Upper North Falls is 65 feet (20 meters) tall and is the farthest west of the major waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park. The trail leading to it is almost completely level, and is only about 0.25 miles (less than half a kilometer) long.
Despite the name, Upper North Falls is not the furthest north water fall in Silver Falls State Park. The name comes from it being on the North Fork of Silver Creek.
It is extremely easy to miss the "North Falls" parking lot area. Coming from Silverton, you will enter a straight stretch on highway 214 near the Group Camp Area. When you come to the next curve, start to slow down, as you will be approaching the curve that has the parking lot. The parking lot will be on your right if you are coming from Silverton. See my Silver Falls Transportation Tip for more information on all that.
After parking your car and paying the park use fee, and putting the label in your car, you will be able to take any of several different trails. One of them is the trail to Upper North Falls. These trails are fairly well marked with signs, but sometimes the signs on the trails disappear.
Along the trail to Upper North Falls, the trail runs on the south bank of the North Fork of Silver Creek. There are a number of places where seasonal (ie, winter or after several days of rain) streams come over rocks next to the trail. Sometimes this means that the trail is wet and a little slippery in places. Watch your step.
For those who bird watch, there are some birds that you might see. Dippers like this sort of place, and on Feb 2, 2009 I did see a dipper standing in the rushing water of the stream near the falls. I was also quite astonished to see ducks fly past, but they moved quick enough between the trees that I did not get a good look at them to see what type they were.
If you want to turn this into a day trip, it is possible to take the Perimeter Trail or Rim Trail or Canyon Trail from here to various other locations in the park.
North Falls is just slightly downstream from the parking lot, but the trails aren't as easy as the wide, level trail to Upper North Falls. See my North Falls tip.
Not completed until approximately 2008, the Perimeter Trail completes a forest loop around the borders of Silver Falls State Park. This allows visitors to pass through a vast area of the park that before was relatively unknown to visitors.
Most likely, it will still be relatively unknown to visitors. The trail has no water falls right now (though if the park border expands a little bit there are some four or five more falls just outside the borders of the park that might make good extensions to parts of this trail) and it doesn't offer a short cut between North Falls and South Falls like the Rim Trail does. Without a major attraction, most likely visitors will remain in the fairly small area of the park that has the waterfalls.
On the other hand, the Perimeter Trail doesn't parallel a major highway the way the Rim Trail does, and provides a better wilderness experience - or at least and experience that is somewhat closer to being a wilderness experience.
This is, after all, why you probably came all the way out to Silver Falls State Park to begin with. If you wanted to picnic, you could have done that in town! (Though the park has a really nice set of picnic facilities that are very popular in the summer months.)
There are quite a number of different trails in the park, and several different loops are possible:
Hike the Perimeter: This is an approximately 12 mile loop around the outside of the park. It involves the Canyon Trail, which will get you to most major waterfalls in the park, and several lesser trails leading between South Falls and the Perimeter Trail. The Perimeter Trail is then used as a connection along the east side of the park. The falls this skips are Winter Falls (which could be accessed by taking an approximately 1 mile total detour off the Canyon Trail onto the Winter Falls trail and return) and Upper North Falls, which can be accessed at north end of the Perimeter Trail by taking the out-and-back Upper North Falls trail.
The Trail of 10 Falls: The Trail of Ten Falls is actually a combination of the Canyon Trail, the Rim Trail, the trail between North Falls and Upper North Falls, and the link between the Canyon Trail and Rim Trail at Winter Falls. This produces an approximately 7 mile total loop, plus some covering of the same ground twice due to the out-and-back nature of Upper North Falls, plus Winter Falls will require some sort of diversion as it can not be seen from the Canyon Trail, and only the top most two inches or so can be seen from the Rim Trail. To really see Winter Falls you need to come up the hill on the link trail at Winter Falls that connects the Canyon Trail and Rim Trail.
Smaller Loops: these include approximate 3 mile loops that include Upper North Falls, North Falls, Twin Falls and Winter Falls in a loop that hits the northeast part of the park, and an approximate 3 mile loop that only touches South Falls and Lower South Falls. There are also several loops that go through the forest only, and don't even touch any of the waterfalls.
Take a look at the various maps of the park (they are posted in a number of locations), and look at the distances: don't bite off more than you can chew, because unless you have someone who can carry you back home there is no alternative once you get to the more remote parts of the canyon.
