Tillamook State Forest: Elk Mountain Loop via Elk Creek Trail 13km

Elk Mountain is in Tillamook State Forest, east of Tillamook in the US state of Oregon. Great name. Up there with names containing “bear”…

Today, The One and Only Son and I hiked up this “most difficult” trail (wording on notice board). We started at Elk Creek Campground and finished coming down the “easy” Elk Creek Trail.

The map…

As the following elevation chart shows, the climb starts immediately. After around 2km, you reach Elk Mountain. The challenging part was done at that time.

We parked our car at the trailhead opposite Elk Creek Campground and checked the guides on the notice board. Soon we got cracking…

Trailhead close to Elk Creek Camping ground
The trail guide

Soon it was up… and up… and up… Gently to begin with but…

Up, up and away

The landscape and trail up towards Elk Mountain were gorgeous. Super green and lush. Increasing amount of fog as we climbed…

Checking out the views

Wilson River Highway can be seen down there next to Wilson River. The road takes you to the town of Tillamook. We arrived from there, around 30 minutes drive.

Road 6, Wilson River Highway, towards Tillamook

The trail was indeed challenging, mostly following a narrowish ridge and on rocks. Right here it looked OK.

Trail to Elk Mountain

With more and more fog, the surroundings become somewhat spooky. There is a reason the hill is called “Elk Mountain”, right…? What was that noise…?

Up into the fog

This guy kept up the tempo. “Too easy” for him.

For full disclosure, I admit not being as fast as him today. I have battled a cold and cough for a while and while normally a climb like this would cause no issues, today was not one of those days… (yeah, right, I hear some of you saying…)

Too easy for the One and Only Son

Suddenly this appeared. What has happened here?

“Scene of the crime – exhibit 1”

What event or animal would cause this kind of damage to trees? Not elks really? Wait, could it be a… BEAR?

Are we into bear territory? Didn’t we just pass some unfamiliar type of poop…?

Should it be called Bear Mountain rather than Elk Mountain given no sign of Elk???

“Scene of the crime – exhibit 2”

Not to give to much away, we saw or heard no bear and no elk today. Apart from the occasional bird, the woods were almost deafening quiet. I stopped once and the silence was almost too much.

I took plenty of “fog” pictures along the way. A few more pics coming up next…

Fog in the woods 1

Our trail on the left…

Fog in the woods 2

Now, that fog also effected the views. What views you may say…?

Fog views 1

I know there is a long way down to where we started. And steep too. I just can’t see it…

Fog views 2

Suddenly, somewhat unexpected, we reached the summit of Elk Mountain…

Elk Mountain summit

…but no views other fog. Apparently, on clear days you can see Mount Hood, Oregons tallest peak, from here. You can also see the Pacific Ocean in the other direction.

Well, one has to accept those words for an independent verification is impossible today.

Today’s view from Elk Mountain summit

The One and Only Son did the honours of writing down our details in the summit log book. “Australia was here…”

The logbook

After a snack break, not too long due to low temperatures and high humidity, my cold protested, we continued our hike.

First, descending on the other side, the terrain was wet, slippery and rocky. We both occasionally made use of our backsides, to ensure safe passage. An accident could easily happen there.

Deep in the forest

Hard not to get carried away snapping “trees among the woods” fog photos. One last one…

Trees and fog… yet again

The trail composition then changed and became as per below. There had clearly been roads here in the past. Obviously man made, the trail traversed up and down for quite some distance.

Trail on old road

Up to this point, we only encountered one more hiker. A bloke who barely acknowledged our existence. Possibly a loner who wanted the mountains to himself. Grump…

However, at the below clearing, a female hiker sat and ate her lunch. You can see her in the distance of the photo. She was nice and chatty.

Not a bad lunch spot

Soon thereafter was the junction towards King Mountain, the other main peak. Temporarily toying with hiking there as well, we decided against it.

You do indeed have two options here, both would create a loop before returning back at Elk Creek Campground.

Junction for King Mountain trail

Our time for lunch. Others have had the same idea at the junction before given rocks, logs and signs of an old campfire. Nice spot.

The “easy” Elk Creek Trail for us next…

The junction sign upfront

…which starts here, 0.8 miles from the above sign. Four miles back to Elk Creek Campground. Home stretch…

Elk Creek trail starts here

I suspect most if not all of Elk Creek Trail reuses old roads. Wide, flat, few trees immediately next to the trail.

Elk Creek Trail slow descent

This chopped down tree looked like an outdoor water tap to me, requiring a photo. Something different.

“Tap” in the woods

Despite Elk Creek Trail’s name, the trail didn’t follow Elk Creek or any other water flow until the last mile or so.

Suddenly, three “budget” trail signs. A junction where one of the trails continues on the other side of Elk Creek. Very close to the end.

“Low cost” signs

The One and Only Son suggested that we, or more correctly I, should hike the second trail on this sign…

Any takers for “Idiot Creek Loop Trail”?

Well, we stopped briefly for a snack next to the wooden bridge across Elk Creek. And for some photos…

Bridge over very calm waters

Looking down stream from that bridge over Elk Creek.

Down creek

Soon enough beyond that, we reached the parking lot and the trailhead.

My verdict is that the steep trail up to Elk Mountain is indeed difficult. As is intially coming down the other side. The rest is mostly gentle downhill strolling.

Lovely environment with few other hikers. Given more time here, I would return and “conquer” King Mountain as well. Next time…

Finally two photos of trails fact sheets from Oregon Department of Forestry. For more details…

Elk Mountain and King Mountain trails factsheet
Elk Creek Trail fact sheet

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