Post Overview: Complete Guide to the Trail of Ten Falls in Oregon | Hiking the Trail of Ten Falls
Sure, Oregon has a lot of wonderfully diverse ecosystems to explore like deserts and coastal beaches, but our beloved state is undoubtedly known for its moody forests. Thankfully, the Trail of Ten Falls checks every box on any nature lover’s list in one relatively short and sweet day trip.
Tucked away in the spectacular Silver Falls State Park, the Trail of Ten Falls is definitely “Oregon in a Nutshell.”
With huggable evergreens, crystal-clear creeks trickling gently over bright moss-wrapped boulders, ferns bursting through the lush understory, and more shades of green than the eye can comprehend, this 7 mile hike is a textbook example of Oregon at its finest.
Perhaps most alluringly, this trail is particularly well known for its record-breaking number of waterfalls in just a few square miles. Ten (TEN!) of which you can see up close while wandering along this single trail.
Understandably, taking on a bit of a hefty hike like this might seem overwhelming to those unfamiliar with the area or new to the wild world of outdoor adventuring. Fear not! That’s where I come in.
I felt a bit overwhelmed the first time hiked the Trail of Ten Falls, so I wanted to offer some helpful advice for those in a similar boat.
With bit of preparation and help from this guide hiking the Trail of Ten Falls will be nothing short of a joy! Especially those looking for a day trip that winds through a wilderness that feels totally out of this world.
Important Trail of Ten Falls Hiking Tips
The Trail of Ten Falls lies within a highly developed and protected State Park which expects visitors to adhere to certain regulations during their stay to ensure an enjoyable experience for all while maintaining its sense of majesty for generations to come.
Where is the Trail of 10 Falls Located?
The Trail of Ten Falls is located within Silver Falls State Park in west-central Oregon. Only about 20 miles east of Salem in the town of Silverton, which is about an hour and a half south of Portland. Note: close proximity and ease of access makes this park one of the most crowded in Oregon. Be prepared for crowds on weekends.
Parking at Silver Falls is $5 per vehicle. Payment is accepted at most trailhead self-serve stations. All fee are waived with proof of registration at any of the campgrounds within the park.
Being conveniently located and an incredible natural area it’s no surprise that the Trail of Ten Falls hiking trail will be crowded. 1.1 million visitors pass through annually, especially during summer months and weekends.
Pro tip: if cold and rain doesn’t deter you, head out on a mild winter day when you’ll enjoy less people and heavier flows from the falls thanks to rain and snow melt.
Pets: Pets are not allowed on the Trail of Ten Falls. I know, I hate leaving my pups behind too, but limiting foot (and paw) traffic is important to maintaining the longevity of this wondrous natural space. The state park has many other rail options for your furry pals to tag along, and there’s even an off-leash area at the South Falls Day Use Area.
Hiking the Trail of Ten Falls? Clothing & Gear
Come prepared for all weather situations, as Silver Falls State Park is susceptible to that classic “sunny and rainy within the same minute” weather that Oregon is known and loved for. Check the forecast and bring a sturdy pair of walking shoes regardless of weather.
Most of the trail is easily accessible by adults and older children of all skill levels. Keep in mind that the trail is unpaved and can be a bit narrow in spots. Strollers and wheelchairs are not advisable, as there are stairs (sometimes dozens at a time) in parts of the trail. Read further down this post for options to view some of the waterfalls without hiking the trail itself.
Bathrooms are located at most trailheads. Bring plenty of water and snacks to sustain everyone in your group for the duration of your stay.
What To Expect While Visiting the Trail of Ten Falls
Honestly, no matter what you imagine your experience to be while hiking this trail I promise your expectations will be wildly blown out of the water as you wander through this stunning stretch of ancient forest.
Come prepared with the essentials and it’s almost guaranteed that the miles will fly by as you immerse yourself into the magic of the Silver Falls wilderness.
Old growth forest brimming with Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar, and Big Leaf Maple dominate the canopy while plenty of ferns, vine maple, and salal fill out the understory.
You’ll venture through the small canyon Silver Creek has carved over the years where it flows over the erosion-resistant basalt rock responsible for the formation of this unique system of waterfalls.
Wildlife thrives here and you’ll be sure to spot songbirds, squirrels, banana slugs, and perhaps a salamander crossing the trail every now and then.
