Sometimes I get these crazy ideas, like driving 2 hours to see a park full of waterfalls at the end of the day, and then I have to convince my logical husband that it is actually a good idea. That being said, even though it was one of the fastest long hikes I've ever done, it was a great hike with some truly beautiful falls. (There are actually 10 falls on the various trails that intermingle throughout the park plus a bonus one just off the stone circle starting point.)
We arrived at the park around 4pm and went first to the park office to get a map and some information. The ranger told us it was a 7.2 mile loop. Hmmm. The internet said it was 6ish, and the internet doesn't lie right? I had thought we could do the whole thing but then I'm usually overoptimistic about these things and forget I am not a super hiker. As you can see below the trail marker had another idea of the length! Based on the route we took I think this is the accurate number so if you are planning to hike it be sure to allow enough time to hike the moderate/difficult trails and enjoy the falls!
Armed with a map and some suggestions from the ranger we headed over to the South Falls Day Use Area to park and then we hit the Canyon Trail. About .4 mile after the trail head we were rewarded with waterfall #1.
The hike to the falls was a bit steep going down but a fairly easy trail. This is one of the falls you can walk behind. We elected to get this image from the bridge and move on to the next one. Fun fact: In 1928 a paying audience watched daredevil Al Faussett canoe over 177-foot South Falls. He had to spend months afterward in a hospital, recovering from his injuries. And while he was there recuperating, his partner skipped town with the entire $2,500 proceeds of the stunt.
Lower South Falls
Less than a mile (.8) and we arrived at waterfall #2, Lower South Falls. The trail was moderate incline but not horrible. But then...stairs. A LOT of stairs! I stopped counting around 50 and I don't think that was halfway. We got to walk behind the waterfall which was very cool!
The trail continued on in a jungle like setting. I felt like we were hiking through a rain forest! I'm not sure if it was the humidity or the sweat pouring off as we speed-hiked to the next waterfall!
Lower North Falls
One mile down the trail was the third waterfall. This fall wasn't a high flow but the water pool reflections and natural scene made it a really nice stop. The waterfalls within the park were discovered and named by a local photographer, June Drake, in the 1880's. I can only imagine the hike that produced the discovery of all the falls! Mr. Drake used his photographs to actively and successfully campaign for state park status in 1931. I am thankful for his efforts!
Double Falls is a short side trip off the main trail, about .25 miles. This waterfall gets its name from its two step drop totaling 184' which makes it the tallest fall in the park. This is one of the least photogenic falls on the trail but I'm glad we included it!
About .1 miles and we arrived at waterfall number 5. This was the falls that I most wanted to see on the hike though I'm not sure why. We did the longer loop just to include it. A waterfall can never truly disappoint me but this one was a bit of a let down. Mostly because there was no way to get a good view. Because of the restrictive geology, views of the falls are limited to those offered by a small deck perched alongside the trail as it passes the falls. The small tree and vegetation really limit the view as you can see.
After pondering the risk of going off trail (it was a short ponder), I accepted this was the best image I was going to get and off we went. This is my view back on the Canyon Trail. Boy's got some long legs and he's moving fast! I'm glad there was only .4 miles until the next stop!
Middle North Falls
.4 miles on the trail and we arrived at waterfall number 6. One of the best vantage points to see and photograph this fall is about 500 feet down the trail from the spur that leads behind it. We didn't go behind this one but that is a view I'd like to see some day!
After Middle North Falls the trail splits into Winter Trail and Twin Falls Trail. We elected to take the Winter Trail and head toward Winter Falls. Taking this route meant we were cutting off the portion that would allow us to see 3 of the 10 falls: Twin Falls, North Falls and Upper North Falls. While Twin Falls isn't a popular stop the other two would have been nice to see. I guess that means I'm coming back some day!
.5 miles and we arrived at waterfall number 7 and our last of the day. The falls drop 100' onto a basalt base and despite being one of the tallest falls in the park it was a bit unimpressive. Winter Falls gets its name based on the seasonality of its flow. It has one of the lowest flow volumes and tapers off into merely a trickle during the summer months. As you can see, I arrived at the wrong season!
After leaving Winter Falls we turned onto the Rim Trail for the return trip. The trails were relatively flat and I was extremely grateful for that!
The return trip as about 1.2 miles. Our feet were sore and we were hungry but 2 hours to hike around 5 miles and see 7 waterfalls felt pretty good!
Silver Falls State Park is a definite must see for any waterfall lover out there. Besides the amazing waterfalls, the trails are a sight to see and just being out in nature refreshes the soul. Happy trails!