hikes

February 14, 2015

Trail of Ten Waterfalls

Distance: 8.7 miles
Elevation gain: 1,200 ft.
Location: Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

The Trail of 10 Falls hike in Silver Falls State Park is a waterfall lover’s dream. It’s popular and crowded, but with more waterfalls that can be seen on any hike in the region and beautiful creeks running through the entire canyon, it is well worth a visit.

The largest state park in Oregon, Silver Falls includes a large campground, a lodge built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, picnic areas, a conference center, and trails for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling.

Begin this hike at the main trailhead at the busy south end of the park. South Falls (177 ft.), like several of the waterfalls here, has a cavern with a path going behind the waterfall. Walking behind a powerful wall of water is always impressive! The caverns were created by basalt lava that flowed over softer, older rock then hardened. Over time, the softer layers eroded, leaving pathways in these carved out spaces. The paths here are paved, but once you get past South Falls, the trail changes to a packed dirt and gravel path and the crowds thin out.

Continue for just over a half-mile, then descend several switchbacks of stairs to access Lower South Falls (93 ft.), another walk-behind waterfall. A junction with the Maple Ridge Trail allows for a shorter 2.8 mile loop option. For the short option, turn here and head back to the South Falls. Otherwise, continue on the main trail for about another mile to Lower North Falls (30 ft.). A short side trail leads to Double Falls (178 ft.). Back on the main trail, a wooden platform provides a view of Drake Falls (27 ft.), named for Silverton photographer June Drake, who worked for 20 years to get the area designated as a park. Next comes Middle North Falls (106 ft.), which also has a walk-behind cavern accessible via a short side trail.

If opting for a shorter 5.2 mile loop, turn right at the bridge after Middle North Falls and cut through the canyon to Winter Falls. For the full longer loop, continue straight on the trail to Twin Falls (31 ft.), then to spectacular North Falls (136 ft.). Take the short trail crossing under the highway to view secluded Upper North Falls (65 ft.) before heading back along the Rim Trail to Winter Falls (134 ft.). From here, follow the trail through a lovely wooded area with an understory of ferns, Oregon grape and salal back to the parking lot.

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