Silver Falls State Park, known as the ‘crown jewel’ of the Oregon State Parks system, attracts more than a million visitors each year–most of them in family groups.
Set in the foothills of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, Silver Falls is less than an hour’s drive east of Salem, the Oregon capital, and is an easy day trip of Portland to the north and Eugene to the south.
Visitors escape to this 9,200-acre scenic public park for its natural beauty and variety of recreational opportunities including more than 25 miles of backcountry multi-use trails for hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding in lush vegetation and remnants of old-growth forests.
The most famous hike is the Trail of Ten Falls Loop.
“Where else can you walk behind a waterfall?” asks the Oregon State Parks Website. “See what a 177-foot curtain of water (South Falls pictured) looks like from behind (click on photo to enlarge and see trail). It’s part of the Trail of Ten Falls, a spectacular, nationally recognized hiking trail that weaves through a dense forested landscape. The trail passes a series of breathtaking waterfalls along a rocky (basalt) canyon, and descends to a winding creek at the forest floor. This nearly 9-mile loop is considered to be a moderate hike, with an overall elevation change of 800 feet. Several connecting trails with separate access points make shorter routes. For everyone’s safety— absolutely no pets.”
According to one of the hundreds of 5-star reviews on Tripadvisor.com: “Make the time and do the Trail of the Ten Falls. I mean come on … Where else can you find 10 waterfalls (all with their own uniqueness)? You will want to spend the whole day here to not be rushed. The power of water is amazing, and to walk behind the thundering falls is an experience not to be missed.”
There is also swimming in the South Fork Silver Creek, as well as, bicycle and horseback riding opportunities.
One morning we bicycled the 4.3 mile Bike Path (pictured). While it is listed as good for all skill levels (we passed two multi-generation families), there were some terrain changes where I did not shift correctly and needed to dismount and walk my bicycle for a short distance.
The trail consists of two parts — a 2.4 mile out-and-back trail and a 1.9 mile loop that travels through a dense second-growth forest. The trail is primarily used for mountain biking, however I did fine on my Breezer, a performance hybrid with road tires. Jimmy was on his Bike Friday and had no problems. We also bicycled the paved road system within the park.
Cabins and Camping opportunities
Families, especially kids, love this park because of the variety of outdoor activities. One of our neighbors mentioned that his family has been coming to Silver Falls for 35 years.
Overnight visitors can choose from cabins, or RV, tent and horse camping.
There are 46 electrical sites with water; more than 43 no-hookups tent/RV sites (with water nearby); and 14 cabins (four pet friendly). Two campsites and five cabins are accessible to campers with disabilities. Tent-$19, electrical-26. Strongly suggest reservations– 1-800-452-5687 or go online to Reserve America. You are able to reserve nine months in advance up to 24 hours prior to check in.
The electrical (maximum site 60 feet) are open all year, tent sites closed Oct. 31-Apr. 30. Horse camp (5 regular sites with corrals and 1 group site with corrals) is closed Oct. 1- Apr. 30. The 14 cabins are available year round.
Other amenities at the campground include two bath houses with flush toilets and free hot showers. There is a playground, amphitheater, with summer evening programs; ranger talks during the day, firewood and ice sales.
For directions, click here for Google maps.
Photos (click on to enlarge): South Falls. Jimmy on the Bicycle Path. Our camping site with Jimmy’s folding Bike Friday. Afternoon ranger talks were popular with families. (Julianne G. Crane)