2024 Guide: Lower South Falls, OR (Silver Falls State Park)

Autumn photography showing Lower South Falls in Silver Falls State Park surrounded by fall colors.
An autumn photo of Lower South Falls, one of the top 3 waterfalls you will see in Silver Falls State Park.

About Lower South Falls, Oregon: Overview

One of the larger and more impressive waterfalls visitors will discover in Silver Falls State Park is the mighty Lower South Falls.

If you begin your day at the main South Falls parking lot, this will be the second waterfall you encounter along the Trail of Ten Falls. Less than a mile from South Falls, the Canyon Trail takes you on a spectacular walk through lush rainforest, past moss-laden trees and verdant ferns before reaching Lower South Falls.

Located along South Silver Creek, this perennial waterfall is one of four waterfalls in the park that you can actually go behind. The pathway behind Lower South Falls is the narrowest of the four, creating a more intimate feeling as you pass by the cascading curtain of water just out of arm’s reach.

In addition, the trail provides a variety of overlooks that vary in elevation, allowing you to see it from the top to the bottom.

Learn everything you need to know for visiting Lower South Falls below!

Quick Facts About Lower South Falls

Close up photography of Lower South Falls, Oregon.
  • Location: Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
  • GPS Coordinates: 44.88528, -122.66092
  • Lower South Falls Height: 93 feet (28 meters)
  • Lower South Falls Hike: Easy 1-mile walk from parking lot (2-mile roundtrip)
  • Avg Width: 45 feet (14 meters)
  • Max Width: 55 feet (17 meters)
  • Seasonality: Lower South Falls is a perennial waterfall, flowing year-round.
  • Viewing Angles: Front, behind, and some obscured views from the top. No access to the base.

Location of Lower South Falls and How to Get There

Long exposure of Lower South Falls Oregon during autumn with fall foliage

Driving Directions to Lower South Falls

Silver Falls State Park is located on Highway 214 near Silverton, about 25 miles (40km) southeast of Salem and 55 miles (88km) south of Portland. There are four trailheads and parking lots for Silver Falls:

  • South Falls Day Use Area
  • North Falls Day Use and Group Camp
  • North Falls Trailhead
  • Winter Falls Trailhead

The South Falls Day Use Area is the closest trailhead to Lower South Falls and has the amplest parking and facilities, including restrooms, water fountains, a cafe, and the lodge.

With this in mind, you will likely want to navigate to the South Falls Day Use Area. Directions can be easily found by searching for South Falls in Google Maps! You can also find driving directions to Silver Falls from Portland here or from Eugene here.

Hiking Directions to Lower South Falls

View from behind Lower South Falls Oregon

The shortest hike to Lower South Falls begins at the South Falls parking lot. As a there-and-back, the total distance is 2-miles (1-mile each way.)

Take the Canyon Trail following signs for South Falls. You will have the option to walk either behind the waterfall, or past the base of it via a scenic bridge. Whichever way you choose will bring you to the Canyon Trail and on to Lower South Falls.

The trail is well signposted and the hike is easy, however, be aware that the stairs that lead down to Lower South Falls may be slippery when wet.

You can also reach Lower South Falls from any of the other trailheads in the park. However, the hike time will be increased.

Lower South Falls Photography Tips

Photography of Lower South Falls in the autumn.
Photographing Lower South Falls in the fall adds some magical colors to the scene.

The best vantage point for photographing Lower South Falls is from about halfway down the steps along the Canyon Trail. You will recognize a small window where you will find clear views of the entire waterfall without trees and branches in the way.

Silver Falls is a wonderful destination year-round, however, autumn is a particularly good time to capture it as the leaves add a pop of color to the landscape. The scene also benefits greatly from rainfall, providing some force to the falls.

While it is possible to photograph the top of the falls before you begin the hike down from the Canyon Trail, this vantage point is mostly obstructed.

View of the top of Lower South Falls from the Canyon Trail obscured by branches
View of the top of Lower South Falls.

Last, photographing waterfalls with a long exposure creates a dreamlike, ethereal element to the image which most find very pleasing. Beginners, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to long exposure waterfall photography to learn everything you need to know!

Equipment for Photographing Lower South Falls

Long exposure photo of Lower South Falls Oregon
Long exposure photo of Lower South Falls.

While it is possible to capture long exposure photographs of waterfalls on your iPhone using the Live Mode option, for the best possible images you may want to consider a few key pieces of photography gear:

  • Camera: I use the Sony a7riii and have been in love with it ever since the first photo I took with it. However, for beginners you may wish to consider an entry level DSLR. This will allow you to start getting to grips with manual settings and decide whether photography is something you enjoy enough to invest in.
  • Lens: The lens I use most frequently is the Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS as the zoom lens allows for the most diversity. I also often use the Laowa 15mm F2 for shots that require a wider angle.
  • Tripod: A tripod is essential if you want to create a long exposure waterfall image. When traveling, I use the Manfrotto Be Free as it’s lightweight and easy to carry on longer hikes. For times when I require something more stable, I use the Artcise Carbon Fiber Tripod.
  • Filters: A Circular Polarizing (CPL) filter (CPL) or Neutral Density (ND) filter are very useful for allowing slower shutter speeds and for cutting glare on the water. The best CPL and ND filters I have found are the Quartzline from Polar Pro.
  • Rain cover: Considering how much rain Silver Falls get, plus spray from the waterfalls, you may want to consider a rain cover for your camera. Another simpler, and great option, is a colorful umbrella… not only does it provide protection for you and your gear from the rain but can add a pop of color to photos!
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths: You will want to bring several dry microfiber cloths to help clean your lens between shots. You will inevitably find plenty of spray getting onto the lens while photographing the waterfalls!

Other Waterfalls Nearby

If you have not already, you will definitely want to consult our comprehensive guide to The Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park to learn about the different options for hiking, camping, and planning your visit.

As the name implies, there are 9 other waterfalls near Middle North Falls that are all worth visiting and exploring. These include:

More Oregon & Related Guides

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We have a variety of guides to the Pacific Northwest that you may also find helpful, as well as instructional guides for learning photography.

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Written by
Adam Marland is a professional travel blogger and landscape photographer from Oregon. After over a decade of experience as a freelance travel photographer, Adam found national acclaim when he became the National Park Foundation's “Chief Exploration Officer” in 2021.

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