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Shellrock Peak

South Cascades > White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley
46.7161, -121.1638 Map & Directions
9.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
2,625 feet
Highest Point
6,835 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Stunning views from Shellrock Peak on a clear day. Photo by Ken Giesbers. Full-size image
  • Wildflowers/Meadows
  • Mountain views
  • Wildlife
  • Ridges/passes
  • Summits
  • Dogs allowed on leash

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

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In addition to broad views, Shellrock Peak features some interesting rock formations for the geology buff. Constant elevation changes along the trail, lack of water, and the need for minor off-trail routefinding make solitude likely. Continue reading

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Hiking Shellrock Peak

Walk the old road 400 feet from the parking area to a permit kiosk. Obtain a self-issued wilderness permit, which is required, even for day use. Resume hiking in pleasant forest, which quickly breaks out to views of Mount Adams, the Goat Rocks, and Mount Rainier.

The first half mile drops 200 feet, some of it steeply. Get used to it. Although the net gain to the summit of Shellrock Peak is less than 500 feet, you have to earn it via significant ups and downs.

The total elevation gain shown in this guide is the sum of the gains in both directions, 2625 feet (1550 in and 1075 out). Some of the route is in forest, but much is open, with limited or no shade.

At 1.0 mile, a wooden sign nailed to a tree marks the junction with the Burnt Mountain Trail. It is easy to miss. Just after the junction, the trail rounds a curve to a full view of Mount Rainier, drops to 6100 feet, then regains all of that and more. At 2.0 miles and 6460 feet of elevation (finally above the trailhead altitude!), a side trail on the right leads to the summit of Burnt Mountain at 6536 feet.

Continuing, you’ll soon have a clear view of Shellrock Peak and the barren ridge leading to its summit. Cairns mark where the briefly faint trail slants down to the left over step-like eroded rock, beginning another significant drop in elevation.

At 2.9 miles is a windswept saddle and the lowest point of the hike, 5900 feet. Climb to 6300 where the junction with the Shellrock Peak Trail, at 3.6 miles, is marked with weathered signs on a tree. Next comes the tricky part. Some routefinding and off-trail hiking are necessary. Here is the way commonly followed.

Continue on the Ironstone Mountain Trail about 500 feet, 200 to 220 paces. There may or may not be small cairns on the right side of the trail. No matter; there is no trail. Choose the least brushy route, and head in a north-northwest direction for another 500 feet. (You do have a compass, right?)

When you see the first large rockpile marking the beginning of the ridge to the summit, it will be obvious.  Commit to memory the way you came, so that you can more easily reconnect with the trail on the way down. The structural geology of this area is very complex. To geologists, Shellrock Peak is a “dacite-andesite plug”, one of several in the area. Fortunately, everyone can enjoy the distinctly different types of rock ahead.

From 6400 feet, climb the rockpile on a boot path, and continue along the ridge. The route to the summit is visible on a clear day, gaining the final 435 feet in 0.6 mile. Step carefully, as some rocks will move underfoot. An unnamed lake can be seen at the eastern base of the ridge, at 6200 feet. As you climb, stay left of the fin of darker rocks along the ridge, then as you approach the spine of magnificent rock columns, move to the right for the easiest route. If snow lingers along the ridge, be mindful of cornices and adjust your route accordingly. Continue to the broad, roomy summit of fractured rock slabs at 6835 feet. Enjoy the views.

WTA Pro Tip: There is no water on this hike, so be sure to have as much as you need with you.

Toilet Information

  • No toilet at trailhead

More information about toilets

Hike Description Written by
Ken Giesbers, WTA Correspondent

Shellrock Peak

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.7161, -121.1638 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee


WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

From the intersection of Highway 123 and Highway 12 northeast of Packwood, go east on Highway 12 for 29 miles, then turn left on Bethel Ridge Road. Follow this one-lane rock road with turnouts, choosing the most-traveled road at junctions, for 6.5 miles.

Go left at the sign reading “Cash Prairie 1” and follow it 2.1 miles to road’s end, and the sign: “Ironstone Mtn Tr. 1141”. There are no amenities at the trailhead.

More Hike Details


South Cascades > White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley

Shellrock Peak (#1132)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Naches Ranger District

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Shellrock Peak

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