Famous for its abundance of picturesque waterfalls, Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in Oregon at 9,200 acres (3723 hectares) and one of the most popular. Located 60 miles (92 km) south of Portland in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, the park draws more than 1,100,000 visitors each year.
The Silver Falls area was inhabited by the Kalapuya and Mollala tribes for thousands of years before the first white settlers arrived in the area. In the 1880s, homesteaders founded Silver Falls City; at its peak, the town housed more than 200 residents and several shops, houses and sawmills. In the 1930s, the area was converted into a park that now offers hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, camping, swimming and much more.
Silver Falls is best known for its many magnificent waterfalls. Its most famous feature, the 177-foot (54 m) South Falls, is only steps away from the South Falls Day Use Area. Visitors can admire the breathtaking view from above before descending into a cave behind the falls along the Maple Ridge Loop. More advanced hikers can follow the 5-mile (8 km) Winter Falls Loop past seven incredible water features, including the two-tiered Double Falls. Expect to spot a wide variety of flora and fauna, such as butterflies, salamanders, rabbits and deer.
For the full falls experience, follow the Trail of Ten Falls, a moderate 8-mile (13 km) hike that loops from the South Falls Day Use Area to the North Falls Trailhead and back. This roughly three-hour hike is a designated National Recreation Trail, and allows visitors to walk directly behind four different waterfalls — talk about a perfect photo op! (Pro tip: To maximize your waterfall viewings, take an out-and-back route along the Canyon Trail; the Rim Trail parallels a highway and is less scenic than the rest of the hike.)
The South Falls Day Use Area boasts an incredible array of amenities and facilities. Families can play at the park’s swimming area, horseshoe pits and playground before relaxing in a picnic shelter or spreading out on the spacious lawn. The historic South Falls lodge is open 365 days a year and features a cozy fire (and free Wi-Fi) for rainy days, while the adjoining café supplies hungry hikers with sandwiches, snacks, coffee and ice cream. The nearby Silver Falls Nature Store brims with souvenirs, memorabilia and crafts by local artisans. Stop by before your hike to pick up a map and a hand-carved walking stick. (Note: Parking at the South Falls Day Use Area requires a $5 day use pass.)
The main Silver Falls camping area features tent sites, RV spots, cabins and even a horse campground. Campground hosts are on hand to sell ice and firewood and address any issues that may arise. Spaces such as the meeting hall, conference center, picnic shelters and dormitory-style bunkhouses can also be reserved in advance. All facilities can be reserved through Reservations Northwest up to nine months in advance. Find a full list of reservation fees on the Silver Falls State Park website.