Shellburg and Stassel Falls Trail

On Saturday during Labor Day Weekend, Naomi and I hit the trails again after a break of far too long. This time we opted for a completely new destination area and planned to meet up with friends from Eugene, so we were aiming for something east of Salem since that is roughly halfway between us.

The Santiam State Forest is located east of Salem along Hwy 22 and has a lovely, secluded park called Shellburg Falls Campground that is really just a few nicely maintained campsites with a centralized hand pump well, bathroom and fire pits. Trails crisscross the area and are used by hikers, bikers and horses. While signs are new, the trail we were aiming for isn’t well marked so we were glad to have the AllTrails app ready to help us find the way [AllTrails trail info].

Parking was easy enough and AllTrails took us right to the small parking lot on Fern Ridge Rd SE, but other mapping apps proved frustrating for our friends. From there we immediately passed through a closed gate that took us along a gravel road for a half hour or so until we came upon the trail that leads to Shellburg Falls. Rather then heading straight there, I was more interested in exploring Stassel Falls first so we kept going straight and had to pay close attention to the GPS to know when to head off slightly to the right just as the road begins to head steeply uphill and to the left. We scrambled up, over and around freshly felled trees for about 10-15 minutes until we came upon the top of Stassel Falls.

If you aren’t planning to take the ropes course down to the bottom, there really isn’t much to see here. But if you are up for an adventure and don’t mind some dirty hands, check out the rope tied to an area before you get to the top of the waterfalls. A small trail leads to it very quickly and then a series of ropes helps you get safely down to the base of the falls.

Once the hour-long detour of exploring and climbing to the bottom of Stassel Falls was complete, we headed north along well maintained trails meandering towards the campground but with the intention of taking our time and adding some mileage (4-5) rather than going the more direct route. We crossed the road a few times as well as some other trails, some of which connect directly to Silver Falls State Park.

The campground makes a nice pitstop with bathrooms and water. From there heading back towards the parking area it’s a lovely hike through the forest towards Shellburg Falls. Despite my research, I had no idea the pathway behind the falls would be quite so impressive. And even though it was a busy Labor Day weekend elsewhere, we only encountered about 3 other hiking groups.

Once back on the main road heading towards the car park, you may come upon friendly cows. And who doesn’t like cows? This one I call Billy.

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Hiking, OregonTim CowleySantiam