Did you know there is fine treasure to be found up the Entiat River Road? Silver Falls in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest was designated a National Recreational Trail in 1979 and is a local and traveler favorite alike, sure to delight you with its riches should you pursue out to unearth what the trail has to offer.
The well marked trailhead starts across from a large parking lot on Forest Road 5100 and walks up a set of stairs that take you onto a wide, smooth path. There is also paved access a few feet further up the road that allows one to skip the stepped entrance if coming from the nearby campground and brings you in on pavement for the first few hundred feet.
Often filled with families of all ages from young ones excitedly navigating the incline ahead of their parents to grandparents taking their time at the edge of Silver Creek, this trail allows you to observe the power of water as it makes its way down towards the Entiat River. The first section is where you will likely have the most company during your visit. You may even be passed by a few trail runners out to get their heart pumping on the trail’s many stone steps.
Find yourself in the cool forest shade, you will soon cross the path’s first bridge over the creek to walk on its left side. Pause to look over the railing as the streams of sunshine that are able to penetrate the forest canopy of cedars and hemlock sparkle on the water running underneath you.
At 0.1 miles into your hike, arrive at a roomy stone sitting area and a junction that will begin the loop. Take your pick of left or right, either direction is worth a turn. The right offers more shade from the sun than the left as you make your way up the shallow gorge that the creek has cut into the valley wall and is the more popular route.
Choosing the right, you will cross over a second sturdy bridge and find a succession of stone steps, some widely spaced and others tightly stacked, that travel up along the rushing creek and stop at four waterfall viewpoints as you climb. Admire the lime green lichen and softly-waving ferns clinging to tiny ledges in the rock outcroppings towering on the right as you make your way between each viewpoint. Look for well placed wooden benches at the first and third viewpoints, which provide a stop to enjoy the creek as it cascades down over its course of stones and fallen trees.
The final cataract (and main attraction) rests less than 0.4 miles from the trailhead after about 300 feet of gain. Here the forest around the creek opens and exposes its hidden sterling attribute and this is where you will come to realize how this stunning feature has earned its name.
The falls form an elegant curtain that slips over sheer slabs of rock and where it splashes and foams in the pool below it gives the appearance of silver. Silver Creek’s stone bed is covered with an ebony algae that contrasts the white granite exposed where the pounding water polishes the algae away. As you stand and marvel at this effect, the spray from the pearly falls refreshes and affords relief from the heat of the day.
It is worth noting that the trail looks like it may continue under and behind the falls but the ground is sloped and loose here. Venturing further could mean a hazardous fall into the cascading creek, be sure to stay back behind the fence as it is there for your safety.
From here, the trail turns out onto the contour on more gradual stairs and a few sweeping switchbacks around large boulders wedged into the slope. This dry terrain with its charred ponderosas and fireweed from past wildfires common in this area is a sharp contrast to the luxurious green drainage just you came from. There is a small bench to rest at few thousand feet up, take time to admire a panorama of the wide U-shaped Entiat River Valley and Signal Peak on a ridge of the Entiat Mountains across from you.
Continuing on, you will find yet another set of stairs where the trail meets up at the creek again and soon you cross your third well-made bridge, topping out at 3,050 feet and less than a mile into your walk. The wide structure was built in 2017 to replace a much smaller plank walkway, you will be able to see some of its footings below the new one.
Plan to spend a few minutes at the height of the loop. This magical spot calls for quiet repose under a dome of alder with the sunlight flickering through the branches above. You have a choice of a carved log seat to unwind or the creek’s root woven edge to dangle your toes in the cool stream as many a relaxing hiker have done before you.
Leaving this tranquil point in the trail, you may want to tie your shoes for the descent down the northwestern side of the loop. Steep stone stairs and two more wide exposed switchbacks will be dropping you to a choice of several landings serving as viewpoints of the creek and falls anew. The forest is sparse here allowing you further views out into the valley, be prepared for the exposure with sun protection and water.
From this side you will have a lengthier view of the main falls as it spills down the gully, tumbling and splashing on its way. Chances are you will, also, have some solitude on this half of your journey as most visitors only venture up to the falls and back down on the southeastern side. All too soon the switchbacks will deliver you back down to the junction and to your car for a total of 1.7 miles.
Although this trail is a bit off the beaten path, the Entiat area is stunning and offers many other trails and sights to see along the way that make it worth a visit to the eastern part of our state. Silver Falls Campground with the Silver Falls Interpretive Trail is just across the road from the trailhead and is a worthy option if you want to spend more time exploring while you are here!