Camping & Hiking Guide to Silver Falls State Park
Off to Portland and our 3 week Pacific Northwest Roadtrip
After scramble packing, hardly any sleep, waking up at 4:30 AM, riding 2.5 hours to the airport, and hopping on a couple of planes, we finally landed in Portland, Oregon. Shortly after, we Uber’d over to Wonderland Expeditions and met with Dore to pick up our beautiful beast of a rig, Hank. Luckily, we booked an AirBnB that night in a cozy efficiency to rest up before a long, adventurous 3 weeks.
First stop: Silver Falls State Park!
With 10 beautiful waterfalls - many of them with walk-behind views - and 8.7 miles of easy to moderate hiking trails through dense moss forests, caves, and wandering rock trails, this is a absolutely must see of an Oregon State Park! For this excursion, we stayed at the Silver Falls State Park campground for 2 nights.
Silver Falls State Park Campgrounds
You can reserve a campsite online a day in advance or call-ahead to see how many first-come-first-serve spots are available to get an idea of where you are staying. This was our first stop on our 3 week PNW road trip and we hit it at just the right time. Going during the work week and in the transition to slow season in late September just a few weeks before the rainy season provided optimal conditions for our waterfall adventures.
The campground has plenty of RV, & tent sites and hosts some cool cabins as well. All of the facilities that we used and came across during our stay were state of the art. Hot showers with large, private rooms were a perfect treat after 16,601 steps and 38 climbed floors (Apple Health App). The lot sizes are plenty spacious as well. We opted to stay in a tent site because it was our first stop and the solar charger on our rig had plenty of juice. Right across from our site, there was a neat wooden bridge with a river and some fallen logs which made for a nice walk & afternoon hangout spot too!
The campground offers most of the essential amenities minus a fill-up drinking water station for your water tanks. A little tip is that we actually stopped at the South Falls Day Area and used the water spigot to fill our 2.5gallon jugs before getting back on the road to our next adventure.
Silver Falls State Park Hiking
The entire loop with a couple extra out and backs tops around 8.7 miles. However, to get the best views possible while hiking with 40 lbs as least a possible, we broke it down into 3 sections. So, here is everything you need to know about Hiking Silver Falls State Park the right way.
Arrive early and park at the North Falls Parking Lot (about 30 spaces available)
This lot fills up quick and was full before 10:30AM. Camping at the park the night before gives you a huge advantage over other travelers. The North Falls hike is a short 8-12 minute out-and-back that leads you into a massive walk-behind fall cave with gorgeous views of the ravine. You don’t want to miss this waterfall if you’re considering shedding a couple of miles.
While you’re taking advantage of the early bird special parking spot, make sure to hike the Upper North Falls trail too! Another short, 10 to 15 minute (one way) out-and-back was by far our favorite waterfall of the day! The park ranger told us that most of the time this waterfall most often gets overlooked because of the location and the out-and-back style of it, but don’t let this happen to you! Otherwise, you will miss out on these views:
Don’t Take The Bait!
As you have probably noticed, the park tends to lead you to South Falls where there are over 900 parking spots and plenty of recreational facilities. What we noticed is that many people ambitiously start at the South Fall entrance and hope to conquer all 8.6 miles, yet cut their hike short by turning at Winter Falls, effectively shaving half the miles and missing out on arguably the two best waterfalls of the day. This is totally okay so long as you plan to drive to North Falls and complete those hikes.
If you really want the best views per mile hiked, the best way is to hike North Falls & Upper North falls, then drive down to Winter Falls (10 parking spots so get there early or be patient) and hike to Middle North falls and back where you will see 5 waterfalls along the way. Finally, stop at the South Falls entrance on your way out and check out the massive South Falls. This route cuts down a considerable amount of empty milage while also allowing you to see every fall except Lower South Falls - which is quite pretty but you can decide if it’s worth the extra milage yourself:
Dog owners, beware! Pets are only allowed on the Perimeter Trail which does not gain you access to any waterfall views. Sadly, we came across so many adorable pups and their disappointed owners who did not know this beforehand. For what it is worth, the perimeter trail alone was a beauty with multiple lookout points while strolling among the huge, moss-covered pines which really make it enjoyable.
All-in-all, we couldn’t have picked a more ideal first stop. We would rate the hikes, waterfalls, and campgrounds all 5-stars. If I had grown up near this area, I surely would’ve begged my parents to make this a yearly visit at the least.
Our next stop: Mckenzie River, Proxy Falls, and Mckenzie Pass!
Our new favorite! Literally, the most insane, diverse, spectacular views our eyes, lenses, and giddy, rock hopping spirits have ever seen! This was also our first encounter with ‘disperse camping’ and all of the weirdness that comes along with not knowing the area and sleeping out in the wilderness. Can’t wait to show you! We’ll get that out once we have service again!