Silver Falls State Park has one of the most incredible waterfall hikes to be found in Oregon or anywhere else in North America. Trail of Ten Falls takes a tour of Silver Creek Canyon, passing ten beautiful waterfalls and a high number of cascades and other waterfalls that pop up in winter and spring. The 7.9-mile loop was built to deliver plenty of excitement along the way and actually takes hikers behind four of the waterfalls as they pour over basalt cliffs. The spectacular South Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park at 177 feet. The cavernous area behind North Falls makes that waterfall memorable too. Which waterfall will be your favorite?
Trail of Ten Falls is 7.9 miles round trip with 600 vertical feet between its high and low points (and numerous ups and downs along the way). If you’re short on time and don’t mind only seeing 8 waterfalls, the loop could be shortened to 6.8 miles round trip by removing the spurs to Upper North Falls and Winter Falls. Note: An even shorter loop to just South Falls and Lower South Falls is also possible on Maple Ridge Loop.
Trail of Ten Falls passes three trailheads by South Falls, North Falls, and Winter Falls. Hiking the loop in a clockwise direction starting from South Falls Lodge, the waterfalls along the Trail of Ten Falls are, in order of appearance, South Falls (177 feet tall), Lower South Falls (93 feet tall), Lower North Falls (30 feet tall), Double Falls (178 feet tall), Drake Falls (27 feet tall), Middle North Falls (103 feet tall), Twin Falls (31 feet tall), North Falls (136 feet tall), Upper North Falls (65 feet tall), and Winter Falls (134 feet tall). Stacked top to bottom, the plunges of all ten falls add up to 974 feet of waterfall!
The turn-by-turn directions for this loop are:
- Leave South Falls Trailhead (0 miles)
- Hike past South Falls Lodge to the Stone Circle Junction and turn left on Canyon Trail (0.15 miles)
- Bear left past the top of Maple Ridge Trail (0.2 miles)
- Look over the brink from South Falls Viewpoint and proceed down Canyon Trail to the right (0.25 miles)
- Bear left to take the trail behind South Falls (0.45 miles)
- Stay left past a junction by a bridge below South Falls (0.6 miles)
- After descending stairs, walk behind Lower South Falls (1.25 miles)
- Stay left past the bottom of Maple Ridge Trail and descend from a crest toward North Fork Silver Creek (1.5 miles)
- Cross Lower North Fork Silver Creek Bridge (2.3 miles)
- Pass Lower North Falls (2.45)
- Just before a footbridge, turn left up a shot spur to Double Falls (2.5 miles)
- Stand beneath Double Falls (2.55 miles)
- Return to Canyon Trail and turn left to continue the loop (2.6 miles)
- Step out on a wooden platform by Drake Falls (2.7 miles)
- Part with the main trail by turning right down a path that goes behind Middle North Falls (2.9 miles)
- Admire the view from behind Middle North Falls and turn around (2.95 miles)
- Return to Canyon Trail and turn right to continue the loop (3 miles)
- Pass a junction with Winter Trail, which crosses North Fork Silver Creek on a bridge to the right (3.15 miles)
- Pass Twin Falls on the right and Twin Falls Trail on the left (3.45 miles)
- Enter the cavernous overhang behind North Falls (4.25 miles)
- Ascend steps from North Falls to a junction where Canyon Trail meets Rim Trail and a trail to Upper North Falls – Bear left to take the trail to Upper North Falls (4.45 miles)
- Go through an underpass across from the North Falls Trailhead and stay to the left through a junction with Perimeter Trail (4.5 miles)
- Admire Upper North Falls from the end of the trail (4.8 miles)
- Return to the junction at the top of Canyon Trail and turn left onto Rim Trail (5.15 miles)
- Come to Winter Falls Trailhead and turn right down Winter Trail (6.15 miles)
- Stand at the base of Winter Falls and turn around (6.35 miles)
- Hike back up Winter Trail and turn right to proceed onto Rim Trail (6.55 miles)
- Cross a bike path on a parallel route to Rim Trail (7.25 miles)
- Walk across a park road to stay on Rim Trail (7.6 miles)
- Come back to the Stone Circle Junction where the loop began and turn left (7.75 miles)
- Return to the parking area by South Falls Lodge (7.9 miles)
Lets get started!
