The Elk and King's Mountain Loop is a fantastic 10.2-mile trail that takes you through the beautiful Tillamook State Forest, up to the summit of Elk Mountain, and then along a traverse to the summit of King's Mountain, gaining around 4,300 feet of elevation (and losing around 1,200) along the way.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about this true Pacific Northwest hike.
Where are Elk and King Mountain?
While they may not be the largest or most popular mountains in the Pacific Northwest, if you love long hikes, you're sure to enjoy the trek to the summits of both Elk and King Mountains. The two peaks are located very close to one another and about 45 minutes from Portland, Oregon.
Location: Tillamook State Forest, Oregon
Trailhead Coordinates: 45.60358281108867, -123.50579624403754
Elk and King Mountain: At a Glance:
Here's everything you need to know before hiking Elk and King Mountains:
Facilities at King's Mountain Trailhead: one bathroom, no water, ~20 parking spaces.
Facilities at Elk Mountain Trailhead: two bathrooms, water, and limited parking.
Pets: Pets are allowed but may struggle with portions of the steep trail.
Family-Friendly? Children under the age of 12 may enjoy a shorter, less rocky trail. There are many points to turn around if you decide you want to.
Elk-King's Mountain Loop Photo Gallery
Here are a few great photos to help you along your way to the summits of both Elk and King Mountains!
Hiking the Elk and King's Mountain Loop
The Elk and King's Mountain Loop trail begins either at the King's Mountain trailhead (where you'll find around 20 parking spaces) or at the Elk Mountain trailhead (where there are fewer than 5).
We recommend starting from the King's Mountain trailhead and heading up the path for a short .2 miles. Take the first path leading off right towards Elk Mountain. You'll be on this relatively flat trail for more than 3 miles (with traffic noise to the right) before encountering a sign directing you up the quickly-steeping trail to the summit of Elk Mountain.
As you head up the steepest section of Elk Mountain, you'll begin to encounter sparsely growing wildflowers along the sides of the path. Pause for a moment, if you can, and admire the view breaking along the left-hand side of the trail. More than once, you'll find an opportunity to step off the trail, rest your legs, and take in the rolling hills stretching out from Tillamook State Forest.
Be careful of the sudden drops on this side of the path, especially if you're hiking with a dog or young children.
After persevering for around 1.4 miles through steep rocky terrain, you'll know you're on the summit of Elk Mountain when you see the Mazama's summit register. Open the box, sign your name in the notebook, and tuck it away safely! You'll be able to repeat this process when you get to King's Mountain. Although this isn't the best mountain climb in Oregon, it's well worth the effort!
From the summit sign, follow the most obvious path right and down, climbing down steep and sometimes wet, rocky blocks. Make sure to look out across the valley and follow the prominent ridge around to the peak in front of you; that's King's Mountain and your next destination!
It might seem like you're off route as you climb down away from Elk Mountain's summit, but keep persevering, and soon the path will flatten back out. This is one of the more difficult sections of the trail and may be unsuitable for younger hikers.
From this point, for the next four or so miles, you will be on mostly flat terrain. As you get close to King's Mountain, you'll start to climb again. Don't count out the elevation gain yet; you still have more than 1,000 feet to climb.
As you wind around some rocky outcroppings, you'll descend down a steep, thin gulley with a permanently fixed rope.
After this, you'll finish off the final section of elevation gain; it's some of the worst! But don't worry, you're almost there. The same style sign and box mark King's Mountain as Elk. Don't forget to sign this summit register too!
The most challenging part of your day is over! Try to enjoy the scenery as you descend the steep trail back to the King's Mountain trailhead, where you started, completing the Elk Mountain Loop trail!
Did you do the Elk and King's Mountain Loop? Let us know what you think in the comments! Have any beta or suggestions? Please share it with the Traverse the Pacific Northwest community.
Is Elk Mountain good for beginners?
Elk Mountain is a hard trail that gains more than 2,000 feet of elevation in around 1.4 miles. It is not recommended for beginners but is a good choice if you want to push yourself or have experience on steep, rocky (sometimes wet and slippery) terrain.
Elk Mountain review?
Elk Mountain is a beautiful, steep hike in Oregon's Tillamook State Forest. It is easy to access and provides scenic views of the surrounding hills, including the nearby King's Mountain.
Is Elk Mountain pet friendly?
Yes, the trail up to the summit of Elk Mountain is pet friendly but only recommended for the most adventurous animals!
Is King's Mountain safe?
The hike to the summit of King's Mountain is safe if you stay away from the edges of the trail. When you get to the summit, there are steep drop-offs along the left side of the path. Stay on the trail at all times and keep dogs and kids close by.
How tall is King's Mountain Oregon?
King's Mountain is 5,264 feet tall, or 1,604 meters. It provides hikers with a challenging hike, facing an elevation gain of more than 2,00 feet in less than 2 miles.
How long does it take to hike Elk Mountain?
It takes around 4 hours to hike Elk Mountain. If you only go to the summit, the trail is fairly short, around 3 miles.
If you enjoyed the Elk and King's Mountain Loop Trail, consider some other hikes near Portland. For example:
King's Mountain Summit Trail - a tough, 4.4-mile hike in Tillamook State Forest. If you're looking for some peace and quiet away from the crowds in the Columbia River Gorge, this is the hike for you!
Hamilton Mountain Summit Trail - is one of the best hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. It requires a parking permit but is well worth the effort when you see the awe-inspiring views from the summit. You can do it as a loop as well!
Dog Mountain Summit Trail - a popular hike in the Columbia River Gorge. It provides hikers with expansive views of the river and surrounding peaks. Its exposed, grassy knoll and beautiful wildflowers make this a Columbia River Gorge classic.
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