Day 4 – Silver Falls State Park
We left Portland that Monday morning to head southeast to a waterfall-lined trail in Silver Falls State Park, about 20 miles away from Salem (and about 30 minutes from our next AirBnB in Keizer). Getting there gave us our first taste of snowy driving in Oregon, as flurries and a bit of slush started to stick to the road and trees above. Beautiful, and the AWD in the sedan handled it flawlessly. And – the snowfall made for a particularly beautiful hike, as many of our surroundings had a fresh coating.
The ‘Trail of Ten Falls’ winds through a canyon lined with a mix of new and old growth trees as well as, you guessed it, 10 different waterfalls. While we only saw a few of them by doing the South Falls Loop, you could make a day out of getting to all 10. The trail throughout will never challenge you too hard, but will get you to break a sweat as you head back up and out of the canyon at the end of the hike. Lower South Falls and South Falls, the two largest falls in the park, have walkways behind them in their natural amphitheaters – throw on a jacket because you’ll likely get soaked – but its well worth it.
Arriving to and leaving from a nearly empty parking lot, I don’t recall us seeing anyone else on the trail other than three other people across the canyon. It was a Monday – but, going with the theme of the trip, it was nice to once again have a trail mostly to ourselves. We finished up with about 6-7 miles on the trail that day, but you could do more or less depending on how many of the falls you want to see – if you are torn between doing the North loop or the South Loop and only have a few hours, I would recommend going south as it will take you through the more impressive falls.
Day 5 – Turning Back from the Cascades and Shellburg Falls
The morning started with aspirations (however wishful) of making it to the Three Sisters Mountains at the edge of the Cascades, but a snowstorm made us turn back before even reaching the halfway point. While the accumulation was not overly deep, our car was only equipped with all season tires, and was starting to slide just a little in the deeper slush. Not wanting to get ourselves stuck and in need of an expensive tow, we turned back at the town of Gates and settled for another waterfall trail closer to civilization – the Shellburg Falls trail in Stayton, Oregon.
This snow covered hike wound through about 6 miles of trail and 1,000 feet of elevation change as you make your way through the fir trees and down into the canyon area. There are some steeper sections as you approach the stunning Shellburg Falls, so make sure to have traction of some sort if you are going in the winter months as we did.
Once again, we found ourselves alone on the trail, with nothing but the sounds of water and the quiet of falling snow. It was one of the first times in a while that I was able to photograph a fresh snow covering trees from above – and was able to get some stunning winter shots in addition to the green and snowy waterfall.
Day 6 – New Growth and Old Growth Trail
Heading out from Keizer, we went to the New Growth and Old Growth Trail, a managed research forest located in Corvallis, Oregon. The combination of ‘new growth’ (Douglas Fir trees planted over the last 5 decades for research) and ‘old growth’ (trees untouched and unmanaged for at least the last 100-150 years) created a vivid background for the hike. The more exposed sections of the trails and forest had some snow cover, but most of the undergrowth (what you’ll see while hiking) was free from snow. The temperatures were fairly mild, and you’re fairly protected from the wind.
With some trees reaching over 200 feet towards the sky, and others just beginning their lives, you can also find a wide range of flora in between. Plentiful ferns, mosses, seedlings and some occasional hardwood line the trails, and if you know what you’re looking for, you might be able to locate some interesting fungi along and slightly off of the trail. Each of the trails are relatively short, so if you aren’t looking for a rest day, you could likely combine this with another activity for the day. Per usual, we encountered few (maybe 2-3) other hikers on the trail during our time there in Corvallis.