Set out from the large parking lot at the Silver Fall Day Use Area. Pass a bathroom and take a brick path alongside South Falls Lodge (or pop inside to take a look). The lodge and the Trail of Ten Falls were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Projects Administration between 1935 and 1942. A panel along the trail explains that the CCC and WPA workers completed 88 projects to built the long-standing infrastructure of Silver Falls State Park, which you can admire over the course of the hike.
A level 0.15 miles of hiking leads to a prominent trail junction at a spot called the Stone Circle. The loop starts here. Follow signs for South Falls and turn left. It won’t be too long until you come to another junction. Maple Ridge Trail parts to the right (allowing for a shorter loop on just the South Fork of Silver Creek). Stay to the left, following signs for South Falls.
The forest opens up as you approach South Falls Viewpoint. Step out on the cliffs alongside South Falls. You are standing beside the brink of South Falls where the peacefully-flowing South Fork of Silver Creek suddenly plunges 177 feet into the canyon below. Watch mist rise from the waterfall to be soaked up by the mossy trees below.
South Falls Viewpoint is a quarter mile from the parking area over level terrain. To get better views of the single-drop waterfall, continue down Canyon Trail, which descends to the right.
Canyon Trail eases down the side of the canyon, buckling to the left around a switchback. This turn lines you up for views straight toward South Falls. Come to another junction on the side of the canyon above South Fork Silver Creek. To the right, one trail follows a traditional course down to a bridge below the falls. The trail to the left is much more special, passing directly behind South Falls.
Turn left and get clear views of South Falls, which takes a dramatic drop from a basalt overhang. The trail somehow finds safe passage across ledges in the area behind the powerful waterfall, providing an awesome hiking experience. Be prepared for spray from the waterfall to saturate you as you pass along the back of the opening behind South Falls. The hike has barely begun and already it’s a blast!
Come around the far side of South Falls, admiring its plunging water from another angle. Proceed down the west side of South Fork Silver Creek. Waterfall views persist as you approach a junction by a bridge over the creek, 0.6 miles from the trailhead. Pause here to admire Silver Falls State Park’s most beloved jewel, South Falls, one last time. For a short trail-of-one-falls hike, you could turn right at the bridge and make your way back up to South Falls Day Use Area (it is a 1.1-mile hike to South Falls and back). Otherwise, stay to the left and proceed down Canyon Trail toward Lower South Falls.
Canyon Trail runs along the creek through a lovely stretch of forest. The over-the-shoulder views of South Falls will disappear as you venture deeper down the canyon. Eventually, Canyon Trail rises away from the creek and crosses a bluff by the top of Lower South Falls. Get a glimpse of the waterfall as the trail curves to the left and comes to an area of zigzagging staircases down the side of the canyon.
Coming down these steps, you’ll acquire great views of the lovely 93-foot waterfall. With no bridge in sight, you’ll discover that the stairs lead right to a narrow passage slipping around the back of Lower South Falls. Canyon Trail delivers a second great waterfall experience, 1.25 miles from the trailhead.
Canyon Trail cuts across the ledge behind Lower South Falls at arm’s length from the falling water. Push out the other side of the trail and proceed down the northern bank of South Fork Silver Creek.
Canyon Trail runs alongside the lovely, swift waters of the creek for a stretch before eventually rising into a forest. The trees along the trail are a mix of big-leaf maple, Douglas fir, western hemlock, red cedar, vine maple, alders, and cottonwoods. Tree branches are bedecked with moss in this moist forest that gets 80 inches of annual rain. Sword ferns and Oregon grapes flourishing along the trail.
Canyon Trail rises to a crest, 1.5 miles from the start, where it meets the bottom of Maple Ridge Trail. This trail rises to the right and heads back to South Falls Day Use Area to form the Maple Ridge Loop. Stay to the left to proceed on Canyon Trail, which descends toward the North Fork of Silver Creek and all the waterfalls that it contains.
After leaving the junction and dropping to the creek, Canyon Trail goes uphill again, alongside a new fork of Silver Creek. Cross a short footbridge by a cascade that flows down from the right. A quarter mile farther up the trail, you’ll pass an old road rising back to the right. Stick with Canyon Trail to continue toward the waterfalls.
At 0.6 miles from the Maple Ridge Trail Junction, you may be surprised to see a waterfall that isn’t depicted on the park maps. During winter and spring months, a respectable waterfall pours off the cliffs on the opposite side of the canyon. This bonus waterfall (and numerous cascades) increase the waterfall tally along Trail of Ten Falls Loop for those who time their hike during Oregon’s wet season.
