Photo by Don Nelsen
On the southern shore of the Columbia River, across from Dog and Wind Mountains in the Gorge lies Shellrock Mountain. One almost misses this one as it lies at the foot of Gorge giant, Mt. Defiance. But, its twin across the water, Wind Mountain, and it act as gateposts in the middle of the Gorge. (Indians believed the Great Spirit set the whirlwinds blowing in constant fury about Wind Mountain as a punishment to those who, breaking the taboo, taught the white men how to snare salmon. source)
Wind Mountain (left) and Shellrock Mountain (right)
Photo by Don Nelsen
In fact, geologists believe that Wind and Shellrock were once one in the same before the Columbia carved itself down the middle. They are both from the same intrusion of diorite amid a sea of Columbia basalt. Some geologists believe it is from the same type of volcanic neck that is found at Beacon Rock. Shellrock falls right down to the waters edge and a large retaining wall protects I-84 from it.
Diminutive by Cascade standards, Shellrock is characterized by rock slides and craggy knobs on its northwest side. The summit is mostly covered in trees with a rock cairn 3-4 feet high. There is a trail that leads up about halfway, then you get to pick and chose from game trails or open spaces along a ridge to find the summit. The trail ends near the site of what could have been an old weather station or siren platform that looks out to Dog Mountain. It's wired off with DANGER signs now. There are great views of Defiance along the way and one could potentially head up the ridge from the summit to connect to Defiance but it'd be a bushwhack for sure.
The Old Columbia River Highway, completed in the early 20th century cuts a line a few hundred feet above I-84 but is mostly moss-covered and eroding away. This section has not yet been restored/rebuilt. Shellrock was a major obstacle in the building of the old highway as its northern side lies at 42 degrees. There even had been a failed attempt to build a road here before the Old Highway that used prisoner labor. The rock, however, is loose crappy volcanic junk as you can imagine. There was once a town called Shell Rock, Oregon about 3 miles west of the mountain with a post office that was open for part of 1878. Lewis and Clark describe this section of the Columbia River here although it's a tough read.
Shellrock is not visited often and the trail is not maintained. This would probably be one of those hikes you do because you've done all the other ones in the Gorge and are looking for something new and different. Because not many venture up it, it is a little more overgrown and I've seen lots of deer and cougar tracks here. The ridge you climb to the summit is very steep on the north side and care should be taken there. But once you've hiked to the top of this one, you're guaranteed to notice it every time you drive through the Gorge.
You've got to get on eastbound I-84 as you are going to park on the shoulder for this one. .7 miles west of milemarker 52 and just after the large retaining wall, pull off and park by a sign that says "Property of Dept. of Transportation Highway Division." The shoulder here is a little larger and you can get further off the road. Simple enough.