We are all indoors and not hiking right now, but one place on the gotta-hike-it-in-the-future-list is Silver Falls state park in Oregon. The camping is comfortable; the forest is beautiful, and the hiking provides fantastic views.
The park’s Trail of Ten Falls is an experience in nature appreciation, ecological balance, geology, and even some Zen.
A seven-mile loop will take hikers to ten of the park’s total of fourteen falls. Each fall is mesmerizing and will leave one feeling a range of emotions and sensations anywhere from feeling like you are in a Jim Henson forested puppet scene, to an elf inhabited fantasy land, or perhaps waiting for a word from John Audubon at your elbow.
However, be ready for some stone stairs, steep wet stairs. Be ready for waterfall spray even though you are relatively far away. And, be ready to get a dog sitter. That’s right; no dogs are allowed on these trails except for the Rim Trail, which does not take you near any of the falls. There are too many non-dog-friendly and dangerous places along this trail.
The trails follow along the North Fork of Silver Creek and then along the South Fork. The creek runs out of the Cascade Mountains toward the Willamette River, and it runs through a crevice in basalt layers that were deposited millions of years ago. Think of a pancake stack or a layered casserole with Oligocene era lining the bottom of the plate, Miocene basalt layers with a forested filling in between, and a nice Pliocene topping of fern tuff. Fantastic.
Silver Creek cascades over drop-offs some of which are close to 200 feet. Cavernous alcoves drape behind many of the falls’ curtains of water. If you look up in the ceilings of some, you can see tree holes where tree trunks held-out long enough in the lava flow to leave behind a cylindrical tube.
I’ve been here in summer and fall. The park and trails are beautiful in both. Though busy in summer and a little crowded at the larger falls, it is worth the time and drive. East, southeast out of Salem, on highway 214 will take you on a scenic drive through the park.
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