Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in the Oregon system and is most famous for its collection of spectacular and surreal waterfalls. Indeed, they are stunning to behold. But as might be expected in a 9,000-acre park, there are lots of other things to see and do as well.
Beautiful and abundant forests, as well as bountiful sources of water, brought loggers and homesteaders to the area in the late 1880s. In the early 20th century, a local businessman began staging stunts at the falls, like pushing cars over the waterfalls and riding down a waterfall in a canoe. Several attempts to protect the area by declaring it a state park failed, but finally, one succeeded in 1933. Additionally, President Roosevelt declared it a "Recreational Demonstration Area," giving the park further federal protections. As a result, visitors may enjoy the numerous hiking trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, and breathtaking waterfalls year-round.
Truly, these are no ordinary falls. After the ocean receded some fifteen million years ago, the Columbia River basalt mixed with ocean-floor sandstone, creating this unique place which is known as Silver Falls. This interaction created walkways behind the waterfalls, which the Civilian Conservation Corps expanded in the 1930s. Viewing the falls from behind a wall of water is a unique and popular draw, bringing thousands of tourists, photographers, and nature-lovers to the park each year. In fact, the dramatic landscape of Silver Falls is the backdrop for much of the Twilight movie series that was filmed here.
Besides the stunning beauty of the many waterfalls, when you venture out to Silver Falls State Park in your RV, you'll have plenty of choices for outdoor adventure. You can go hiking, biking, and horseback riding in a truly magical setting. Just minutes from the lush vineyards of the Willamette Valley and a short jaunt to the state capital, Salem, where the Willamette River winds only blocks behind the capitol building, you won't have a chance to get bored. In fact, you'll want to put Silver Falls State Park on your list of repeat destinations. This is a park the whole family can enjoy, whether you want to experience the transcendent nature of the falls, enjoy a serene picnic in the forest, or take a tour of the nearby vineyards. No matter where you go on an Oregon RV road trip, you'll want to check Silver Falls State Park off your bucket list.
Silver Falls State Park is located in northern Oregon, a little over an hour south of Portland and 20 miles east of Salem, off of OR-99E and OR-22, and just 13 miles south of the quaint town of Silverton. You may want to drive slow if you are wandering to the park in a larger RV since some of the roads into the park are narrow and hilly. However, the views of the Oregon forest and countryside are breathtaking. The roads inside the park are relatively level and easy to maneuver.
You shouldn't have any trouble parking your rig since there are several large parking lots located in the park. Ample parking is available in the day-use areas, as well as around the Trail of Ten Falls. If you come to Silver Falls State Park, you’ll probably spend most of your time in these areas.
If you are longing to stay at Silver Falls Creek with your horse you can do just that at the Howard Creek Horse Camp. There are five primitive sites available that can hold up to eight people and four horses. There is also a group site available at the horse camp. Open from May to September, the horse camp is easily accessible to many of the trailheads for convenient horseback riding. While there are no hookups at these sites, there is a pad for tent camping.
Silver Falls State Park offers camping for tents and RVs in a serene setting, just below the South Falls Day-Use Area. Loop A has 10 standard RV sites that can accommodate rigs up to 33 feet in length, all with electric and water hookups. One host site features full hookups. At this campground, visitors may also choose from 43 tent sites. These sites are pet-friendly and have access to a centrally located restroom and shower facility.
Campsites at Loop A are near the enchanting South Fork Silver Creek and Day Use area, including the playground. You'll enjoy the use of a picnic table and fire ring right at your campsite. While there are no sewer hookups at most sites, an RV dump station is located at the North Falls Day-Use Area. Many of the sites are nestled underneath the shade of beautiful Oregon pines. The campground is located south of the famous Trail of Ten Falls.
Campers who stay in Loop B will find RV sites that can accommodate rigs up to 83 feet long. You can choose between 38 standard back-in RV sites, all pet-friendly with water hookups, electric hookups, picnic tables, and fire rings. One host site offers full hookups. Many have gravel or level paved pads, so you can park comfortably for a long stay. Although there are no sewer hookups at most sites, you will find an RV dump station at the North Falls Day-Use Area.
The Loop B campsites are closer to the Nature Trail Loop, with restrooms, showers, and a playground that are centrally located. Although no tent sites are available in this loop, there are four additional cabins on the south side of the loop. Reservations are required and can be made from one day up to nine months ahead of time.
If you are organizing a camping trip for a large group, Silver Falls Lodge and Conference Center offers 36 luxury but cozy lodge rooms and cabins for your next large event. These facilities offer catering and specialized menus to suit your group's needs as well as beautiful large group meeting areas and reliable Wi-Fi. Silver Falls Lodge offers a beautiful setting for events and weddings.
If you prefer to stay in a cozy cabin, you can choose from 10 cabins nestled along the east bank of South Fork Silver Creek. You can relax in these rustic cabins as each features beds and mattresses for four to six campers. You'll enjoy modern conveniences including heating, electricity, and a table with chairs. If you want to heat up some dinner, you can use the fire ring and picnic table located outside. Some of the cabins are even pet-friendly.
Two group camping areas are available, which can accommodate a total of 50 people in 25 vehicles. These group camping sites are meant for tent camping. RV parking is allowed nearby, but there are no hookups. Amenities include flush toilets, picnic areas, fire pits, and a nearby dump station. These sites are also fully shaded and are conveniently located near the North Falls Day Use Area within walking distance to the Trail of Ten Falls.
