Why hike the Elk Mountain and Kings Mountain loop trail?
The Elk Mountain and Kings Mountian loop is a unique trail because of its ups and downs.
You travel up the mountains, then along a ridgeline between mountains, back down into the valley, and cross a few rivers (all have bridges).
The trail is interesting because of the layout.
The views are also fantastic.
We arrived at Kings Mountain on a rainy Friday evening and spent the night above a valley we couldn’t see due to dense clouds. By the following day, the clouds had cleared. We came out of our tents to blue skies and a spectacular view of the evergreen-covered hills.
The trail is thickly forested. There’s a wide variety of plants, trees, and flowers to enjoy along the way.
During spring, the wildflowers are abundant. The trail is dotted with Indian paintbrush, bleeding hearts, columbine, bear grass, huckleberries, salmonberries, and other wildflowers.
Things to see on Elk and Kings Mountain (aka. photo ops)
Springtime wildflowers are abundant.
View from Elk Mountain
Elk Mountain has a great spot to enjoy a view of the valley. There is a point towards the west where people claim to be able to see the ocean. However, it could just be low-hanging clouds in the distance.
View from your camp site
Wake up on top of a cliff overlooking the valley and surrounding hills – wonderful on a sunny morning as the sun comes up behind you.
View from Kings Mountain
Another great view of the valleys and hills.
FAQ’s about the Elk and Kings Mountain hike
The Elk-Kings Mountain loop trail is a forest hike up to and along the ridgeline of Elk Mountain and Kings Mountain. It is a challenging trail with steep inclines and declines.
The view of the Oregon coastal range is stunning as you climb higher and higher above the surrounding hills and valleys.
To prepare for any hike, check out our posts:
Where is Elk and Kings Mountain?
Elk and Kings Mountain trails are in the Oregon Coast Range, near Gales Creek, Oregon. Both Elk Mountain and Kings Mountain trails are part of the Tillamook State Forest.
|Tillamook, OR||26 miles|
|Portland, OR||46 miles|
|Cannon Beach, OR||64 miles|
|Astoria, OR||80 miles|
|Salem, OR||85 miles|
|Newport, OR||93 miles|
|Eugene, OR||149 miles|
|Seattle, WA||219 miles|
How long is the Elk-Kings Mountain loop hike?
The Elk Mountain and Kings Mountain loop trail is 10.8 miles round trip.
What are the start and endpoints on the Elk-Kings Mountain trail?
Start at the Elk Creek Campground and hike a short distance up a gravel road to the Elk Mountain trailhead.
Hike the loop from Elk to Kings Mountains and loop back to your starting location.
Start at Kings Mountain trailhead and hike from Kings Mountain to Elk Mountain and back.
Both trailheads have decent parking areas. The trail is just as steep with similar elevation changes in either direction.
However, there is a spot on Elk Mountain that is a scramble down a steep rocky cliff. This spot is arguably easier to climb up rather than scramble down. Start at Kings Mountain trailhead to traverse this section if you prefer to climb up.
What is the elevation gain on the Elk-Kings Mountain trail?
The total elevation gain on the Elk-Kings Mountain trail is 3,700 feet.
The average uphill grade is 22%.
The average downhill grade is 24%.
How long does it take to hike the Elk and Kings Mountain trail?
The Elk and Kings Mountain loop trail will take six to eight hours for a conditioned hiker.
What is the surface of the Elk-Kings Mountain trail?
The trail can be muddy after rain. The Kings Mountain section can be extra challenging if it’s wet.
Is there parking at the Elk-Kings Mountain trail?
There is parking at both the Kings Mountain trailhead and the Elk Mountain trailhead.
Where are the restrooms at the Elk-Kings Mountain trail?
There are bathrooms at both Elk Mountain and Kings Mountain trailheads.
Are there elk on the Elk and Kings Mountain trail?
Elk are often spotted on the Elk and Kings Mountain trail loop. Autumn is rutting season when male elk bugle for mates and display their antlers. In winter, males lose their antlers, look for antler rubbing marks on red alder trees.
Areas to prepare for on the Elk and Kings Mountain trail
One challenging spot is coming from Kings Mountain towards Elk Mountain with a rope running down a steep hill. The rope is there to help you!
If you are coming from Elk Mountain, you will use this rope to help you descend the hill.
Another spot to be aware of is the cliff you will have to scramble up (or down, depending on the direction you’re hiking the loop). This is a steep section over a rock face with sufficient steps and places to grab onto and pull yourself up. It will be easy for the mountain goat types out there.
Make a day of your hike on Elk and Kings Mountain trail
Tillamook, Oregon is a 35-minute drive from Elk Mountain.
Tillamook is chock full of fun things to do and good things to eat – a great home base.
Beautiful things to see in Tillamook
Cape Meares State Park and National Wildlife Refuge
Cape Meares is on the Three Capes Scenic Loop (see below). There’s so much to see at Cape Meares, it’s like the amusement park of the Oregon Coast.
Look for gray whales from the cliffs and spot seabirds nesting in the spring and summer.
Walk 0.1-miles to the Octopus Tree. The “Octopus tree” is famous for its misshapen limbs.