Some of the more elusive wildlife include elk, cougar, fox, and owls, including a small population of Great Grey Owls.
The best way to enjoy the wilderness is by hiking the Trail of Ten Falls, so let’s dive into the great things you’ll see along the way.
Hiking the Trail of Ten Falls
The Trail of Ten Falls is the collective name for a loop that encompasses the Canyon and Rim trails. Tracing the path of Silver Creek as it weaves through thick mixed pine and stunning broadleaf forest.
The hiking trails at the Trail of Ten Falls are marked but because there are so many spur trials and random clearings, it can get confusing.
As such, I suggest carrying a map of the trail system with you at all times (or heck, print this guide).
Another option is to download offline trail maps of the area from your phone’s GPS or an app like AllTrails, which is a precaution I almost always take just in case.
There are no conveniently marked signs that designate the actual trail since the Trail of Ten Falls is actually a combination of two main trails.
But don’t worry, the chances of you getting truly lost are virtually zero, even for the most “navigationally challenged” among us (*raises hand).
Hiking the Trail of Ten Falls is a popular activity, there’s nearly always a fellow hiker around to ask for assistance.
Below I’ll outline my favorite way to hike this trail, step by step. There are four starting points to this trail, the two most popular being the South Falls and North Falls trailheads.
How to Hike the Trail of Ten Falls (Helpful Info)
It doesn’t make a difference where you start because once you’re on the trail you’ll be on track for a round trip view of all ten falls.
Parking may be easier to find in the larger South Falls lot, but if you’re visiting during the off season or on a weekday you should be fine parking in any of the lots.
Hiking the Trail of Ten Falls is a peaceful 7.2-mile affair that meanders through an incredibly dense old growth forest. I’ve heard claims that the entire trail can be hiked in about two hours, but where’s the fun in that?
I personally take between 4 and 6 hours to go the whole 7+ miles thanks to frequent stops for snapping photos and chowing down on some trail snacks.
Give yourself plenty of time to take in the whole experience, one which can be lackluster if you’re rushing to get through it.
Once parking has been found, a day pass acquired, and all of your gear (and hiking buddies!) are in order, follow the signs to the trailhead and take your first step into Oregon’s most iconic and waterfall-filled adventure.
I suggest starting your hike in a counter-clockwise direction (clockwise if you’re starting at North Falls) because you’ll be able to see a lot more waterfalls from the get go since they’re concentrated along the eastern portion of this trail.
Waterfalls at the Trail of Ten Falls
Head to your right at Rim Trail at the South Falls parking lot (our guide saves South Falls for last). Make your way down the trail for about 1 mile before arriving at Winter Falls, the first stop on our journey.
The smallest waterfall on the trail, Winter Falls gets its name because it is best seen during winter and spring when a lot more water is flowing than during hot summer months.
Winter Falls may at times be nothing more than a trickle. If this is the case during your visit don’t let this seasonal waterfall disappoint, we’ve still got 9 more falls to go!
Continue walking about a half a mile where you’ll likely be able to get a sneak peak at North Falls at a small viewpoint. Go about 0.3 miles further where you’ll arrive at the North Falls Trailhead.
Take a left at the fork and descend a rather long set of stairs to get a closer view of the spectacular North Falls, another giant that plummets 136 feet.
Perhaps the second most renowned waterfall on this trail (behind South Falls), North Falls towers over the misty pine-laden landscape, roaring to earth in a powerful yet graceful display. Head up the stairs and back to the main trail.
Upper North Falls
Once back on the trail (Rim Trail) take the offshoot toward Perimeter Trail. After a short 0.3 miles you’ll be welcomed by the shorter though no less picturesque section of North Falls, fittingly dubbed Upper North Falls.
Small but mighty, this waterfall measures 65 feet and is more remote than other falls on this trail but is no less beautiful and definitely worth the side quest.
Retrace your steps after Upper North Falls to reach Rim Trail where it crosses with Canyon Trail. Take Canyon Trail and carry on about 1 mile to reach Twin Falls.
Another waterfall on the smaller side, the stout Twin Falls cascades 31 feet down a collection of rocks and is so named because of one rock in particular that splits the flow in two on its modest journey off the cliff to rejoin Silver Creek below.
