(Featured image credit goes to Max Radke. Used with permission.)
Shellburg Falls is one of my favorites. The trail goes behind the waterfall, and the volume of the stream (at least in August) is small enough that you can actually stand in the waterfall itself. You can also wade in the splash pool. It’s a wonderful treat for a hot summer day!
Both Lower Shellburg Falls and Stasel Falls are just a short hike away, but neither offers access to the water or even full-on views. They are definitely side-notes to Shellburg Falls.
There are three ways to get to Shellburg Falls. Unfortunately, we only knew about one approach when we made our trip, and it is the one I would least recommend because it involves hiking on a gravel road for over a mile each way. That hike was almost enough to keep Shellburg off of our favorites list, but since there is a better way to get there and since we had a blast anyway, on the favorites list it stays.*
The gravel road route begins on Hwy 22 in the tiny town of Mehama. Drive 1.2 miles north on Fern Ridge Road and park in the small parking lot. Walk behind the gate and cattle guard (the first of many) on the gravel road for 1.25 miles to Lower Shellburg Falls.
Another approach is to start your hike at Shellburg Falls Campground. The trail from the campground to the waterfall is half a mile one way.
The best approach is explained below. Please note that this route is only open from June through October.
Several other trails, including some for bikes and horses, are available in the Shellburg Falls Recreation Area. Check out the trail maps here.
*After rating other waterfall hikes, I’ve changed my rating for Shellburg to Highly Recommended. It’s still one of my favorites, but I think that’s largely because of our own experience that day and not because of the waterfall itself or the trail.
My rating: Highly Recommended (3 stars)
(Shellburg: Waterfall – 3 stars, Trail – 3 stars, Experience – 4 stars. Lower Shellburg – Waterfall – 1 star, Trail – 3 stars (same as Shellburg), Experience – 1 star. Stasel – 1 star across the board.)
Distance from Beaverton: About an hour and a half drive southeast
Nearest town: Mehama
Nearest city: Salem
Length of round-trip hike: .4 mile (Shellburg & Lower Shellburg), .9 mile (Stasel) (Both distances are calculated from the approach described below. The alternate routes described above are longer hikes.)
Best season to visit: June-October (The road is closed the rest of the year.)
Things to know:
- The trail to Stasel Falls is not well marked or maintained. Since the viewpoint is on an unprotected cliff, it is not recommended for children. (We did take our 7-year-old and watched him carefully.)
- Bring towels and plan to get wet at Shellburg Falls!
- Remember that the approach suggested below is only open June-October.
- Some driving on gravel roads is necessary. (I’m not sure how much since we took a different route.)
Consider combining this trip with: Horseshoe Falls, Ayers Creek Falls, and Upper Ayers Creek Falls. Also, the Gingerbread House in Mehama serves a surprisingly delicious hamburger!
Toilet / Amenities: Picnic table at Lower Shellburg Falls.
How to get there:
- From Highway 22 in Mehama, turn north on Wagner Road.
- Drive 2.5 miles to a 3-way intersection. (At some point the road becomes a gravel road.)
- Go straight onto Ayers Creek Road, signed for Shellburg Falls.
- After .8 mile, turn left onto AC 100 Road.
- Drive 2.8 miles and turn left at the orange gate onto Shellburg Road.
- Drive 2.6 miles to Shellburg Falls Campground or 3.6 miles to the picnic table and gate at Lower Shellburg Falls.