“I changed my mind about tomorrow,” he said. “I think we should just do this one again.” I was a little bit taken aback. We go hiking together a lot and returning the same way we came is practically against his religion. And now here we were in Silver Falls State Park with miles of unexplored trails and he was suggesting that we repeat the one we’d already done.
But he had a point. Nothing can beat the Trail of Ten Falls.
Anyone who knows me, and knows what a klutz I am might think I’m talking about ten unexpected encounters I made with the ground. Not so. It’s water that does the falling.
Regardless of which of the three trail heads you choose, you will start at the top of a waterfall and then descend down into a magical canyon, filled with ferns, carpeted by lush green moss and protected by a canopy of Douglas Fir. The path meanders alongside Silver Creek. At one point, the trail diverges from the creek for a short (very short) time, and when we were once again next to the creek, I had to consult a map to address my confusion. The water was flowing in the opposite direction. The map confirmed the only logical explanation, two different branches of the creek were flowing down from the mountains to join together below.
This eight-plus mile trail is rated as moderately strenuous due to its 800 foot elevation change. Regardless of whether or not you find it strenuous, you are guaranteed to find it rewarding. Over and over again, you hear the roaring sound of pounding water, see the fall in front of you, and later feel the spray as you pass behind it. Hiking doesn’t get much better than this.
History of the Park
Land for Silver Falls State Park was purchased from Marion County beginning in the 1930s. Over the years, additional acquisitions were made and today the Park covers over 9,000 acres. The site was considered for a National Park, but it was decided that the area had already been too altered by humans and that it would be more appropriate as a State Park. Like many of America’s great parks, Silver Falls boasts the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps, who as part of the Roosevelt-era Works Progress Administration built the South Falls Lodge as well as many of the trails and picnic facilities.
In places like this, however, it is the natural history which takes precedence. Water descending from the Cascade Mountains down to the Willamette Valley passes over basalt lava. The basalt rests on older, softer rock which eroded away over time, providing easy access for a trails behind the falls.
Visiting Silver Falls
Silver Falls State Park is located about 25 miles east of Salem, Oregon. The Park is the main destination in this area, but on the way you will pass through the picturesque small towns of Mount Angel and Silverton, both of which are worthy of a meander.
Along with hiking, the Park also has bike and horse trails (click here for a brochure and trail map), tent camping, cabins and RV sites. Other amenities include a lodge, café and gift shop. The Park is open year round and there is a $5 day use fee.