Continue up Canyon Trail toward Lower North Fork Silver Creek Bridge, which you will spot spanning the canyon. Take some steps down to the bridge and make your way across. Proceed up the north side of the canyon and get ready to enjoy six waterfalls over the next two miles.
In no time, you will be facing Lower North Falls, a 30-foot drop at a bend in the creek. Hike up alongside this waterfall and come to a junction just in front of a footbridge over a side creek. Before you continue up Canyon Trail, turn left up a short spur to Double Falls. Push up through a few trees for a full view of this two-tier waterfall that drops a total of 178 feet. Since Double Falls is on a side creek off Silver Creek, it does not have the volume of the previous waterfall, but is nevertheless a charmer.
Make your way back down to Canyon Trail. Turn left, cross the footbridge, and proceed up Canyon Trail. You’ll only have to go about a tenth of a mile to see the next waterfall (2.7 miles from the start of the hike. Step out on a wooden viewing platform off the right side of the trail to get a view of Drake Falls. You can’t see this 27-foot waterfall from the trail itself, so don’t bypass the viewing platform. Have a look down at the waterfall before continuing up the trail.
As you might expect, another waterfall is just around the bend. Gain a head-on view of Middle North Falls, another standout waterfall on the loop with a single 103-foot drop.
Come to a split in the trail, 0.2 miles above Drake Falls. A spur to the right descends to Middle North Falls and the trail actually wraps around behind the waterfall beneath the waterfall’s overhang. This is the third of four waterfalls that you can walk behind, and of course you should. Walk down around the gusher to the far side for a nice view of the waterfall and cascades downstream.
Return to Canyon Trail after this short side adventure and turn right to continue up through the forest. Pass the brink of the falls and come up to a junction with Winter Trail, 3.15 miles into the hike. If you turn right here, you could walk to the bottom of Winter Falls and up to Rim Trail (the second major trail on Trail of Ten Falls Loop). The directions provided here have you descend to Winter Falls from Rim Trail later in the loop, but it could also be pleasant to walk up to the waterfall from this point in the hike.
Passing Winter Trail, Canyon Trail continues up a lovely stretch of North Fork Silver Creek. At 0.3 miles from the junction, the trail goes around a bend to the left alongside Twin Falls. Unlike Double Falls, which is stacked, the twins of Twin Falls are side by side, pouring over a 31-foot shelf in the creek.
Above Twin Falls, Canyon Trail comes to a junction. Twin Falls Trail ascends to the left toward North Falls Group Camp. Stay to the right to proceed up Canyon Trail toward North Falls.
The next 0.8 miles of Canyon Trail pass a wild stretch of North Fork Silver Creek. Numerous thin cascades flow down the sides of the canyon. Large boulders covered in ferns and moss begin to fill the creek bed, inspiring rapids. As the trail rises from the creek, North Falls appears up the canyon through the lush forest.
North Falls enters the canyon with authority, dropping 136 feet from a broad basalt shelf that overhangs a cavernous area behind the waterfall. The trail wraps its way across the amphitheater-like opening behind North Falls. As you ease under the overhang, notice a tree growing in front of the cliffs that appears to almost connect to another tree growing on the top of the cliffs directly above to create a two-tier mega tree.
The grand opening behind North Falls is quite impressive. Water eroded and undercut the soft rock layer beneath the cavern’s basalt ceiling and created the largest overhang of any waterfall on the loop. If you take a close look at the rock overhead, you may be able to identify charred remains of trees buried by an ancient lava flow.
Linger in the area behind North Falls for as long is it suits you and then follow the trail out the other side of the cavern.
Leaving North Falls, the trail presents a great perspective looking back at the waterfall before launching into a short but tiresome section of stone steps climbing out of the canyon into the forest above North Falls.
Above the steep steps, the trail crosses cliffs, and then passes the brink of North Falls. The water you see upstream is in for a dizzying string of drops. Walk up through the forest along the creek to an important junction where Canyon Trail meets Rim Trail, 4.45 miles from the start of the hike. Rim Trail is a hard right turn from the junction and travels along the top of the canyon for 2.2 miles back to South Falls Day Use Area. Straight ahead, a short trail leads to Upper North Falls.
To see the ninth waterfall on the Trail of Ten Falls, stay to the left through the junction and continue hiking up North Fork Silver Creek. On the opposite bank, you’ll spot North Falls Trailhead. The trail to Upper North Falls crosses below a bridge on Route 214. On the far side you’ll come to a junction were Perimeter Trail parts to the right. Don’t take it. Instead, stay to the left toward Upper North Falls.
