broken by a ridiculous amount of noise. If you can, book a spot on the outside of the loops so no one is behind you, giving you less noise and more privacy. There is usually some nightly, ranger-led activity at the nearby amphitheater (a 1 minute walk) - great for kids and a good way to kill 30-40 minutes between dinnertime, campfire time, and bedtime. You'll find full bathroom facitilities here, including showers, making multi-day stays fairly easy and convenient. With all the hiking and water activities here, a 2 day campout is just about perfect, giving you time to do a hike or two each day and also have plenty of time to just hang out.
Here is a another shot of South Falls.