South Falls, Oregon Overview
Many people who have not yet visited this Oregon state park confuse South Falls for Silver Falls because it is the most popular, commonly featured waterfall in Silver Falls State Park. In reality, this is just one of ten incredible cascades within the park.
South Falls is the most easily accessible of all the falls, located less than a quarter mile from the South Falls Parking lot. Views from the top are wheelchair-accessible, but stairs are required to venture further down.
Beyond being the tallest drop in the entire park at a mighty 177ft tall, South Falls is also renowned for the ability to walk behind the falls. That said, it is actually one of four falls that can be viewed from behind the veil along the Trail of Ten Falls.
- Location: Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
- GPS Coordinates: 44.87878, -122.65886
- Height: 177m (54m)
- Avg Width: 15ft (4.6m)
- Max Width: 40ft (12m)
- Seasonality: South Falls is a perennial waterfall, flowing year-round.
- Viewing Angles: All (top, bottom, both sides, and behind the falls.)
Location of South Falls, Oregon and How to Get There
Silver Falls State Park can be found along Highway 214 near Silverton, about 25 miles (40km) southeast of Salem and 55 miles (88km) south of Portland. Within the park there are four trailheads and parking lots:
- South Falls Day Use Area
- North Falls Day Use and Group Camp
- North Falls Trailhead
- Winter Falls Trailhead
As the name suggests, the South Falls Day Use Area is the closest trailhead to South Falls. Additionally, it has the most 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 South Falls
Due to its ease of access, South Falls is the most popular waterfall in the park and if you’re in a hurry you can visit just this waterfall as an easy 1-mile loop. From the parking lot you will find ample signage directing you to the waterfall. However, it can be a little tricky as it is also the starting point for the Canyon Trail, Maple Ridge Trail and Rim Trail.
We recommend you follow the Canyon Rim Trail which will take you down and behind South Falls. After just a quarter-mile walk you will first catch sight of the thunderous single drop waterfall from an upper viewpoint. From here, continue to weave your way down along the path to walk behind the waterfall where you can, quite literally, soak in the views!
Once you’ve passed behind the waterfall, you can choose whether to continue to Lower South Falls, or cross back across a scenic bridge to make your way back to the parking lot.
It is also possible to hike to South Falls from any of the other trailheads as part of the Trail of Ten Falls. This will increase your hike time, however, it will also take you past many other exhilarating waterfalls and through lush rainforest.
South Falls Photography Tips
South Falls is easily the most photogenic waterfall in Silver Falls State Park. While others may be as beautiful, none offer more variety of viewpoints than this one.
The best thing you can do when photographing South Falls is to get creative. You will rarely find a waterfall that you can photograph from so many angles! This includes top-down, side-on, varying elevations, at its base, and even behind the waterfall!
In addition to all of these options, I might suggest walking beyond the footbridge at its base and including that in some photos as well. It helps to add scale and interest to the foreground.
Be sure to bring lots of microfiber cloths to keep your lens dry! There is a lot of spray coming off of South Falls that will be soaking the lens constantly. The best way to combat this is to set your camera up on a tripod and dial in all your settings and composition. Then, wipe the lens completely clean using your body or umbrella to shield it from further misting. As soon as it’s dry, put the lens cap back on (or use the cloth as a shield) and set a 2-second timer. Last, click the shutter button and remove the lens cap or cloth at the last moment minimizing the time the lens is exposed to the spray.
If you are a beginner wondering how to get that soft water feel, we have written a full guide to long exposure waterfall photography that will be a great help! In it, you will learn everything you need to know regarding filters, settings, equipment, and technique!
Equipment for Photographing 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 South Falls that are all worth visiting and exploring. These are listed below with the hiking distances from South Falls:
- Lower South Falls – 0.75 miles
- Winter Falls – 1.4 miles
- Lower North Falls – 2 miles
- Double Falls – 2.1 miles
- Drake Falls – 2.2 miles
- Middle North Falls – 2.1 miles
- Twin Falls – 2.2 miles
- North Falls – 2.9 miles
- Upper North Falls – 3 miles
We have a variety of guides to the Pacific Northwest that you may also find helpful, as well as instructional guides for learning photography.
Additionally, you are welcome to browse our Oregon professional photography gallery for prints and more inspiration ?
- Top 15 Oregon Waterfalls
- Waterfalls in Southern Oregon
- Best Places to Visit in Oregon
- Painted Hills of Oregon Guide (one of the 7 wonders of Oregon)
- Southern Oregon Coast Photography Locations
- Ultimate Guide to Visiting Thors Well
- Things to do on a Northern California Road Trip
- Photographing Olympic National Park
- Guide to Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Instructional Guides to Photography
- Long Exposure Waterfall Photography
- Photography Basics
- Night Photography
- Lightroom for Beginners
- Advanced Post-Processing