If you just want to see the waterfalls, then one of the maps that features just the "Trail of Ten Falls" will work fine for you. However, if you want to go beyond that into the forest, you will want one of the larger maps that includes the several major trails that go to the other parts of the park. The "Trail of Ten Falls" is by far the most popular trail in the park, but it only covers the northwest corner of the entire park.
The trail of ten falls is the most popular draw of this park. It is a seven mile loop trail which passes 10 different waterfalls. The trail starts near the South Falls Lodge- which is a historic building and not a hotel- and descends in a series of steps to the bottom of the canyon.
The first of the falls, Lower South Falls, is about a mile from the lodge. From there, you will pass South Falls, Lower North Falls, Double Falls, Drake Falls, Middle North Falls, Twin Falls, and North Falls. The names aren't the most original, and the falls do kinda start looking alike, but this portion of the walk is a short distance of only a couple of miles along a level walkway.
There is a spur trail leading to Upeer North Falls, which continues past Winter Falls and then returns to the lodge. Most people pack in it before this point, probably feeling as though 8 out of 10 is not too bad.
All kidding aside, it is a nice walk, especially on a warm summer's day. The trail, which was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a WWII depression era project, winds behind some falls and in front of others. You can see indentations in the canyon walls as a result of the constant pounding by cascading water. benches are provided here and there to stop and just enjoy the scenery.
Middle North Falls is set fairly far back from the Canyon Trail, and therefore a spur trail has been built over to the falls. However, this spur trail does not allow a very good view of this 106 foot (32 meter) tall drop in the North Fork of Silver Creek.
The Canyon Trail (the main trail that runs along the North Fork of Silver Creek) really offers you the best view and it was where this photo was taken. Even from that vantage point, in the summer months the setting back behind the cliff there is only one vantage point that is not obscured by tree leaves.
The difference in summer vs. winter water flow changes the shape of the falls a bit as well. See the main photo for my Silver Falls introduction page shows the falls in summer.
You will notice that the main photo featured here was taken in winter.
The branch trail to the edge and passing behind the falls a short distance is extremely short, so I would suggest exploring it, but don't expect the views of the falls to be much better for photography than what you see from the main trail. The falls is simply too close to be photographed once the falls become visible through the trees.
Testament to the Trail of the Ten Waterfalls great design, it finishes with one of its best at the North Falls at the polar opposite end of where you began at South Falls. Though not quite as impressive from above as South Falls, North Falls biggest charm is in the cavernous cutout trail that goes not only behind it but forms a half circle in its amphitheater-like natural enclosure of the falls. This makes for some of the most stunning photo opportunities of the hike and provides a great place to have a snack in the very cool shade of the overhang.
While there are many waterfalls on the Trail of the Ten Waterfalls, the best are at polar ends of the loop hike. Some of the falls in between are more like cascades and surely others are a lot more impressive in times of high water. We did the hike in early July and undoubtedly the water level was not at its best. That said, the South Falls were still flowing nicely and with their lush setting still very beautiful. The Upper South Falls are 177 feet high and can be easily seen from the rim trail but to really get a better perspective, it's best to take the trail right under them. A mile down the trail and down 185 steps are the Lower South Falls. While not quite as high at 93 feet, it is a wider waterfall forming a curtain that you can also walk behind.
There are 24 miles of trails in Silver Falls State Park but the big attraction here is The Trail of the Ten Waterfalls. This 8.7 mile trail has been designated a National Recreation Trail for good reason. It not only passes by ten very pretty waterfalls, it goes through a beautiful section of lush temperate rain forest that will leave you falling asleep at night with nothing but green on your mind. Four of the ten waterfalls are quite spectacular and the trail walks you behind them for amazing up close views. It is a classic up and down trail offering a great workout but not one to ruin your day with effort. If in the park and in reasonable shape, by all means do this hike and don't settle for just walking to the main two park falls.
While you can picnic just about anywhere, Silver Falls State Park is located in an area that is sort of a suburb of state forest and national forest land. So, there is the potential of this being a bit of a wilderness experience during the right time of year.
However, the sad thing is that the park has become so popular that it is very difficult to really have that wilderness experience in the park picnic areas most of the time.
Your best bet is during the winter, on a weekday. This guarantees that there will be the fewest people in the park. Otherwise, it will seem just as busy and noisy as an extremely popular city park, and more noisy and busy than the average city park.
The picnic areas are in and around the South Falls day use area, and there are quite a number of different places. As shown in photo 2, there are signs directing you to the various picnic areas.
Many of the falls in Silver Falls State Park have undercut rock ledges. This is not the case with Lower North Falls. Instead, it is a bit like a very steep ramp with water flowing down it.