The trail hugs the bank of the creek, crossing a short footbridge by a small cascade. Not long after, and 0.35 miles from the Canyon Trail – Rim Trail Junction, the trail ends facing Upper North Falls.
Upper North Falls is 65 feet tall with a broad single-drop. Though not as impressive as North Falls. This waterfall is quite lovely and you might get the waterfall all to yourself for a while on weekends when the rest of the park is busy.
Leave Upper North Falls and backtrack to the junction between Canyon Trail and Rim Trail. Bear left to head back toward South Falls Day Use Area to begin closing down the loop.
Rim Trail passes through fine forest along the top of Silver Creek Canyon. For stretches, the trail is very close to Route 214. While Rim Trail is nowhere near as exciting as Canyon Trail, it still provides pleasant hiking.
After 0.3 miles on Rim Trail, discover a nice view out from the trees toward North Fall, a thundering gash of white amongst the evergreens. A mile from Canyon Trail, Rim Trail arrives at Winter Trailhead, which has parking along Route 214. To see the loop’s final waterfall, turn right here and descend Winter Trail toward Winter Falls.
Arrive at the base of the waterfall after 0.2 miles, one switchback, and a swift chunk of elevation loss. Like Double Falls, Winter Falls is on a smaller stream flowing into Silver Creek, so it is thinner than the other waterfalls, falling and sliding 134 feet down the canyon wall.
Your legs won’t be happy with what comes next… hiking back up Winter Trail to the trailhead by the top of the falls. Hopefully, you saved some energy for this late-in-the-loop effort. When you get back up to Rim Trail, turn right and walk across the parking area. The trail crosses Winter Creek above the falls and slips back into forest.
Gradually ascend over a hill on this final leg of Rim Trail. At about 0.4 miles from Winter Trailhead, you’ll begin to notice a paved Bike Path to the left. Bear right when the two trails come close to meeting to stay on the hiking trail. In another 0.3 miles, Rim Trail intersects the Bike Path. Look both ways, cross, and return to the forest.
Turning downhill, Rim Trail passes through some larger trees in a quiet and sun-dappled forest. Come to a road crossing as the trail approaches the South Falls Day Use Area. Continue on Rim Trail into a picnic area just after the road. The trail slips past picnic tables and tall firs to return to the Stone Circle. South Falls is straight ahead and begging for a second look. Turn left to walk 0.15 miles back to the trailhead to complete the 7.9-mile hike. You can also stop into the lodge to take a quick break.
Trail of Ten Falls Loop is considered to be one of the very best waterfall hikes in America – a recognition that is well deserved. The waterfall-packed trail goes out of its way to bring hikers up close to the waterfalls and create an outstanding outing. If a hike can overflow with waterfalls, Trail of Ten Falls is that hike.
Dogs and bikes are not allowed on Trail of Ten Falls Loop. Silver Falls State Park charges a fee to park at the trailhead, which is $5 per vehicle for the day or $30 for an annual Oregon State Parks pass. Silver Falls State Park is located in Marion County, Oregon, about 25 miles from Salem. No permit is needed to hike Trail of Ten Falls, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: Take Interstate 5 to exit 253 for Route 22 & 99E, following signs for Detroit Lake & Bend. (The exit is about 45 miles south of Portland.) Head east from the end of the offramp on Route 22 (99E). Drive 5 miles and take exit 7, which has a sign for Route 214 and Silver Falls State Park. At the end of the offramp, turn left onto Route 214. Follow Route 214 through several intersections for 16 miles and then turn left, following a sign for South Falls. Now within the park, you’ll make another left to reach the trailhead parking area.
Trailhead address: 20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE, Sublimity, OR 97385
Trailhead coordinates: 44.8776, -122.6556 (44° 52′ 39.4″N 122° 39′ 20.2″W)
|South Falls Loop |
This 1.1-mile hike goes up to and behind a 177-foot waterfall that is the jewel of Silver Falls State Park.
|Maple Ridge Loop |
This 2.8-mile hike in Silver Falls State Park ventures behind both South Falls and Lower South Falls and also explores a ridge-top forest.
|Spencer Butte |
This 5.2-mile hike crosses a fern-covered forest to panoramic views from the crown of Spencer Butte.
|Terwilliger Hot Springs |
This 0.9-mile hike leads to a natural hot springs in Willamette National Forest where bathers can soak in a series of terraced pools.
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