Silver Creek Falls and Shellburg Falls: Trish’s First Mountain Bike Overnighter

Secrets Don’t Make Friends

Silver Creek Falls and Shellburg Falls provide the perfect opportunity for new MTB riders to hone their skills on the trail, with over 35 miles of singletrack and relatively low traffic on weekdays and weekends alike.  Both wilderness areas can be linked together using fire roads, which is one of Shellburg Falls’ little known secrets.  I have never seen anyone using these connector roads, which makes for a nice solitary experience on the bike, if that’s what you’re after.

Day 1 Map

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Day 2 Map

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  • The Catamount Trail is a must-ride for beginner and advanced MTB riders alike: it is a 3.4 mile two-way trail designed, created, and maintained by the Salem Area Trail Alliance which features many optional jumps, drops, and alternate side trails as it winds its way parallel to Lookout Mountain Road, a gravel connector road between the Shellburg Falls and Silver Creek Falls trail systems.
  • The Lost Creek Trail, Shellburg Creek Trail, and August Mountain Trail are all excellent downhill trails for the intermediate MTB enthusiast, all found in the Shellburg Falls trail system.
  • Shellburg Falls Campground is a beautiful campground in the Shellburg Falls Trail system that offers secluded campsites with relatively low use.
  • Silver Falls State Park Campground is a high-trafficked but gorgeous facility that offers tent-camping, RV camping, and even cabin camping; but reserve weeks in advance, especially in the busy summer season.

Must Know

  • While the summer months are the optimal time to ride all these trails, they are open year-round (Shellburg Falls is subject to winter closures depending on the year). Just know that if you brave the Silver Creek Falls trail system in the winter, mud is a major problem and can quickly gunk up your gears if you’re not careful.
  • Shellburg Falls Campground is a first-come, first-served campground. While it is not heavily-trafficked, getting there in the early afternoon is a good way to ensure availability.
  • Silver Falls State Park Campgrounds has some beautiful and affordable cabins to rent if you reserve them a month or more in advance of your trip.

And She’s Hooked!

For Trish, I wanted her first overnight experience to have some less technical singletrack while also providing a true MTB experience, with nasty climbs and short stints of technical riding thrown in periodically for the purpose of character building, and the Silver Creek Falls/Shellburg Falls trail system provides just that.  After the second day of riding, she was feeling much more confident on her bike, handling both the rooty, technical sections of the Catamount Trail (Silver Creek Falls MTB specific trail) as well as the steep drops of the Lost Creek and Shellburg Creek Trail (Shellburg Falls trail system) with much more confidence.

While she would be the first to admit that mountain biking is a whole different skillset from road riding and touring, Trish acknowledged that the allure of solitude, presence, and alertness which are so unique to the mountain biking experience provide something completely different from other bike experiences, and make mountain biking worth pursuing as a new form of recreation for her.

And this observation was the biggest success of the trip, as it means more joint trips together!  Perhaps a few more overnight mountain bike experiences are in order before I push her into the realm of bikepacking, but I think my job as MTB initiator is over; Trish is hooked!