The largest of the logs that you see stuck in the falls has been there for many years. You can see this old log stuck in the falls from a photo I took in November of 2004. The additional logs have arrived over the years with various heavy rains that wash trees into the North Fork of Silver Creek.
Directly above the falls, on the north side of Silver Creek, you can see a bridge. This bridge marks the division in the Canyon Trail to the very short dead-end trail that leads to Double Falls.
An additional photo of this falls is part of the 2004 to 2009 travelogue.
With a very small parking lot at the top of the falls, it is possible to drive to Winter Falls on highway 214. However, as there are only a few parking places here, if it is a busy day you may wind up having to park at either North Falls or South Falls.
I've always had trouble getting good photos of Winter Falls. I'm not sure exactly why, but some of it has to do with the difficulty of the location. In order to photograph the falls, you have to be close to it because of the forest. Getting close to it means you can't get the entire thing into your camera view finder.
It is still a wonderful place. The bench near the base of the falls is a particular favorite for couples to get photographed. However, any photo of anyone taken there will not fit the entire falls in the photo too.
As the name implied, the water flow is very small in the summer months. November through May are the best months, depending on the year. Some years may also include October. If you walk to Upper North Falls and along the trail there are at least two other locations where water falls onto the trail from above, then chances are conditions are wet enough for Winter Falls to have a reasonable amount of water coming over it.
Located just upstream from Lower North Falls, Double Falls is extremely difficult to photograph. Well, you can get photos of it easy enough in winter, but it is extremely hard to get a really good photo of it. There is fairly dense forest completely surrounding the area, so to really see it you have to get close to it. Once you get close to it, you can't get the entire height of the falls in your camera viewfinder.
Winter is a bit better, as many of the trees are clear of leaves, but still the branches cover the view from the Canyon Trail bridge. You can see this from the photos.
Really much of Silver Falls is like that, unfortunately: much easier to really see in person than to try to experience through, or take away in, photographs. Double Falls, however, is one of the prime examples of that little problem.
In the winter time, it is possible to see part of the falls from the Canyon Trail, on the bridge over Double Falls Creek, which is just upstream from Lower North Falls.
Named after the photographer and Silverton resident whose tireless campaign to preserve the Silver Falls area resulted in the creation of Oregon's most popular state park, Drake Falls is one of the more modest waterfalls in the park. It is only 27 feet (slightly over 8 meters) tall, and is located in an area that makes it very difficult to see. It is at the bottom of an extremely narrow rock walled canyon, so that not even a walking path can be built to the falls.
While it is possible to see some distance into the canyon downstream from the falls, there is a tight curve in the canyon at the pool that forms downstream from the falls. This means you can see the pool from the Canyon Trail down stream from the waterfall, but you can not see Drake Falls themselves. Note the tight curve in the stream at the pool shown in Photo 5.
The only way to see the falls in any way is to climb onto the Drake Falls viewing platform, which hangs over the cliff above the falls.
For more information about June Drake and the efforts to create Silver Falls State Park, see my June Drake Photo Collection tip.
While Twin Falls is certainly not a true twin side-by-side waterfall, it is reasonably close to being one. The channel on the north side of the stream is usually the primary channel, and usually has a bit more water flowing through it. Sometimes, if logs get caught in the stream, this may be reversed.
From North Falls, simply go downstream on the Canyon Trail. Twin Falls is before you get to the junction with the trail to Winter Falls. From Winter Falls, take the trail to the base of Winter Falls, and continue until it joins the Canyon Trail, then head upstream (right) on the Canyon Trail. From South Falls, take the Canyon Trail, or the Maple Ridge Trail to the Canyon Trail.
From the Group Camping Area on the north side of Silver Falls State Park, take the only trail downhill to the Canyon Trail, as this trail joins the Canyon Trail right at Twin Falls.
Of the water falls in Silver Falls State Park, South Falls is probably the most visited. This is because it is in the main picnic and recreational center of the park, and therefore there are more people around to see it.
The trail between the observation area and the parking lot is paved and fairly smooth, but if you try to get closer to the falls the trail does become a bit rough.
The Canyon Trail continues behind the falls, and eventually goes into the canyon created by the South Fork of Silver Creek. Eventually you will come to Lower South Falls, which in the winter may be closed at a common washout area, just before the falls.
If the Canyon Trail is open all the way through, you have several options:
You can continue on this trail to Winter Falls or North Falls, and pass several other major and minor water falls in the process.
You can also take the Maple Ridge Trail directly back to the South Falls parking area.