The park, which gets 1.3 million visitors a year, unveiled the first part of renovations with new parking, two trails connecting to popular hikes, and a kids’ nature play area.
IT’S HARD BEING THE CROWN JEWEL of Oregon’s state park system. Trails get crowded; parking lots overflow; campsite reservations fill up.
But help is here: the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department is swooping in to alleviate the strain of 3,500 daily visitors, on average, with a $12 million upgrade program, the first phase of which opened this week. The new North Canyon District provides 59 more parking spots, a nature play area for kids, a viewpoint overlooking the North Falls, and two trails (.5 miles each). The additions are intended to spread out the car and foot traffic which often clog two other entrances, the South Falls Day Use Area and the North Falls Trailhead.
The project also aims to improve the park for small children and people with mobility concerns via a new minimally-graded, gravel trail. “North Canyon is pretty accessible, so it provides a bit of a different experience,” says Silver Falls park ranger Jason Wagoner. He says the viewpoint is the “highlight of the what you experience” in the new area. It allows an easy 30-45 minute excursion which includes a loop containing a natural play area designed for kids to interact with the forest.
The new North Rim Trail is a great little “in-and-out” hike for those short on time, small children, or those with mobility limitations, featuring that stunning viewpoint.
The second new trail leads down to Twin Falls, a much steeper and more challenging jaunt that connects to the Canyon Trail for those wishing to see the falls in the middle of the Canyon Trail such as Lower North Falls, Drake Falls, Double Falls, and Middle North Falls; hike the Winter Falls Trail; or complete the full Trail of 10 Falls loop.
As an added bonus, the new entrance saves those coming from Portland a few minutes of driving, via Highway 214 through Silverton, though the park has yet to put up new signage (the turnoff was formerly the entrance to the park’s North Falls group camp area).
Work to wrap up the new “North Gateway” visitor center will end in 2024, while construction of a new campground is set to commence in 2025.
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