The 100-foot spectacular Shellburg Falls is a hidden beauty deep in the ancient Santiam State Forest along the Stout Creek Canyon, just 25 miles east of Salem. Shellburg Creek drops over a basalt ledge into a small misty pool that is surrounded by mossy boulders and rocks. A few hundred yards downstream, the creek brings its water to Lower Shellburg Falls. This waterfall is visible from Shellburg Road near the bridge and the picnic area.
The Shellburg Falls Recreation Area is managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry and offers a variety of recreational outdoors opportunities including camping, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding while enjoying untouched natural scenery, waterfalls and wildlife.
There are a few developed trails connected to each other. Their total distance is about 6 miles. All hikes initially start from the parking area and locked gate at the Lower Shellburg Falls Trailhead. The excellent gravel Shellburg Road provides an easy and refreshing 1.3-mile hike to a junction of trails. The first portion of the road goes through the private land and pastures with livestock. Some cows can cross the road. So, give them enough space and keep dogs on the leash.
After about one mile of hiking, you will enter the Santiam State Forest, the lush moss-covered wooded area full of Douglas-firs and Hemlock trees. Go next 0.3 miles to the concrete Shellburg Creek Bridge. The bridge is an excellent viewing point over the crest of 40-foot Lower Shellburg Falls and, also, is a start point of all other trails.
Shellburg Falls Trail
The Shellburg Falls Trail to Shellburg Falls is the most popular route. Take the trail on the left of the bridge that starts from the wooden staircase and hike up 0.3 miles straight along the creekside. Soon you will hear and then see Upper Shelburg Falls. You can either walk down through moss-covered arches to an observation deck and the waterfall base or continue on the trail that runs behind the waterfall inside a large cavern. The grotto has been naturally formed within thousands of years by water which gradually eroded loose sediments.
After the trail passes the cavern, it runs along the stream, crosses two bridges and reaches the Upper Trailhead with a parking lot (open May 20 through the end of October).
This trail is for hiking only and considered easy in difficulty, however, a few parts of it such as steep stairs could be challenging for some hikers.
Be cautious during winters and early springs. A portion of the trail in the cavern at the time of high water flow might get pretty slippery and muddy. Use good judgment and quality hiking boots.
Shellburg Falls Recreational Area has a small campground with four campsites. There are no overnight fees required. The campground has a hand pump well, picnic tables, fire rings, grills, restroom, and trash service. The campground is accessible to vehicles from May through October and closed the rest of the year.
Stasel Falls Trails
After crossing the bridge over Shellburg Creek, hike up 0.2 miles on Shellburg Road until the road begins to head uphill and to the left. On the left, you will see the sign for August Mountain Trail and just across the road on the right you will find a trail between large boulders. As the trail itself branches out, take the left footpath that leads to the top of the 125-foot Stasel Falls. Walk 0.15-mile and you will hear and see the cascading waterfall. Stasel Falls features a freestanding basalt pillar.
This trail isn't very well maintained and the viewpoint is located on an unprotected cliff, so it isn't recommended for children and inexperienced hikers.
Since the top viewpoint is on the public land but the waterfall itself is on the private land, you cannot trespass and explore its base.
August Mountain Trail
The 1-mile single-track August Mountain Trail starts from Shellburg Road. You can cross the bridge over Shellburg Creek at Lower Shellburg Falls and walk 0.2 miles until the road begins to head uphill and to the left. On the left, you will see the sign for August Mountain Trail.
Also, after crossing the Shellburg Bridge you can go left up the stairs. Watch the signboard on the right. Tie-In Trail links to the August Mountain Trail.
This intermediate difficulty multi-use trail climbs to the junction with 0.7-mile Vine Maple Loop Trail (hiking only) which leads to Upper Shellburg Falls Trailhead and links to Shellburg Creek Trails.
Shellburg Creek Trail
The 1.2-mile Shellburg Creek Trail is a multi-use trail for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. While there is no waterfall to enjoy on this trail, it will lead you through the picturesque forest and let you enjoy the beauty of local vegetation as well as see the forest’s fauna.
This trail links the August Mountain Trail and the Lost Lake Trail. The multi-use Lost Lake Trail is considered difficult and leads to Silver Falls State Park.
The Fern Ridge Road Trailhead to the Shellburg Falls has been closed. The Oregon Department of Forestry moved the Shellburg Falls Trailhead to the Shellburg Falls Day-Use area. Reasons for the access change included the increasing popularity of this site, limited parking area, and the private land surrounding the parking area and the trail.
To reach the new trailhead, you should drive 5 miles more on Wagner and Ayers Roads. Some sections of those roads are rough, steep, and narrow. However, this trailhead is located just 0.4 miles from the waterfall, one mile less than the Fern Ridge Road Trailhead.
Shellburg Falls | General Description
Managed: Oregon Department of Forestry
Location: Santiam State Forest
Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, nature viewing
Accommodations: 4 campsites campground
Distance from the parking:
1.5 miles from Lower Shellburg Falls Trailhead (year-round)
0.4 miles from Upper Shellburg Falls Trailhead (May 20-October 31)
Road access: Any passenger vehicle
Day-use fees: Free
Popularity: Low to moderate
Elevation: 1,400 ft (427 m)
Shellburg Falls is located:
- 24 miles east of Salem
- 67 miles southeast of Portland
- 77 miles northeast of Eugene.
- Take exit 253 in Salem towards Detroit
- Travel 22 miles east to the first flashing light
- Cross a bridge and turn left onto Wagner Road and go 2.4 miles to Ayers Creek Road
- Continue straight onto Ayers Road for 2.2 miles to Shellberg Road
- Turn left and follow 0.2 miles to the parking area.
Park your car and hike 0.4 miles to the waterfall.