If the flocks of people that gather around Silver Falls State Park aren’t your cup of tea, but you still want to get your waterfall fix, try the Shellburg Falls Loop.
It’s a great hike for families hoping for a lazy afternoon away from the rush. It's short and sweet; an easy trek with a handful of rewarding experiences along the way. Plus it offers some very scenic hiking through the Santiam State Forest.
The trailhead signals the uniqueness of the trail, as it starts on private property. Follow the gravel road through cattle pastures, past a distant sheep barn and a small tree farm. You may find yourself saying hello to curious cows sharing the trail at some point. (They’re friendly and gentle, so no need for alarm if they approach to greet you). Enjoy the flat, relaxed walk through what feels like historic Oregonian farm country.
You’ll leave the gravel road and private property behind as you approach the Santiam State Forest, right around the 1 mile point. Expect to cross Shellburg Creek on a short bridge, and look down at lower Shellburg Falls. It’s a beautiful spill of water, like a miniature version the South Falls at Silver Falls State Park. To get the best view, hike (or scramble) down the somewhat steep bluff to the base of the waterfall. (Note that experienced bushwhackers try this, and that it’s not advisable to permit children to attempt the descent.)
Past the falls, the trail turns into a series of relaxed switchbacks, and the path turns back into a gravel road. Look to your left, and take the old logging road you’ll find. Follow this trail to the hidden Stasel Falls. From up top you’ll get a terrifically photogenic view of the falls and the creek below. Explore the area, then backtrack to the gravel road and loop your way to the trailhead.
Note that bikes and horses are allowed on the gravel road, but not on the main trail.
Directions from Portland and places north:
Take I-5 south, and then take Exit 253. Drive for 22 miles, then turn left onto Fern Ridge Road. After about 1.3 miles on Fern Ridge Road you’ll turn right into a trailhead parking area at the junction with gated Shellburg Falls Road.