I’ve already gushed quite a bit about our girls’ weekend in Oregon over Memorial Day, which included lush wine and views in Willamette, followed by a whirlwind tour of Portland’s coffee and breweries. But I may have saved the best for last.
When I was planning the trip, I knew that we had to fit some hiking into the itinerary…there’s no way you can go somewhere as gorgeous as Oregon without getting out into nature. As I did my research, I hit upon the Trail of Ten Falls, and immediately knew I’d found a winner. It’s not quite as well-known to tourists as some of the more popular destinations, such as Multomnah Falls or Punchbowl Falls. But you do get 10 different waterfalls in one go, and in several cases you can walk right up to, behind, or around them.
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After breakfast at Fat Milo’s and then a stop at Ann Amie Vineyard, we drove over to Silver Falls State Park. We arrived at the park fairly late in the day (around 1:00 if I recall), so had to rush through—and because of a wrong turn ended up needing to miss a few of the waterfalls. I think we hit 7 out of the 10, though, which isn’t bad for a few hours’ work.
How to hike the Trail of Ten Falls
Silver Falls State Park is Oregon’s largest, and offers easy accessibility as well as one of the most impressive waterfall day-hikes in the country. There are (as the name would suggest) ten waterfalls on the 8.7-mile (or 7.2-mile, or 6.9-mile, depending on who you ask) loop, but there are a few options to shave off distance—and falls—if you aren’t feeling quite that ambitious.
This very rudimentary map of the Trail of Ten Falls gives you a sense of the order of the falls. I’m using this numbering below to make it easier to reference, but we went the opposite way so I’m starting with #10. You can pick up a map at the visitor’s center that’s a bit more detailed (but still looks pretty similar to this).
Map credit: Corvallis Gazette Times
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#10 – Winter Falls (134 ft.)
After walking a little over a mile, we came to our first falls, a lovely tall spill. There’s a viewpoint where you can take pictures, but you should also scramble down right to the base of the falls for an up-close-and-personal look.
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Oops…we weren’t paying attention and missed the turn-off here. It forms its own mini loop with #7-#9 (which is one of the areas you can shave off if you’re in a hurry). We did double back later to catch all three that we’d missed, but it cost us some serious time.
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#9 – Upper North Falls (65 ft.)
This one is a bit isolated, its own little side trail off the side loop off the main loop. Because it’s pretty isolated, it’s the easiest to skip (or miss), but I thought it was pretty great. It’s fairly small compared to some of the others, but I’m a sucker for that rainbow. However, if you’re having to shave off some of the falls due to time, this is one of the more logical ones to miss.
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#8 – North Falls (136 ft.)
This is one of the falls that you can walk behind, with a deep little grotto behind the falls. To me the grotto isn’t as pretty as Middle North Falls (coming up), so if you’re short on time this loop is skippable. I enjoyed the power of this one, it’s focused into an almost firehose-like fall of water.
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#7 – Twin Falls (31 ft.)
Underwhelming, we didn’t get any pics of this one but it’s there for the seeing.
#6 – Middle North Falls (106 ft.)
Definitely one of my favorites. This tiered sheet of water is really lovely. There’s a side trail that allows you to walk behind the falls, though sometimes that path is closed due to tree damage.
The view from the other side once you’ve walked behind the falls is even more lovely, but remember to re-trace your steps and re-join the main trail! We didn’t realize that this was a side trail and tried to keep going. The trail got difficult and hard to find, we were scrambling over rocks and awkwardly climbing over fallen trees…we finally realized that we were going the wrong way, but it definitely ate away at our time!
I especially love the dreamy blur of the water in this shot.
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#5 – Drake Falls (27 ft.)
Kind of a womp womp. Glance and keep going…
#4 – Double Falls (178 ft.)
Tied for the tallest falls, there was a lovely delicate feel to Double Falls, and I loved that little glimmer of rainbow that kept teasing me in my pictures. While you can see it a little further away, it’s worth hiking the extra tenth of a mile to walk right up to the base.
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#3 – Lower North Falls (30 ft.)
Underwhelming, I didn’t get any photos of it.
I loved how the forest got quieter late in the afternoon, the sun losing some of its heat and a lot of the hikers heading back to civilization.
#2 – Lower South Falls (93 ft.)
Unfortunately we had to cut this portion of the trail out due to time constraints. As you can see from the map, it’s kind of all out on its own with a ton of distance. But from what I’ve read, it’s quite impressive, so definitely worth taking the time.
#1 – South Falls (178 ft.)
Along with Multomnah and Punch Bowl, South Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Oregon, and it’s not hard to see why. Claiming the honor of the highest among the “Ten Falls” (well, tied), it’s not only impressive but also accessible to even the laziest hiker—it’s only a few steps from the trailhead and lodge. So you could start here and then go around the loop the opposite direction. Buy why start with the highest one?? Seems like a recipe for disappointment.
We were super tired and grimy and pressed for time at this point, but we quickly ran over to get a glimpse and were suitably impressed.
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So there you have it—a guide to one of most waterfall-packed day hikes in Oregon (or maybe the country). I still want to see Multomnah and some of the other falls in the Columbia River Gorge, but I’m really happy that we went a little further out of the way and explored a slightly less-touristed trail.
Tips for hiking Oregon’s Trail of Ten Falls
- The full trail is 8.7 miles—or 6.9 or 7.2, regardless it’s long—so plan accordingly for time.
- There are a couple places you can shave off time and falls. The loop that encompasses falls #7-9 makes the most sense to chop off.
- This website gives really detailed instructions for walking the trails, where to turn, what to look for
- It’s moderately strenuous but not super difficult, we saw tons of families and people of all ages out there. So if you find yourself on a really challenging piece of trail…you may have wandered off the path (*cough* may have happened to us).
- Dogs are not allowed on the Canyon Trail portion (which is where the waterfalls are).
- There’s a cafe, restrooms, visitor’s center, etc. at at the South Falls Lodge trailhead, as well as a lot of parking—but if you’re visiting on a holiday weekend like we were, parking may still be absolutely insane.
- The trail is largely shaded, so the sun isn’t a massive issue. But definitely bring plenty of water, particularly if you’re hiking in the summer. We were there Memorial Day weekend and it was quite hot.
- You’ll need to pay to enter the park (I believe $5 per person).
Have you hiked the Trail of Ten Falls before? Any other tips you’d add? What’s your favorite Oregon hiking trail?? Let me know in the comments!
Other waterfall adventures:
- How to Plan the Best Trip to Argentina’s Iguazu Falls
- The Rushing Waters of Slovenia’s Vintgar Gorge
- Fairytale Waterfalls in Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Driving the Sea-to-Sky Highway From Vancouver to Whistler
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