Middle North Falls
At this point in your journey you are literally standing within the area that boasts the highest number of waterfalls anywhere in the entire Pacific Northwest!
Take a moment to congratulate yourself and absorb the majestic surroundings before moving forward to the next 6 waterfalls on this route.
About 0.3 miles after Twin Falls you’ll approach Middle North Falls, a 106 foot tall fall that takes going off on a small side trail to get the chance to walk behind the fall as it plunges off the rock above.
Just a few steps past Middle North Falls is the small but mighty Drake falls. Stacking up at just 27 feet, this waterfall is best viewed from the wooden platform constructed alongside the main trail. Here you get a bit of a two-for-one, as you can look up the ridge to glimpse Double Falls, the 7th waterfall on our trek.
Double Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park, towering an incredible 178 feet. While it’s not going to be raging as wildly as other giants like South or North falls (and can in fact be nearly non-existent during the dry season), Double Falls with its two tiers and wispy spray is a stately waterfall fit for a wall calendar when it’s in full-flow. Take a very short spur trial to see Double Falls up close.
Lower North Falls
Get back onto good ol’ Canyon Trail to finish up the last leg of your whirlwind jaunt. From here you’ll see the 30 foot Lower North Falls where you can walk down to its plunge pool for a better look if you feel so inclined. Head back on Canyon Trail for 1 mile.
Lower South Falls
After wandering along this quiet stretch of Canyon Trail you’ll reach the ninth waterfall, Lower South Falls. This is the third of four waterfalls in the park that you can walk behind and is quite large, measuring in at 93 feet tall.
There are opportunities to take in views of this fall from all angles: from the east right at creek level and from the west by climbing a set of stairs that rise sharply.
The old adage “save the best for last” might not always be appropriate, but after all of your hard work over these past 7 miles you deserve one heck of a reward! Enter the tenth and final waterfall on this trail: the magnificent, majestic, and massive South Falls.
South Falls plunges a whopping 177 feet from a basalt rock face, roaring to life in a thick spray as it careens from a basalt overhang. This is another fall you can walk behind (heads up: you’ll inevitably get a little wet here!) but even if you prefer to admire this waterfall from afar the view is irrefutably gorgeous.
A total powerhouse of natural phenomena, this formidable waterfall is framed by a kaleidoscope of colorful pines, maples, and alders, while the creek itself glows a deep teal even on cloudy days.
Hiking the Trail of 10 Falls (Post Summary)
Mind Your (Trail) Manners!
Pack in, pack out. We all love a good orange or cheese stick to keep us fueled up, but it sure is a bummer to have to step over peels and wrappers along an otherwise pristine trail system. Stash your trash until you get to a garbage bin at one of the trailheads.
Take only photos, leave only footprints.
There wouldn’t be much of a forest to see if each one of Silver Falls’ millions of visitors each took a souvenir home with them. Take as many photos and videos as your camera can store to preserve your own memories while ensuring future visitors are able to have their own memorable experiences.
Please stay on the trail.
While we enjoy a good side quest as much as the next curious hiker, let’s leave that to local wildlife and help to keep the low-growing plants untrampled so they can continue to flourish for generations to come.
Hiking this entire trail may not be an option for some visitors, but there are still ways to experience some of the waterfalls without undertaking the entire hike. South Falls is viewable from the parking area. North Falls can be accessed by a 0.6 mile paved path suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.
You May Enjoy Reading: 20 Wildly Beautiful Oregon Waterfalls
Map of the Trail of Ten Falls Hiking Trails | Visiting the Trail of Ten Falls in Oregon
I was wandering through the woods taking in the sweet smells of early springtime, playing a little game with myself where I imagined being an alien strolling along the trail marveling at everything I saw for the first time.
How incredible it would be to see these familiar forests with fresh eyes!
One daydream lead to another and before long I found myself picturing a spaceship landing in the middle of these quiet woods and spitting out a couple of little green nature-loving aliens.
Rather than the typical sort who demand world-domination, however, these little guys merely wanted to know where they could hike to see the best of Oregon before continuing their trip around the cosmos.
Where, I thought to myself, would I suggest they visit?
While a decision like this seems impossible to fully answer, I can’t think of anything more “Pacific Northwest” than the beloved Trail of Ten Falls. I hope you enjoyed the post and found it helpful!
What do you think?