Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Autumn Finery at Silver Falls State Park

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you probably know Silver Falls State Park is number one on my list of "autumn's greatest hits."  Not only boasting fantastic leaf color, it's trail system passes ten mighty waterfalls.

Drippy leaves

To beat the weekend crowds at this extremely popular park, I always schedule my fall visit for a Friday.  Although the forecast on this late October day mentioned a chance of rain, I decided to take my chances.  Besides, waterfalls photograph better on cloudy days.

Rainy, foggy forest

Trusting the weatherman, I naively thought I'd escape a day of rain.  Of course I'd conveniently forgotten the month of October thus far had been an extremely wet one.  Pulling into the park's spacious parking lot, I was greeted with a few tiny raindrops speckling my windshield.

Mossy branch

Okay, that's what raingear is for!  I dug out my pack cover and slipped on rain jacket and gaiters.  And as an afterthought, grabbed an old umbrella out of the car.

Golden path

On my way to the famous "Trail of Ten Falls," I passed by Silver Fall's lovely rustic lodge.  Framed by drippy, yellow leaves, it was the first thing that got my camera's attention.  But wanting to get some images of South Falls before the onslaught of visitors, I didn't linger long. 

Although a tiny bit past prime, the leaf colors did not disappoint!  Following the windy, paved path to the canyon bottom, I stopped periodically to capture the yellow and golds, mixed amongst mossy old trees.

South Falls photo No. 1

About halfway down is a splendid view of South Falls shimmering cascade.  Dropping 177 feet across a basalt cliff face, it has the distinction of being the park's second-tallest waterfall.  Setting up my tripod, I captured dozens of images from every conceivable angle.  But these two photos were my favorites. 

South Falls photo No. 2

I couldn't decide which to post on the blog, so included them both.  Which one do you prefer?

Yellow tunnel

As I was finishing my photo session, another man set up his tripod nearby.  Striking up a conversation, I learned he was from Melbourne, Australia and was on an extended vacation in the Pacific NW.  He'd been to Seattle, the Oregon coast, and his next stop was Central Oregon.

Leaf-littered path

Surrendering the prime photo spot to my new Aussie friend, I packed up and continued my trek to the canyon's very bottom.  It was a slow trip.  Around each bend were more colorful trees, mossy branches, or huge ferns.  Too many wonderful things to photograph!

Fallen leaves and ferns

Crossing a bridge over Silver Creek, the spotty sprinkles transitioned into a downpour.  Seeking shelter under a large tree, I packed my camera away, and watched the Melbourne man pass by.

The forest looks otherworldly!

Braving the heavy moisture, I decided to continue my hike.  Surely it was only a passing shower.  The weatherman did say only a chance of rain today.....right?

Below Lower South Falls

Another mile down the Canyon Trail brought me to the second waterfall, Lower South Falls.  This portion of the park was an absolute delight.  Yellows, oranges, and golds dotted the surrounding woods.  Green moss and huge ferns draped over everything.  It was like walking through a fairy-tale forest.  Lingering fog added to the magic.  I half expected to meet a hobbit.

Gorgeous forest

All the recent rainfall had Lower South Falls churning mightily.  I couldn't get close enough for a decent photo without spray totally dousing my camera.  So instead I settled for some shots of the scenic creek below the falls.

Below Middle North Falls

Trekking on, I traveled another mile, where I knew four other waterfalls were clustered.  After several leapfrogs, I passed my Aussie friend for the final time at the Maple Ridge Trail Junction.  Not prepared for wet weather, (we must've heard the same forecast!) he was getting soaked, and decided to head back.

Lower North Falls and Drake Falls were the next cascades I passed by.  Smaller waterfalls, these only measured 27 and 30 high respectively.  Holding out for the taller, grander cascades, I traipsed by without stopping for photos (I've become such a waterfall snob!)

Middle North Falls

I was holding out for Middle North Falls, my most favorite waterfall in the park.  Although shorter (106 feet in height), it's wide lacy, curtain fans elegantly across the lip of a mossy, forested cliff.  A footpath leads visitors into a cavern behind its roaring plume.  To experience what it's like to walk behind this waterfall, check out the short video above.

Window through the dense forest

The muddy, slippery path took me all the way around Middle North Falls to an excellent viewpoint on the canyon's opposite side.  An overhanging rock provided shelter from the pelting rain (most welcome!) so I took the opportunity to have a snack.  Protected from the weather, I couldn't pass up a chance to get some more photos of this breathtaking waterfall.

Moss-draped tree

Although the forest and waterfalls had been amazing, I was starting to really get soaked.  Deciding I'd traveled far enough for the day, I followed a short trail past slender Winter Falls that climbed out of the canyon.

Leaves litter the bank

Despite the soggy weather, by midday the park had filled with visitors.  I encountered several large groups heading down the trail as I was climbing up.  Oregonians don't let a little moisture spoil their outdoor plans!

