On a hot summer’s day, the south fork of Silver Falls Creek flows quietly through stands of Douglas fir, hemlock, and cedar trees. Until it reaches the canyon rim, that is. Then it tumbles over the edge with an audible rush and plunges straight down into a pool of water below. A dizzying drop of 177 feet.
South Falls is the tallest free-falling waterfall in Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park. Unlike the other nine falls found along the Canyon Trail, it’s located just a quarter mile from the main parking lot. A paved walkway guides visitors past an information center—an old lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s—to a viewing platform on the canyon rim.
For more adventurous folk, the trail then angles down into the canyon, across the cliff face, and behind the falls. That’s right! You actually get to walk behind the waterfall. How cool is that? Cooler than you might think. Be prepared for mist even on a calm day.
The trail eventually leads all the way down to the canyon floor where ferns and wildflowers line the banks of the stream. Hikers can use the foot bridge located just below the pool to cross back over Silver Falls Creek. (and take some great shots of the waterfall) From there, the trail snakes back up to the canyon rim and the old lodge/visitor center.
Open year-round, South Falls is located about 24 miles east of Salem, OR. Admission is free to the public, but don’t forget to purchase a parking permit for your car. For a map and detailed directions, please check out the Salem Oregon website.
**Special Note: Though fairly steep in places, the trail is well maintained and there are places to rest all along the route. Sorry, no puppies, bicycles, or skateboards allowed.