See the lighthouse. A short walk to the lighthouse offers beautiful views and interpretive panels. During “normal” times you can tour the lighthouse. Visit the Cape Meares link above to see the current status of the tours.
Cape Lookout is our favorite campground in the Tillamook area. Where else can you get an oceanfront property for a song?
If you have energy after your Elk Mountain hike, definitely take the Cape Trail (5-miles) out to the tip of Cape Lookout.
Here is the Cape Lookout trail guide.
If you want gorgeous views, drive this 40-mile loop along the coastline.
You will hit many of the stops on this list; Cape Lookout, Cape Meares, and Pelican Brewery, for instance.
Waterfall lovers will want to make a stop at Munson Falls.
The 1/4-mile trail is an accessible and easy hike through an old-growth forest.
Munson Falls is a 319′ tiered waterfall – the tallest on the Oregon coast.
Things to do in Tillamook
So I’m a sucker for a historic museum. But hands down, Tillamook is my favorite.
Founded in 1935, the museum itself is part of Tillamook’s history.
Every inch of this museum is jam-packed with historical eye candy.
The carefully curated scenes from daily life appeal to all ages. Like many children, I was obsessed with “pioneer life”, and the Tillamook Pioneer Museum is all that.
Then you have the natural history section – floor to ceiling displays of rocks, shells, and animals.
To get a sense of what’s inside the unassuming building take a look at the museum homepage and scroll through the gallery of photos.
Located in a massive WWII airplane hangar, the Tillamook Air Museum houses 30-ish aircraft. See the list here.
You will also find WWII displays and vehicles.
For the kids (or young at heart) take a look at the paper airplane templates and coloring pages available on the website.
For many Oregon natives, a trip to the Tillamook Creamery is synonymous with the Oregon Coast.
In the old days, we could watch the sausage – err cheese – being made right in front of us. Men would rake through the curds in huge vats, while women with netted hair watched blocks of yellow cheese pass by. And yes, it was always men doing the raking and women doing the watching.
Now, with automation, you can stand over the factory floor and watch machinery efficiently produce the millions of blocks of Tillamook cheese we know and love.
When you’re done upstairs, head downstairs for cheese tastings and all the Oregon gift shop kitsch your heart desires.
On your way out is the real reason people flock to the Tillamook Creamery – the ice cream. You can choose from dozens of Tillamook’s favorite flavors. On summer weekends the line is long, but it moves fast.
Right next door to the Tillamook Creamery is Blue Heron.
Stop in for cheese and wine tastings. Check out the expansive gift shop and deli. Blue Heron has a huge selection of cheese, wine, charcuterie, smoked and tinned seafood, and gourmet gifts.
I loved stopping here when I was a child as much as I love it now, although for different reasons. Hello, wine and stinky cheese!
Stop by the petting zoo in the back. With the picnic area, you can pick up take-out soups, bread, and salads for lunch.
Brittany is a Textile artist (when she’s not traveling, she’s the Indie artist at Textile Indie)
Every time we visit Tillamook, we stop in at Latimer.
The gallery is always chock full of quilts, and other needle art projects on display.
Usually, we find a group of enthusiastic fiber artists working – spinning, tatting, quilting, weaving, etc.
You can check out the weekly schedule of work on the Events page.
For serious fiber artists, check out the extensive library, and textile collection (by appointment).
Good eats in Tillamook
One of 3 (soon 4) Pelican locations on the Oregon coast.
Pub food and beer – this is a good choice for a fish and chips stop on your Three Capes Scenic Loop Drive.
For beer connoisseurs De Gardes is a must stop.
They’re doing interesting things with hops, grapes, and oak barrels.
Check out their Facebook page to see what’s new.
Werner’s is a meat market, taproom, and deli.
They serve Werner Brewery beer – about 5 taps. I recommend trying the flight of four beers.
Pub grub – burgers, sandwiches, and comfort food.
Dutch Mill is a 50’s style diner and icon in downtown Tillamook.
Eat here for the quintessential diner experience – and check out the creative twists they put on a burger.
Cadillac burger? Yes, please.
All things smoked.
Stop here for delicious fish and chips and clam chowder (counter service only).
Leave with fresh seafood.
And check out the extensive stock of hot sauce!
Do you want oysters?
Jandy’s is your stop.
From Tuesday – Saturday enjoy the raw oyster bar – fresh oysters and dipping sauces.
On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Jandy’s has a full menu of classic coastal dishes.
You can also pick up fresh oysters to go.
Across the highway, from Tillamook Creamery and Blue Heron, we always stop and stock up on Debbie’s jerky and sausage.
What else can I say, except it’s really, really good? And Debbie will even ship it to you if you need a fix once you’re home.
Others experiences on the Elk and Kings Mountain trail
Check out these two posts by fellow hikers:
Paul Gerald describes his experience Monster Hike in the Oregon Coast Range
And, from The Adventure Continues, Kings Mountain Elk Creek Loop
If you want to see what you’re in for, Volk Productions has a video that will give you an idea of the terrain.
Guidebooks about Oregon hiking
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