Reaching the summit of Elk Mountain is an arduous task. The trail climbs nearly 2,000 feet in less than 2 miles, and the steepness is compounded by loose footing almost the entire way. But for those brave enough to take on the challenge, this trail is one of the gems of Oregon's Coast Range. It's unlikely you'll encounter other hikers as you pull yourself up the ridge's path. For the ample breaks you'll surely be taking there are numerous viewpoints of the mountain summit, the Wilson River far below, Kings Mountain beyond, and the forested hills of Tillamook State Forest.
After taking a well-deserved rest at the summit, many options are available. Returning down the trail you used to ascend isn't recommended unless you are comfortable sliding on your seat from time to time. By continuing on the ridge that follows off the back of Elk Mountain's summit, a ridge that continues to challenge with many ups and downs, you can return via Elk Creek Trail or take on another challenge by linking Kings Mountain into the hike. The junction to Elk Creek Trail or Kings Mountain is 2 miles from the summit of Elk Mountain. Returning via Elk Creek offers a different view of this section of forest with fir trees giving way to alder. With the legacy of the Tillamook Burn fires up through 1950, this is a young forest, but the recovery has been swift with no sign of fire damage and with healthy trees throughout.
Although the length and total elevation gain of this hike don't seem so daunting on paper, come prepared for a hike that'll require you to pick your steps for most of the way. The going is slow and the terrain is challenging until you reach the Elk Creek Trail. On a hot day, be prepared with lots of water, especially if you plan to complete the 10.9-mile loop with Kings Mountain.
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.