Silver Falls State Park – Family-Friendly Hike near Salem, Oregon

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Whether you like long hikes or short ones near the car, Silver Falls State Park has everything you’ll want.  Hike the full 7.2 mile Trail of Ten Falls to see all 10 waterfalls, or park near the North Falls for a shorter hike to two waterfalls.  Silver Falls is a family-friendly hike, so bring your baby carrier, but leave the stroller at home.  Dogs are not allowed at all, so leave them home, too.  Best of all, you can walk behind several of the waterfalls for a unique experience you’ll never forget.

South Falls

Our family visited on a blisteringly hot summer day, and we looked forward to feeling the mist from behind the waterfalls.  We drove about 90 minutes from Eugene to reach Silver Falls State Park, and parked near the most famous of the falls: South Falls.  Here you’ll find the most amenities.  Bathrooms are located near the parking lot, and just a short distance away is the historic lodge (with cafe) and a gift shop in an adorable log cabin.  Also near the parking is a wonderful swimming area, so pack towels and swimwear for a dip before heading home.

Silver Falls Hike with kids near Salem

The day we went was SO BUSY.  The trail to South Falls was a constant stream of people.  And despite signs and warnings that dogs weren’t allowed on the trail, we saw a lot of dogs.  So be aware of that if you have a child who is afraid of dogs…people take them anyway.  The trail is short, only 0.7 mile, and it’s downhill (which means UPHILL on the way back) but it’s a pretty gentle slope and going down to the falls and back out wasn’t too strenuous.  The view is absolutely worth it.

South Falls at Silver Falls State Park - panorama of the vista

Panorama from the top of South Falls.

Silver Falls Hike - Canyon walls behind South Falls at Silver Falls State Park - great for beginner hikers and young children

As you descend into the canyon, the walls of the canyon soar overhead. The trail is bordered by a wooden fence, and at times is very narrow. But the path is well-maintained and easy to traverse.

Our kids were 4 months, 2, 4, 5, 8, and 13 years for our trip.  I carried the baby in a Tula carrier, and the other kids hiked beautifully.  My husband wore a Deuter pack in case one of the others needed a ride, but none of them ever used it.  The trail is not suitable for strollers, nor is it wheelchair-accessible.

The view from the trail was enticing, and we hiked a little faster in anticipation.

Finally, we were there, right behind the water.  The roar of the waterfall and the mist were a sensory treat. Our kids lined the railing and were silent.  (And we have 6 kids, so that never happens!)

Behind the waterfall at South Falls

Under the cave behind the waterfall. Notice the smoke-blackened ceiling. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine this could be from when Native Americans lived here and used these caves. According to the Oregon State Park website, the Kalapuya and Molalla lived here.

The trail continues to a bridge at the far side of the pool. We hiked down for some wonderful views of the waterfall. There is no access to the pool. (Not allowable access, anyway. As usual, people ignored the signs and so there were people on the “beach” and swimming in the pool, but this is not technically allowed.)

Historic Lodge

Back at the top of the trail, we visited the gift shop, which contains not only Silver Falls souvenirs, but Oregon-made gifts and cold drinks.  We also paid a quick visit to the historic lodge, which has a cafe and coffee house.  Inside, we marveled at the stone fireplace and used the restrooms.

Photo courtesy of Silver Falls State Park

Historic Silver Falls Lodge

North Falls

We were eager to see more waterfalls, but not feeling up to a 7 mile hike, so we hopped back in the van for a short drive to North Falls at the other end of the park.  A vault toilet is available at this parking area, but no other amenities.  Two falls are easily accessible from this parking lot, the North Falls and the Upper North Falls.  However, we only made it to the North Falls, which is a 0.6 mile hike to the falls.  The path to North Falls is steep and includes a lot of stairs.  We all tried to count, and our tallies ranged from 106 steps to a million.

Silver Falls Hike

The trail to North Falls is narrow in places and requires a little stooping.

North Falls at Silver Falls State Park - steps down to the falls

Some of the “million” steps down to North Falls.

The first awesome view of the North Falls. That cave, though!

Take your time under the cave, because it’s marvelous. But continue along the trail at least a little way, because the best views are from the other side.

The colors around North Falls were amazing in July. I don’t normally think of July as a particularly colorful month, but these photos are not edited for color. These are the real deal, so take your cameras!

End of our Day

For us, two waterfalls was plenty.  Our kids were done!  But we did have one thing left…we’d brought swim suits and our kids were ready to swim and unwind.

Finally, as the sun began to set, we left the park.  We stopped at an overlook for a view of the surrounding farmland, offset by a smoky sun.

Photo credit belongs to our daughter

Photo credit – our 13-year-old daughter, shooting with a Canon EOS T3. Natural light, no filters or editing.


I’m a middle-aged mom of 3-6 and sometimes more, depending on day. I’m out of shape and usually exhausted. Our favorite summertime activity (and often on dry winter days) is getting outdoors and finding adventure.

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