|Distance:||3 miles, RT|
|Hiking Time:||1.5 hrs|
|Elevation Gain:||300 ft|
|High Point:||2,100 ft|
|Snow Free:||May - November|
|Trailhead Pass:||National Park Pass Required|
Here's an opportunity to "get into" a tall, pristine forest on an easy hike on Mount Rainier National Park's east side and view a bustling waterfall to boot. And because the trail to Silver Falls is a loop, you'll get to enjoy some different scenery on the return.
You get to the starting point at Ohanapecosh Campground by traveling Highway 123 and turning off about 2 miles south of the Stevens Canyon entrance to the park. The elevation is about 1,900 ft. The trail begins at the end of the first camping loop on your right. Try to find day-use spots to park, or you might be forced to park back at the Ohanapecosh Ranger Station and hoof it back a half mile.
The trail begins at a slow-moving pace following the smooth-flowing Ohanapecosh River upstream through mossy hemlocks. At about 0.2 of a mile, go right at the junction onto the Silver Falls trail, passing hot springs that years ago were the main draw to a health resort here. Often you'll be able to hear but not see the river. At 1.0 mile, cross sparkling Laughingwater Creek and reach a junction with the Laughingwater Creek Trail at 1.2 miles. Walk up a small incline to Silver Falls at about 1.5 miles. The falls can be especially refreshing with a great outpouring of water, roaring down from recent spring rains. But it still gushes with incredible force in drier summers, too, from glacial flows off the mountain. At the falls the loop trail crosses the river, descending along a narrow, rocky canyon. Take a path up to a viewpoint near the top of the falls, allowing you to appreciate the wonder of the falls from a scenic overlook. Take a few steps to the junction with the East Side Trail. Keep left to another junction a short distance away. Keep left again and stay on the trail. You're now headed downstream on the loop back to your car. The route climbs a bit before descending back to the trailhead.
You're moving through dark forest again, feeling the aesthetic, soothing solace of the forest, the mossy forest floor, plant life springing up, and the sounds of the nearby river. You have the vision of the rushing white water vividly planted in your mind, from a few minutes earlier at Silver Falls. If you took photos at Silver Falls, hopefully you used a wide-angle lens to reduce the size of the white in the color photo and, thus, accented it with more trees, moss, and rocks in the foreground.
As you continue to head back, take some time to examine and explore the surrounding beauty, Get down on your knees and check out the moss up close and personal.
If you were short on time but wanted to just do the falls, you could have stopped along Highway 123 north of Ohanapecosh Campground and reached Silver Falls via a shorter, more direct, but steep hike down the Laughingwater Creek Trail.
But then you wouldn't have enjoyed the ambiance of the tall forest, moss-carpeted floor and splendid shining falls.