Monday, March 20, 2017

Trip Report: Silver Falls State Park

Throughout my time browsing Instagram, I kept seeing amazing waterfall pictures and when I looked at the location, many of them were from Silver Falls State Park. I put this park on a list somewhere and then kind of forgot about it. I kept seeing pictures from this park and then remembering that I meant to visit someday, so this year when I did all of my trip planning, I made it a point to finally visit this park - and I'm glad that I did! It's now one of my favorite parks and I feel that everyone should visit it at some point in their lives.

The park is known for an 8.7 mile trail called the Trail of Ten Falls, in which you can see 10 different waterfalls on the trail. In reality, there are more than 10 falls. There are several more miniature waterfalls along the trail - the park is full of them! The miniature falls are most likely dependent on the amount of rainfall though, and I suspect most of them don't exist in drier months. I was at the park in early March and it rained the entire first day I was there, so all of the falls were completely filled out.

I figured I was coming to the park to see waterfalls and that that would be the highlight of the trip, however, the trail itself is beautiful and worth seeing even if the waterfalls didn't exist. The trail follows a stream with a pretty blue color which winds its way through a gorgeous forest. Moss covered trees line the banks of the stream and the bright green moss pops against the darker green forest and the brown and red leaves. I can't speak to how it looks during the rest of the year, but the rainy and foggy Pacific Northwest weather in March gave the scenery a mystical appearance. Also, the moss covered trees are insane. They're some of the coolest trees I've ever seen in my life - totally wicked and they make for some interesting pictures. I enjoyed the trail and the surroundings just as much as I enjoyed the waterfalls!

Fern covered boulder

Now for the falls: the first one I encountered was South Falls at 177 feet tall, one of the bigger and more popular falls due to its proximity to the day use area and South Falls Lodge. It's a short walk from the parking lot to get here, and this is also one of the falls that you can walk behind. It is quite difficult to photograph a waterfall from behind, as there is a tremendous amount of spray and mist that covers the camera lens. For this same reason, it's also difficult to stay dry when walking behind a waterfall!

The second waterfall that I came to was Lower South Falls at 93 feet, and it was another waterfall you can walk behind. This was one of two of my favorites to walk behind (the other being Middle North Falls) because the trail was narrow and cut just a few feet behind the falls. Walking behind a waterfall is a life experience that I highly recommend everyone have at some point. It's exhilarating to be so close to something so powerful. The water is so strong and loud, and it's a unique experience to see all of it rushing past you with a force that could crush anything in its path. It's mesmerizing. I could stand behind a waterfall all day.

The third waterfall was Lower North Falls at 30 feet. This was a pretty and powerful waterfall right along the trail.

The fourth waterfall was Double Falls at 178 feet. It was loud and angry and difficult to photograph due to the amount of spray and mist it was throwing. I had to back up a bit to get a shot. This waterfall was a short detour from the main trail.

The fifth waterfall was Drake Falls at 27 feet. It could be seen as I passed by it on the trail, but this was one of the more difficult falls to see, as there was no clear viewpoint from directly in front of it, behind it, or above it.

The sixth waterfall was my other favorite to walk behind - Middle North Falls at 106 feet. The trail also cut quite close behind these falls and I took some time to just stand there and watch. Being behind a huge wall of water is amazing.

Approaching Middle North Falls

The seventh waterfall was Twin Falls at 31 feet. This was right along the path but didn't have a straight on view.

The eighth waterfall was North Falls at 136 feet. I enjoyed this one a lot because of the awesome walkway behind it, and also because I was glad to get out of the rain for a while. These falls had a long pathway deep behind them, which almost felt like being in a cave. It was such a cool (and dry) area that I was tempted to not leave, haha. I kind of wish I could live under there.

View from behind the falls

The ninth waterfall was Upper North Falls at 65 feet. This was another waterfall that required a short detour from the main trail, but was easily visible from the trail.

The tenth waterfall was Winter Falls at 134 feet. This also required a detour from the main trail, but offered a connecting trail back to some of the other waterfalls on the first half of the trail. These falls were tall and since the trail was close to them, I had trouble getting the entire thing in the frame.

Bonus falls! These didn't have names (that I'm aware of), but they're all the mini falls that I encountered along the trail.

Non-nature things: The day use area was nice, and I appreciated the South Falls Lodge and Cafe. I got a veggie panini after my long walk to see all the falls, and it was nice to sit somewhere warm and dry with a fire going after being out in the rain and cool weather. They also had plenty of coffee and hot cocoa drinks. There is no cell phone reception anywhere in the park, so I was appreciative of the free Wi-Fi that the lodge offered so that I was able to check in with family and post a few photos.

Lodging: The park has a few different options for lodging, and I chose one of the Upper Smith Creek cabins. The campground wasn't open yet, which would have been my first choice, so I went with the next most rustic option. These cabins have a sink and toilet in them, but have a shared shower available in a building nearby. You also have to park and walk to the cabins.

Getting to the park once the sun was down was challenging. I forgot how truly dark it is without any lights. I could see some in front of me due to my car's headlights, but when I looked in the rearview mirror - nothing. Pitch black. I made one wrong turn in the park, and it was difficult to see where to turn in the first place. After another wrong turn into a parking lot, I found the office that had the box with an envelope with the cabin keys in it. Luckily they included a map with a highlighted route to where the cabins were. Once I was there, getting from the car to the cabin was another story. Each cabin had some lights outside of it and the numbers had lights shining on them, so that was helpful. But the pathways to the cabins were dark, and I had to wait for my eyes to adjust so I wasn't stumbling over things. Next time I will have a flashlight in the car! I appreciated that they kept the porch lights on on my cabin so I could see where I should be heading.

The cabin is one of the most adorable things I've ever seen. It was small and cozy - just enough room for a full size bed, cabinet to put luggage, a tiny bathroom containing only a toilet, and a sink outside of the bathroom. I thought it was cute and rustic and perfectly sized. They also had the heat on, so it was nice and toasty when I got there. I slept well, probably because there was no light or noise pollution. Living in a city, I never experience what it's like for it to be truly dark and quiet. Once I turned off the lights, that was it. There was no adjusting to the dark - it was pitch black and stayed that way. It was also dead silent, except for the squirrel/bird/bat which was crawling around in the roof. I'd say this is a good step between camping in a tent and camping in a fully modern cabin or a hotel.

I highly recommend that everyone visit this park at some point in their life. It's truly a magical place!

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