The twin peaks of Elk Mountain and Kings Mountain are located next to each other in the Tillamook State Forest in Oregon's Coast Range. Each is a great adventure in its own right, but those who are feeling adventurous can explore the traverse between Elk Mountain and Kings Mountain. This 10.9-mile hike is a fantastic route through the dramatic terrain of the northern Coast Range that provides sweeping views from each summit. And because it is a loop, you can start at either mountain.
Starting up Elk Mountain isn't an easy task . The trail gains almost 2,000 feet in less than 2 miles, and with high steps and unstable ground, you will be forced to use your hands for balance in some sections. Those who put in the hard work will be rewarded one of the best possible views of the surrounding Tillamook State Forest and Coast Range. The Elk Mountain summit is marked by a huge box that contain the summit registry.
Once you've signed the registry and recuperated from the Elk Mountain ascent, proceed to Kings Mountain by continuing along the ridge. Most people climb Elk Mountain as a there-and-back, so you may not see anyone as you continue on this trail. For those who would prefer a more gradual descent from Elk Mountain without the traverse to Kings Mountain, check out the Elk Mountain Loop via the Elk Creek Trail. Continue along the ridge trail for Kings Mountain; it is pretty well marked and easy to spot even when the vegetation is overgrown and tight in some places. There are some steep downhill sections, but ropes are there to assist. Keep in mind that if you are coming here after a heavy rain, the trail might be really slippery.
After couple of miles on the ridge you will see Kings Mountain in the distance. The traverse has some elevation gain and loss, but nothing major. It is likely that you will see some people at the Kings Mountain summit. The summit itself isn't big, and it is easy to miss, but there are some spots to hangout and enjoy the view not too far from the summit. Don't forget to find the big wooden box that contains registry before heading downhill toward the Wilson River.
From King Mountain summit the trail drops down steeply toward the river. You will quickly arrive at the junction toward the King Mountain Trailhead. Take the Wilson River Trail to the east to go back to the Elk Mountain parking lot. You will travel for 3 miles along the Wilson River and arrive back where you started after a gorgeous day in the mountains.
The Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests are 45 minutes outside of Portland’s backdoor and one of the state’s best keep secrets. But these forests also have a fraught history with logging, fires and more logging. They are now 50 to 70 years into the recovery process and offer prime habitat for vibrant communities of fish and wildlife, as well as an immense array of recreational opportunities. The Wilson and Kilchis rivers host globally important runs of Chinook, chum, coho and steelhead. Both forests provide camping, biking, fishing, hunting and hiking grounds for thousands of Oregonians, and they also provide over 400,000 people with clean drinking water.
Wild Salmon Center is a founding member of the North Coast State Forest Coalition, a diverse group of over 100 businesses, governing bodies and nonprofits working to leverage public support to increase forest and streamside protection along the North Coast. These popular and biologically important areas deserve real protection. That’s why we’re asking state and federal leaders to protect 33,000 acres of land around the Wilson and Kilchis Rivers and another 8,000 acres around Kings Mountain. It’s no easy task ensuring a future for these forests but this is where you can help.
Learn more about the North Coast State Forest Coalition, on their website. Join in the coalition by signing up for their newsletter and signing on to the latest action alerts to protect the Wilson/Kilchis and Kings Mountain.