Picturesque bridge

By the time I returned to the lodge area, the rainy weather was letting up.  The adjacent trees were so colorful, I couldn't resist a couple shots of this scenic footbridge.

Lodge outbuilding

Or this lovely bush near a deserted picnic area.

Silver Falls Lodge looks cozy

Or one final image of the cozy lodge building surrounded by dazzling orange color.

Multi-hued vine maple

Back at the parking lot, a wall of technicolor vine maple leaves delayed my departure.

More lovely vine maple leaves

Not sure what causes these leaves to turn different colors on the same tree, but I do know they make wonderful photo subjects.

Beautiful crimson leaf

I survived the soaking rain, and came away with a camera full of stunning fall images.  This is the reason I return to Silver Falls State park every autumn - rain or shine!

Stats:  5.2 miles round-trip, 400 feet elevation gain.

(Silver Falls State Park is located an hour's drive east of Salem, Oregon)


  1. Maple leaves turn into the most amazing fall colors. The nature in the Silver Falls State Park is unbeliveably gorgeous, with amazing trails and waterfalls. Love the huge tree covered with moss. Wonderful images all around Linda.

  2. Not sure I'd be going out in the rain like that. The waterfall photos are great the second is my favourite. Even though it was raining you brought the autumn colours out. No leaves left here the recent high winds took most of them away

  3. Belas e fantásticas fotografias deste magnifico parque que ganhou novas cores com a entrada do Outono.
    Um abraço e continuação de boa semana.

  4. Truly beautiful. I think our webbed-foot weather adds that bit of mystery, which I love.
    Great post!

  5. Thanks for sharing another trip through the beauty of your world...Happy Thanksgiving.

  6. What beautiful photos. Thank you for taking me on your journey. Mary Lou

  7. Wow, Linda. Absolutely gorgeous...magical!!! Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Oh heck yes, I can see why you return year after year! Stunning images...I am grateful you didn't let the rain deter your hike!

  9. Love the colours, the waterfalls and the moss. Definitely worth getting wet to capture those photos.

  10. Amazing images again. The 2nd waterfall shot is my choice. Lucky Melbournite to be spending so much time in your sensational part of the world.

  11. Your compositions on these photos is PERFECT and I hate you! LOL That place is on my list to visit yet - has been hard in the past to justify since the poodles can't go but you are definitely getting my buzz going to find a place close to camp, ditch the dogs and go. Maybe we'll be out that way next year! The dark rainy weather was perfect for your falls photos tho!

  12. Your waterfall pix are always outstanding! Gives a new meaning to tnose dark rainy days. Nice leaves too. Putting that location on my list.

  13. Pity about the rain for your walking self getting wet but sometimes that can really make the colours sing and glisten as your excellent photos show. Pretty good for the waterfall volume as well. Can't beat a maple for that blast of red fire.

  14. Simply fantastic, such incredible natural beauty, and such a great-looking lodge.

  15. Wow, gorgeous hike and beautiful Autumn colors. The waterfalls are lovely. I am sorry we missed this park during our last visit there. It is beautiful. Lovely post and photos. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day and the weekend ahead! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  16. WOW! Such delightful waterfalls, and the rain really brought out the depth of the autumn colors. Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. Great photos, Linda, I'd never considered the park as an autumn destination. Been there in the rain though, we hiked the full loop and my wife resumed speaking to me after a week or two!

  18. Wow! What a wonderful hike and such stunning photos. The Autumn toning and that bit of moisture makes for such wonderful photos.

  19. So nice of a hike! I love Silver Falls and I need to go there one of these days. I enjoyed the video of the north falls, just like walking with you! Happy weekend!

  20. What a magical day! Your photos are wonderful, especially the waterfalls and that one mossy/fall leaves shot...just wonderful! :)

  21. Hi! Just like you wrote on the top of your post,Your photos of waterfalls are very very cool. I enjoyed them very much. I like your video too. It's very exciting for me. Wishing you a wonderful Sunday.

  22. Wonderful shots of your soaking hike, Linda. I can just imagine you slogging along - backpack, tripod, and camera in tow (and umbrella)!

  23. Waterfalls are one of my favourite walks. We have a similar walk here in South Wales that includes a fall you can walk behind. Always great fun. By the way the first couple of waterfall shoots are magnificent (I prefer the first one) although the one titled "the forest looks other-worldly" is the best. Love the way the light seeps through the moss on the branches

  24. Wow! Catching up with your posts and so glad to see this one with your amazing view behind the gushing waterfall! It reminded me of a smaller Niagara Falls

  25. THese are so beautiful Linda. I'd still be at Middle North falls. How cool to be able to walk behind it. I'm a bit surprised that they don't have at least a small rail there for protection.

  26. Great video, felt like I was there with you!!


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