South Falls

Silver Falls State Park / Salem, Oregon, USA

About South Falls

Hiking Distance: 0.8 miles round trip (to base)
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes (to base)

Date first visited: 2009-03-30
Date last visited: 2009-03-31

Waterfall Latitude: 44.87952
Waterfall Longitude: -122.657

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Despite its rather unimaginative name, South Falls was probably the one waterfall in Silver Falls State Park that seemed to us to have the most notoriety amongst the park’s ten main waterfalls (which strangely enough had none actually named Silver Falls). We had seen numerous calendar shots, post cards, and web photos of this waterfall in its various moods from season to season. However, we weren’t exactly certain why it was the case that this one seemed to be the most famous of the waterfalls in the state park. Nonetheless, we were impressed with the waterfall’s size, classical shape, and the variety of ways we were able to see and experience it.

Regarding its size, South Falls was said to have a direct plunge of 177ft. Its drop over an overhanging ledge gave it a classically slender rectangular shape. Moreover, the size of the alcove behind the waterfall attested to its age as well as the ability for us to walk behind it and see it from back there from a variety of angles.

There were plenty of walking trails allowing us to see the falls from its very top as well as from both sides in addition to its aforementioned back side. A footbridge a little further downstream from the falls provided us with a direct view opposite the giant plunge pool. It only required us to walk on a gentle 0.2-mile path from the car park to the first views of the waterfall, but then we descended towards the loop trail that went around its base, which itself descended down to the level of the plunge pool when the trail swung around to the footbridge opposite the falls.

As we approached the descent to get lower into the gorge in front of the falls (between the upper viewpoints and the footbridge downstream of the falls), we noticed a signposted spur path leading to the tiny Frenchie Falls. However, Frenchie Falls wasn’t substantial enough to be part of the Trail of Ten Falls, which was a roughly 7-mile loop that passed by all 10 of the state park’s main waterfalls, including South Falls.

Further downstream from the footbridge, we continued further along the Trail of Ten Falls to reach the equally attractive but just as unimaginatively named Lower South Falls, which we described in detail on its own page.

To give you an idea of how easy it was to visit this waterfall, Julie and I spent 45 minutes away from the car, but this encompassed us taking our sweet time with plenty of photo stops as well as walking the loop that went behind the falls.

Silver_Falls_SP_003_03302009 - Julie descending towards South Falls along the well-established paved trail
Silver_Falls_SP_010_03302009 - Julie checking out the backside of South Falls
Silver_Falls_SP_013_03302009 - Looking directly outwards from behind South Falls
Silver_Falls_SP_014_03302009 - Profile view from the deep alcove behind South Falls
Silver_Falls_SP_021_03302009 - Further downstream of South Falls from the opposite side of the loop trail
Silver_Falls_SP_035_03302009 - South Falls fronted by bare mossy trees
Silver_Falls_088_03312009 - Top down view of South Falls in the rain
Silver_Falls_095_03312009 - Signposted spur trail leading to Frenchie Falls
Silver_Falls_097_03312009 - Frenchie Falls
Silver_Falls_104_03312009 - South Falls fronted by the footbridge across the creek


There are two entrances to the Silver Falls State Park. One way heads about 13 miles southeast on the Hwy 214 from the quaint town of Silverton to the park’s north entrance. Another way goes directly east of Salem towards the park’s south entrance.

Once inside Silver Falls State Park, towards the south end of the park along Hwy 214 (just north of the campground), there’s a turnoff to the west (left if you’re heading north or right if you’re heading south) leading to the South Falls area. Once within the complex, there are car parks, a lodge, and picnic areas.

For further geographical context, Portland was 42 miles (an hour drive) north of Silverton and 47 miles (also an hour drive) north of Salem.

Familiar view of the falls with someone walking behind it

Bottom up sweep directly from behind the falls

View from the footbridge downstream of the falls

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Tagged with: silver falls, state park, salem, marion, oregon, waterfall, pacific northwest, silverton, behind

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