The Pacific Northwest is home to one of the most beautiful waterfall day hikes in the country. From the very first waterfall, until the last, Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park does not let you down.
As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and wind sing.
~ John Muir
Beyond the 10 major waterfalls, there are plenty of other, smaller falls along the trail. One of the top highlights of this loop is the ability to walk behind four of the falls. Only a 45-minute drive from Salem, Oregon, expect this hike to be crowded year round.
The weather was overcast, in the mid 50s, and raining lightly when we hit the trail. We were prepared with the KÜHL Men’s Jetstream Jacket and Women’s Jetstream Trench. Both were waterproof, comfortable, and stylish. They were great for keeping us dry in the rain and under the falls.
History of Silver Falls State Park
The first homesteaded land in Silver Falls was situated next to South Falls in 1883. In 1888, Silver Falls City was established and began its 40 year history with three stores, a tavern, a church, seven sawmills, houses, barns and more. Its peak population grew to 200 residents.
The Great Depression of 1929 caused the fall of the city. To help ease the effects of the depression, the U.S. Government created programs, like the Civilian Conservation Corps, to put the unemployed to work building trails, bridges, walls, and other infrastructure in the area. These efforts made the park what it is today.
Over the next two decades more than 5,000 acres of land were added to the park through transfers, developments, purchases, and federal land acquisitions. One of the first purchases was 100 acres, which included South Falls, from a private owner. The parks superintendent, Samuel H. Boardman, later stated, “This was the nest egg which hatched into a completed Silver Falls State Park.”
Today the park consists of more than 9,000 acres and provides camping, biking paths, 25+ miles of backcountry trails, horseback riding and much more. The Trail of Ten Falls is the park’s most popular attraction, and annual day use attendance exceeds 1 million people. Silver Falls State Park is known as the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Parks system.
Hiking the Trail of Ten Falls Loop
We started the hike at Stone Circle and took the western trail toward South Falls. South Falls is the first fall on the trail, and it features the highest drop. It’s the most popular fall on the loop, and you can walk behind it. It’s a pretty spectacular view when you approach it. A high volume of water rushes over the edge and crashes on the rocks below, creating such a force at the bottom that it kicks up a large, constant mist.
We fully zipped up our KÜHL gear and proceeded down the trail to walk behind the fall. The sound of the water intensified, the crowd of people became denser, and the thick mist enveloped us. It’s really hard to explain the excitement and feel of this, so we highly suggest you go see it for yourself!
After enjoying this spot, we moved on to Lower South Falls as the rain continued off and on. This was another fall where the trail led behind it. Not as impressive as the first one, but still a thrill.
We’ll talk about a few more of the falls in detail, but we won’t spoil the experience by writing about every fall.
Double Falls is located off a short spur trail. Though you can’t walk behind this fall, you can walk on rocks in the creek leading up to it and get pretty close. As long as you have some waterproof boots and wet weather gear, you’ll be OK. Brandon took a moment to get as close as he could to the falls, just shy of standing right under it.
The mist was strong here and once again the KÜHL Jetstream Jacket performed well. After coming back to the trail we inspected the men’s jacket, and it was nearly dry. The majority of the water beaded right off. Unzipping it and taking it off showed that the clothing under it was completely dry. Pretty impressive!
Another opportunity to test out the jackets presented itself at Middle North Falls. Again, we were able to walk behind this one, but this time there was some runoff falling right on the trail. We each took a turn to fully zip up, place our hoods over our heads, and stand under the runoff. Once again, an inspection of the jackets showed only a few remaining water drops, and everything underneath was bone dry. The fully sealed seams make a big difference!
Our favorite fall was located on the eastern side of the loop, North Falls. It provides a pretty large cave-like space behind the fall with a few wooden benches to sit on. The cave acts as an acoustic amplifier for the falls, so it’s really loud. Since this was on the other side of the loop, it wasn’t very that busy here. We stopped for a snack break, and it was just the two of us.
Upper North Falls is the next fall, and it’s located off a spur trail. Once you’re done with it, you turn around and continue on the Rim Trail on the southern loop portion. You’ll only encounter one additional fall – Winter Falls – and it’s spectacular.
The rest of the trail was pretty level and easy, and it led back to our starting point, Stone Circle. Our total trip was 8.2 miles, and we look forward to doing it again, next time in the opposite direction.
The Trail of the Ten Falls is such a lovely hike with little elevation change, 10 significant waterfalls, numerous minor waterfalls, forests, fresh air, wildlife, rivers and streams! It’s no wonder Silver Falls State Park is so popular. The trails are well maintained; the falls are wonders of nature; and the way the trail system is constructed allows you to get incredibly close! We will return to this park and hike the other trails that beg to be explored.
KÜHL Jetstream Jackets Product Review
We’re very happy with our KÜHL Men’s Jetstream Jacket and Women’s Jetstream Trench, and this hike was the perfect chance to give them a go! Not only did they do their job of keeping us dry, but they also fit well and look great.
On a recent trip to the San Juan Islands, we brought our Jetstream Jackets along in case of rain. There was no rain, but there was a lot of high wind. We discovered that the jackets also work great as windbreakers and prevented cold air from blowing through our clothing and reaching our skin.
What We Loved
The Jetstream Jackets are extremely lightweight and feature AIRSKAPE fabric for mechanical stretch and strength. The fabric is breathable which creates a comfortable experience no matter how long you’re wearing the jackets. Our total time spent hiking was about four hours, and we wore the jackets the entire time.
There are a number of cinch points around the hood, on the waist for the women’s trench, and at the bottom of the men’s jacket. The pockets are waterproof with waterproof zippers, and there’s reflective ribbon inside the pockets for nighttime visibility. The right pocket converts to a stuff sack for handy storage.
A minor issue with the woman’s trench is the underside of the wrist cuffs isn’t waterproof. It’s a small panel made of stretchy material, and it will get wet if exposed to water. We thoroughly tested our jackets in, under, and around waterfalls, while it was raining, so we don’t anticipate this will be a problem during normal use.
We would also like the zipper pulls to be lightly larger on the pockets, to make it easier to locate them and use with cold, wet or gloved hands.
Making the Grade
Overall, we’re very satisfied with our Jetstream Jackets, and we highly recommend them. Waterproof, stylish and thoughtfully designed! We even put together a video of the jacket performing underneath the falls.
Our new KÜHL rain gear is now an essential on our packing list. Keeping us dry, comfortable and looking good, we’ll never plan a hike without it!
- Trail of Ten Falls Map
- Silver Falls State Park