Smith Creek Village offers cozy forest lodging, tucked away in Silver Falls

Smith Creek Village might feel like a well-kept secret, but it probably won’t stay that way for long.

With more than a million people visiting Silver Falls State Park every year, and the park actively working on ways to spread people out beyond the enormously popular South Falls Day Use Area, the newly renovated group of cabins, cottages and campsites are a great option for those looking to stay overnight in the park.

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Tucked away at the edge of the park’s sprawling 9,000-acre backcountry, an area with no major waterfalls but lots of quiet forest, Smith Creek Village is something between an upscale campground and an outdoor hotel, with a wide variety of accommodations, its own restaurant and access to nearby trails.

Located on the southwest side of the park, the property was originally developed by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s as a youth camp before it was turned into a conference center in the 1970s. Most recently known as the Silver Falls Lodge and Conference Center, it almost exclusively hosted retreats and weddings, leaving the state park campground as the primary lodging option in the park.

In 2020, California-based Urban Park Concessionaires, which had managed the park’s venues for six years, ended its contract nearly four years early as business dropped off during the COVID-19 pandemic. That opened the door for Silver Falls Hospitality, run by couple Brooke Gerken and Kyle McDonough, who rebranded and reopened the property to the general public in 2021.

As Smith Creek Village, the property has ostensibly become a higher-end campground with room to accommodate larger groups – something that is sorely missing from the main state park campground.

“We want everyone to feel like they have access to the outdoors,” Gerken said. “But sleeping on the dirt or on the ground is not comfortable for everybody, or not having their own linens or toilet in the night.”

Accommodations at Smith Creek Village start with a pair of cottages and community of tiny cabins that are heated and come with linens, with flush toilets but no showers (communal showers are located nearby). The cottages, which come with either two twin beds or a double bed, run $109 to $145 per night. That’s the same price range for the cabins, which were originally built for the youth camp, and have either a double bed, three twin beds, or a double bed and a futon.

The Calypso Cottage, formerly known as the Honeymoon Suite, is the most luxurious option on the property, with a full kitchen, full bathroom and queen bed, with two day beds in a separate living room.

A quartet of lodges offer much more room, aimed at families or groups. With six individual bedrooms and two full bathrooms, the lodges can sleep up to 12 people each, and cost $549 to $850 per night. Really big groups can book the two “ranches” at Smith Creek Village, each of which has a commercial kitchen and gathering space, and can sleep up to 75 people in bunk beds or tents.

Wedding parties, which used to take over the entire property almost every weekend, are now primarily directed to the ranches, Gerken and McDonough said. That decision has relieved the strain on both the workers and the land, they said, and has freed up space for other visitors to stay there on nice weekends in the spring and summer.

It also relives stress on the main Silver Falls campground, which is fully booked most weekends. Park officials are working to address demand with a second campground near North Falls, though it’s not expected to open until 2025. Until then, they’re continuing to direct overflow campers to Smith Creek Village.

“We are a natural spot to absorb some of that [overflow],” McDonough said. “As many people as can come our way, the better.”

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