If you want your kids to let out some energy on your off-season camping trip, you can take them to the Natural Play Area at the North Falls Day Use Area. Designed to fit into the natural landscape, this unique playground features climbable trees and a replica bear den. If you venture down to the South Falls Day Use Area, you can play at the horseshoe pit and another playground. Both areas offer serene settings for a picnic.
The weather is tolerable outside in the park all year round, but that doesn't mean there won't be a shower or two on your off-season trip. If it starts to rain, duck inside the South Falls Lodge to dry off and warm up before heading back out to play.
One of the best vantage points on the entire Trail of Ten Falls is only about a third of a mile from the North Falls parking area. If you come in the off-season and the weather is uncooperative, this spot is a good place to get a good view of most of the waterfalls without venturing too far. The temperature never drops too low in this part of the country, but you may get wet as winter in Oregon means rain, so bring your raincoat and enjoy having the scenery to yourself.
The workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration built this cabin in the 1930s. Originally, all the furniture came from just two very large myrtle trees. Some of the original furnishings remain, and the lodge is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
While visiting the park in the off-season, you can warm up by the large fireplace, order hot fare in the lodge restaurant, and post your spectacular videos of the falls online using the lodge Wi-Fi. There's no roughing it in here. The surrounding day use area is very nice as well. Amenities include a play area, off-leash dog run, and sheltered picnic areas.
During the off-season, you and your furry friend can warm up by taking a hike together. Just make sure your dog is on a leash and you can venture out on many of the hiking trails within the park to make lasting memories with your four-legged companion. Keep in mind that pets are not allowed on the Trail of Ten Falls. However, you can let your dog run around and play off the leash at the South Falls Day Use Area's pet exercise area.
Autumn in northern Oregon is always gorgeous, but it's on fire with color at Silver Falls State Park. Since the park is in a temperate rain forest, the changing of the leaves lasts all the way through January or longer. The leaves change color quickly in early fall, but because they don't get too cold or dry out, they linger on the trees and ground for months, creating an idyllic autumn paradise perfect for day trips to the park.
Bring your group or large family to the North Falls Day Use Area for an autumn picnic or family reunion. It’s close to Highway 214, so it’s very accessible. The Meeting Hall comfortably accommodates up to 100 people. The building has flush toilets, a commercial kitchen, and a large fireplace in case the temperature drops below 45, which it rarely does in the fall and early winter. Outside, there’s a large parking area, a very nice natural play area, and some undeveloped trails for intrepid people. Take your RV to the event and stay overnight. You’ll be glad you did.
If standing next to a 177-foot waterfall is not enough water for you, check out the swimming hole in South Fork Silver Creek. This amazing swimming hole feeds into South Falls, one of the ten spectacular waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park. The swimming area is safely barricaded from the edge of the falls, so swimmers won’t be in danger of going over the edge. You can access this old-fashioned swimming spot from the South Falls portion of the Day Use area. You can make a day of it and get some food to eat at the concession area or play on the playground nearby.
Whether you bring your own horse to the park or rent one from the Howard Creek Stables, you can enjoy riding 25 miles of trails, including the Buck Mountain Loop, a gorgeous 8.5-trail in the backwoods of Silver Falls State Park. Trails are marked, so it's easy to find your way along the vibrantly green paths, winding dirt roads, and lush creeksides. Nearby stables offer guided tours for the novice equestrians as well. The whole family will be able to enjoy riding, no matter their level of experience at this RV destination.
If you want to bust the bike out of the rig and hit the trail, you can cycle on the four-mile, mostly paved bike path. While there are no waterfalls on this route, it does provide easy access to the swimming area and day-use area from the campground. For mountain bikers or those looking for more adventure, you can bike on some of the wooded backcountry trails that will take you to a few of the majestic waterfalls. Be cautious since many of the waterfall trails have steep or narrow sets of stone stairs. You'll want to pick up a trail map and avoid those trails on your cycling adventure.
There are more than 35 miles of stunningly beautiful hiking trails you can enjoy during your RV visit to Silver Falls State Park. While the Trail of Ten Falls is the most popular, there are many other amazing routes to explore. The Lost Creek Trail is the steepest trail with a peak elevation above 2,400 feet. Much of the trail is double-tracked, as it follows an old logging road. The Catamount Loop Trail is another beautiful trek that will offer panoramic mountain views. The lush beauty of the surrounding landscape is exceptional, and you'll want to take your time exploring it. The trails are not only lined with a wide variety of conifers but have huge oak trees with leaves the size of plates. Because Silver Falls State Park is a temperate rain forest, there is an astonishing variety of unusual plant life for you to discover.
Of course, the thing you just can't miss on your visit to Silver Falls State Park is the Trail of Ten Falls. This seven-mile trail offers jaw-dropping views of the 10 waterfalls in the park. This loop trail begins and ends at the South Falls Day Use Area. One part of the loop trail is rather steep and there are two other sections that have rough hewn stairs. But other than that, the trail is fairly easy for almost anyone to traverse, even including benches sprinkled here and there along the trail, so you can rest and enjoy the scenery and sound of rushing water.
Some of the waterfalls are curtain falls while others are more like very large water spouts. Double Falls is the highest one at 178 feet, followed closely by South Falls at 177 feet, and Winter Falls at 134 feet.
South Falls is one of the most popular of the 10 falls because it's easy to get to, and it has a huge area behind it where hikers can experience the back side of a 177-foot waterfall. You can sit in the cool cave-like stone enclosure behind the falls and lose yourself in the surreal experience or snap unbelievable pictures to share with your friends back home.