We report on the observation of ultrafast impact ionization and carrier generation in high resistivity silicon induced by intense subpicosecond terahertz transients. Local terahertz peak electric fields of several MV cm−1 are obtained by field enhancement in the near field of a resonant metallic antenna array. The carrier multiplication is probed by the frequency shift of the resonance of the antenna array due to the change of the local refractive index of the substrate. Experimental results and simulations show that the carrier density in silicon increases by over seven orders of magnitude in the presence of an intense terahertz field. The enhancement of the resonance shift for illumination from the substrate side in comparison to illumination from the antenna side is consistent with our prediction that the back illumination is highly beneficial for a wide range of nonlinear processes.