Shellburg Falls, a Santiam Forest Gem

August 5, 2016 (Updated August 12, 2016)

As the saying goes, “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” That’s especially true in Oregon when camping season is in full swing.

New to camping? Not a problem. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department offers custom camping classes that anyone can take, called ‘Let‘s Go Camping!‘, as part of its popular ‘Let’s Go!’ program. It’s a bit like Camping 101, where no assumptions are made about your outdoor skills, abilities or experience.

A core group of volunteers operates 12 ‘Let’s Go Camping’ seminars at different state parks throughout the summer.


Oregon Parks and Recreation staff member Kevin Farron says, “It’s a very close-knit family environment and we’re all camping together. But it’s not necessarily a summer camp; we don’t want parents to come out and unload their kids, that’s not the goal of the program.”

Instead, the goal is to introduce beginners to the techniques and equipment that they might consider for their own camping trips. In fact, it’s okay if you don’t own camping gear because ‘Let’s Go!’ will lend you the tent, sleeping bags, pads and stoves to set you on the right path.

Bryan Jones, one of the ‘Let’s Go Camping!’ volunteers, says he wouldn’t trade a minute of the experiences he’s had teaching Oregon’s next generation of campers: “When I saw this program online, I clicked on the link and volunteered for a weekend to help out. Now I’m hooked on showing inexperienced families the pleasures in our great area that we call Oregon — show them how to set up a tent, how to make a fire, take them on a little nature hike. You can’t believe how happy it makes people feel to discover Oregon this way.”

Tucked into the foothills of the Oregon Cascades, Silver Falls State Park is perfect place for building summertime memories.

“You’ve got the geology — the waterfalls. That’s why most of us are here, that’s why I’m here, why you’re here, why there’s a park at all,” notes longtime park ranger Dorothy Brown-Kwaiser. “If you’re a first-time visitor, I say come to the South Falls Lodge area. If you’re up for a long hike, go down into the canyon where you get into the park’s wilderness.”

Wilderness experiences are easy to come by in this part of the Oregon Cascades. Take the short 8-mile long drive from Lyons into the nearby Santiam State Forest and discover a picturesque place filled with peace and silence.

I’ve been looking forward to visiting Shellburg Falls, a sort of a second cousin to Silver Falls State Park, which is — as the crow flies — just a few miles away. Shellburg Falls is the centerpiece waterfall in the small sliver of state forest along Stout Creek Canyon. Access to the hike is easy. Head down the single track Shellburg Falls Trail for about 0.7 miles to reach the falls. A short side trail leads to a viewpoint near the base of the falls and the main trail circles behind the waterfall in a large natural grotto.

Shellburg Creek relies on rainfall to sustain its flow, so it runs very low in the summer. Still, the 100-foot falls pour over a protruding basalt ledge which creates a large recess behind the falls called the “amphitheater.”

The place invites you to linger longer. But not too long! A small, quiet seven-site campground (plus a sheltered picnic area and restrooms) waits for you to set up your camp and put in action all the ‘Let’s Go Camping!’ lessons you learned; a fine place to lounge away a summer’s day!

Directions: Vehicle access is seasonal and closes in October. The road is in good condition. From Lyons, take Wagner Road northbound. Stay to the right and drive approximately 2.5 miles, as you drive you will notice power lines and Christmas tree farms nearby. Drive until you reach a four-way intersection. Drive straight and do not turn; Wagner Road will become Ayers Creek Road. You will follow Ayers Creek Road approximately 1 mile. You will then turn left onto the AC 100 Road. Drive 2.8 miles to the Shellburg Road. There is a yellow gate and informational sign at this intersection. Turn left from the AC 100 road onto the Shellburg Road and drive 2.6 miles until you reach the Shellburg Falls Recreation Area.

About The

Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

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