Recenlty my mom, my 22-month-old son and I made the drive 25 miles east of Salem to Silver Falls State Park. We made the trip on a weekday, which was a great idea. The normally busy parking lot only held about four other cars when we pulled in. The skies were blue and the air was surprisingly warm for a mid-January day; perfect for meandering through the trails and checking out the sights.
We started from the parking lot and strolled along a trail that paralleled the South Fork Silver Creek. The creek lazily makes its way through a heavily wooded area whose trees are covered in moss. The water is about to make a 177 ft drop, becoming South Falls, the easily accessible star of the park. We paused at the top of the falls and marveled in the power of the torrent dumping over the edge.
A few yards further, the trail starts down into the canyon. At the bottom, South Falls recollects itself and yet again becomes a creek that continues to wind along through the woods of the park. There are a total of 10 waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park, but because we were accompanied by my toddler, the walk down to the bottom of South Falls was our goal for today’s trip.
The path switchbacks quickly through the Douglas Firs, making its way towards the bottom of the canyon. We pause halfway down at a fork in the trail and I snap a gorgeous photo of the fall peeking at us through the trees, with the sun shining through the forest above it.
The elevation change is approximately 280 feet to the bottom, where the trail leads us behind the waterfall. The mist hit our faces as we crouch to walk under the lower rocks. We paused in the amphitheatre-like cave behind the cascade and looked up at the amazing view of all of that water dumping down over the edge of the cliff high above us and splashing into a pool below.
From there, we continue along the path down to the creek. The Trail of Ten Falls continues to circle some 8.7 miles through the park —however, we veer off to the right and cross a wooden footbridge, pausing one last time to now view the South Falls from the front. The canyon spreads out in front of us like a gorgeous painting, with the veil crashing down the center. South Fork Silver Creek rushes below our feet, bubbling on to its next waterfall.
We ascend back up the canyon on the trail, making a brief pit stop at the gift shop and the historic Silver Falls Lodge, which was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in the late 1950s.
Our visit to the park lasted only about 2 hours. The short mile loop was easy enough that my son was able to complete about ¾ of it all on his own, which makes it very famil- friendly for almost all age groups. To reach the state park, drive Interstate 5 to Salem. Drive east on Highway 22 to exit 7, signed for OR Highway 214. Continue on 214 4.2 miles to Silver Falls State Park. Turn left into the first entrance you’ll pass. Pay a $3 day use fee at the toll booth if it’s open, or use the drop box. Enjoy!