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Elk Mountain-King's Mountain Loop Hike

From Portland Hikers Field Guide

King's Mountain from the summit of Elk Mountain (Jerry Adams)
Typical section of trail to Elk Mountain (Jerry Adams)
Summit of Elk Mountain (Jerry Adams)
View down the Big Creek valley on the Elk-Kings traverse (bobcat)
Cliffside trail on the Kings Mountain north ridge (bobcat)
  • Start point: Elk Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point:
  • Other featured landmarks: Elk Mountain, King's Mountain
  • Trail log: Trail Log
  • Distance: 10.8 miles round trip
  • High Point: 3226 feet
  • Elevation gain: 3700 feet
  • Difficulty: Very Difficult
  • Seasons: spring, summer, fall, possible in the winter
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

Elk Mountain and King's Mountain are two popular hiking destinations in the Oregon Coast range. The trails are a little more rugged than typical Columbia Gorge or Mount Hood trails. They are lower elevation than Mount Hood hikes so they are possible in the winter when Mount Hood trails are snowed in.

There are two trailheads - Elk Mountain and King's Mountain, off highway 6 between Portland and Tillamook.

There are four hikes mentioned here - Elk Mountain Hike, King's Mountain Hike, Elk Mountain-King's Mountain Loop Hike, and Elk Creek Hike. These cover all the trail sections but you could obviously construct other combinations.

Carry water - there are (almost) no sources of water along the trails. This area is best for day hiking but the Elk Creek Hike mentions a possible backpack.

The Mazamas have adopted these trails, so they are well marked and well maintained.

You can start this loop at either the Elk Creek Trailhead or the King's Mountain Trailhead and you can go clockwise or counter-clockwise, this description arbitrarily chooses Elk Mountain counter-clockwise. To save the 3.5 mile Wilson River Trail return, you could do a car shuttle. Another obvious loop would be up Elk Mountain and down Elk Creek (8.5 miles, 2600' gain, see Elk Creek Hike for a description of that section).

The 11 miles of this loop is "longer than that" because of the difficulty of the trail so allocate enough time to complete it.

Start just past the Elk Creek Campground. The road continues over a bridge to a parking area. There are two trails out of the trailhead. Take the Elk Mountain/Wilson River Trails up. There's a good sign. The other trail, the Elk Creek Trail, follows the road past a closed gate.

After about 0.2 mile, there's the Wilson River-Elk Mountain Trail Junction. Take the Elk Mountain Trail up. The other trail, the Wilson River Trail, continues straight and fairly level. Again, there's a good sign. You will be returning on the Wilson River Trail.

From here, the trail is fairly rugged, as the picture attempts to show. You probably have to use your hands at a few places. The trail goes up and down a bit over small knolls. During the winter in can be snowy, and after rain it can be muddy making it almost impassable.

As you go along the trail, there are progressively better views down to the road, toward King's Mountain and the rest of the Coast Range.

There is a sign and log box at the summit. There's a fairly large level area to soak in the views and rest.

Don't rest long because you have a long way to go. Continue on the trail past the summit.

This section of trail between Elk and King's is very steep and rugged.

The trail follows along old logging roads. It's sort of overgrown and difficult to follow. Carefully look for the best route. After a while the trail opens up to nice views.

At mile 3.6 is the three way Elk Mountain-King's Mountain Trail Junction (2978'). You are coming in from the southeast from Elk Mountain. You want to take the trail to King's Mountain to the southwest. Another trail, to the Elk Creek Trail goes to the northwest. There is a good sign showing the way.

If you were tired, you could take the Elk Creek Trail back to the trailhead, in 4.8 miles, see Elk Creek Hike making a 8.4 mile loop.

Just before King's Mountain is another difficult section. The trail is on a cliff with a lot of exposure if you were to fall. When there's snow covering the trail it's more difficult. This is on the north side so is the last place that the snow melts. "Although the description alludes to it . . . it was even crazier than I thought it would be. There was one area where there was a rope ---- wish there were more. Getting down in some spots was really tricky on the loose trail. Took my time and made it but phew - challenging." - orhikergirl.

At mile 4.9 you reach King's Mountain (3205'), the high point of the hike, again nice views.

From here the trail goes steeply down through forest, with some views near the top. At a big switchback below a 0.63 miles to the summit sign, you will reach the Kings Mountain-Kings Mountain Junior Trail Junction. At mile 7.3 (1000') is the Wilson River-Kings Mountain Trail Junction, the low point of the hike. You want to take the Wilson River Trail east, back to the Elk Creek Trail where you began. If you go straight at the junction, in 0.1 mile you reach the King's Mountain Trailhead (700'). If you did a car shuttle, you could end here.

Follow the Wilson River Trail back to the Elk Creek Trailhead from where you started, total of 11 miles. This last section has some mild ups and downs but nothing as steep as the rest of the hike. You can hear the Wilson River Highway (state highway 6) and the Wilson River, a short distance away through the trees.

There were significant washouts of the Wilson River Trail November 2006 making it impassable. As of February 2006, it was still closed but they are working on repairing it.

Maps

Map of Elk Mountain/King's Mountain area

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • none

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 75 Scrambles in Oregon by Barbara I. Bond
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • 50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest by the Tillamook State Forest Committee, Columbia Group Sierra Club

More Links

Contributors

Portland Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.