Elk Creek - Kings Mountain Loop
Low Point: 700'
High Point: 3226'
Season: All Year
DirectionsTravel Oregon Highway 6 to milepost 28. Turn north onto Elk Creek Road and continue through the campground to the trailhead across the bridge. During the winter, the campground is gated off, but ample parking is available at the road intersection (the closure only ads maybe a quarter mile to the trail).
The Elk Creek – Kings Mountain Loop explores a rugged area of Oregon's Coast Range. With Views east to the Cascades, west towards the Pacific, and the undulating ridges, peaks, and hills of the Coast Range, this trail is a classic. It's also quite tough. I wouldn't recommend this trip for those with children or dogs.
From the trailhead at the campground stay on the path to the right, as it follows the rushing Elk Creek on an old road grade (the road is slowly being converted to trail as nature reclaims everything but a single track for the next four miles, until the intersection with the King's Mountain Trail). Views up the valley are pretty impressive, as rugged cliffs rise above creek. The creek separates between it's the main and west forks, and soon after the trail begins to rise steadily up the West Fork drainage. The grade is manageable, but will keep you working.
Just past the crossing of one of the branches of the West Fork, at this trails westernmost point, the path levels off briefly with views down the West Fork Drainage, past the ridges immediately to the east, and all the way towards Mt. Hood and the Cascades. The level walking quickly ends as the trail again rises. Bear grass begins to make an appearance as the trail reaches the intersection for the Kings/Elk Mountain Trail. Turn left onto this trail.
Once on the Kings/Elk Mountain trail, the walking levels off, with nice views to the south and north. After a mile, the trail reaches another intersection with the Elk Mountain Trail. Stay right.
The trail drops slightly from the intersection and the walking is good, at least for a little while. It's about to get a bit rough. A very steep climb ascends a high point, then levels off before reaching a point where the trail seems to disappear over the edge of a cliff. Turn left at this point, and carefully descend the path as it works it's way down, and then back up a rise to cross the ridge. This area can be dangerous, with lose rocks on the trail grade, and steep cliffs dropping off to the south side of the trail. As someone who doesn't appreciate heights, I found this 50' section a bit challenging.
After crossing back over the main ridge line, the trail stays rough (but not quite as challenging for those of us who don't like heights). The trail grade steeply descends to a 'caution' sign, where a rope assists a steep, but short descent. The trail makes several steep ascents and slight descents as it eventually makes it's way to the top of Kings Mountain, where more great views of the coast range are delivered (and deserved).
From the top, the trail descends steeply for much of it's 2.5 mile drop down towards the Kings Mountain trailhead, and should make you grateful that you didn't come up via this trail.
Before reaching the trailhead, the trail intersects with the Wilson River Trail. Turn left. The Wilson River trail is a nice. It follows the Wilson River Highway for it's length, but in a few areas it dips into a creek drainage or behind a ridge, leaving the noise from the highway behind. You will also appreciate being able to stretch your legs after the steep descent from the summit of Kings Mountain. After 3.5 miles of pleasant, mostly level walking, the trail reaches the Elk Creek Trailhead.