Tag Archives: Tillamook State Forest

Elk Creek Trail July 2020

Northwestern Garter Snake (Thamnophis ordinoides)

Another weekend and time to get out of the house. Jenny was on call this weekend and sticking close to home so she couldn’t hike. I decided to head back to the same area of the Tillamook State Forest and hike the Elk Creek Trail. No giant climb up a mountain or anything this time around. What I was searching for was a spot next to water to get some writing done.

I wasn’t to concerned with time so I slept in and took my time getting out to the forest that morning. It must have been around 11am by the time I started making my way to the park. Stopped for some coffee at Coava and then I was west bound along with everyone else. Thankfully I was headed out on 6 and everyone else was taking 26 to the coast. I had very little traffic to deal with that morning to the forest.

In no time I was in the same parking lot we used to hike up Elk Mountain. Today was a beautiful day so while a lot of people were headed to the beach people still were getting out into the forest. The campsite is closed but the lot outside the gate is available and was full. I ended up parking on the other side of the road. Took a minute to cross because of all the cars. It was nice to see so many people out enjoying the day. Just everyone wear a mask.

There is an option to cross Elk Creek and take another trail that follows along another creek run off from the mountains. This trail I think is only open part of the year. I have to look at the trail map again. But this would be a fourth hike to do in the same general area in addition to staying at the camp site which is pretty nice. First come first serve on the Elk Creek Campsite which is pretty cool.

The trail starts along the creek and follows it for a good long while. Elevation change isn’t that drastic early in the hike. You walk through an interesting area in the forest. Lots of underbrush along the creek. You can see some of the original trees before the forest was cut down and replanted years ago. One thing I noticed was an abundance of garter snakes. I kept coming upon them bathing in the sun, trying to get warm. They would freak me out when I finally saw them. Often they wouldn’t move till I was right on them which startled me as much as it did them.

Eventually the trail climbs up the mountain. The trail is longer but a less difficult way to reach the summit of Elk Mountain. Be aware that if you go this route you are probably hiking 5-8 miles or something like that. Eventually the sound of the creek fades away the higher into the mountain you get. Till you can’t hear it at all but you know it is there. Finally the trail wraps around a valley and continues up the mountain. The old logging road continues and the foot trail heads up the ridge line to the summit of Elk Mountain.

One of the better views across the valley. Most of the trail is tree covered but at the higher elevations now and again you get a decent view.

I continued on the logging road for a little longer. There was only one decent spot by the time I decided to turn around. A good view across the value but it was difficult to see for any length of time or get any sort of panoramic. I relaxed for a bit before starting my way down the mountain. For some parts near the top I ran as it was easier on my knees.

I was hoping to find a place to write on my way up but nothing jumped out at me. As I walked down the mountain I made a point of scoping out the creek once it became visible along the trail. Unfortunately the majority of the creek is difficult to get down to with steep cliffs preventing access. Where the trail splits is where I stopped to do some writing. I walked a little up the creek and found an uncomfortable rock to write on. It was getting late and I didn’t have much time to write.

When I made it back to my car I noticed a trail. This was a short couple hundred feet before it opened to a great section of the creek. Definitely a section that salmon run. Lots of flat sections to site with a fire while you fished. The creek is pretty deep in this section which I guess is a good place for the fish to gather before continuing up the creek. I wish I found this earlier as it was a really nice spot to get some writing done. Just pop open my chair and get writing. I would come back here just to write.

A long day in the forest but a really good one. The weather was good and I enjoyed the drive out and back from the forest. The hike was long which was something I enjoyed. It wasn’t much of an elevation change all at once which was also nice. At the beginning of the hike it is very tranquil with the creek right there. As that fades the height of the mountain starts to kick in. If you have the time and the stamina you can summit the mountain from this trail. Definitely worth coming back to check out the other trail along the split in the creek.

Elk Mountain July 2020

Another good weekend to get outside and hike. I didn’t give it much thought besides knowing I wanted to hike with Jenny. The easiest thing was to just hike Elk Mountain that we talked about the week before. We knew where to go, it was close, and Kings Mountain had a good view from the top. As Jenny pointed out this was a much more extreme hike. It was 1.5 miles and a 1900′ elevation change.

We got a super early start. Some coffee from Coava and we arrived at the trailhead by 8:30am. The deeper into the forest we got the worse the weather looked. For half the hike it was raining. It wasn’t hard and what got us soaked was the narrow trail and all the water on the leaves.

This trail had many good spots on the way up to stop and look across the valley. With all the rain clouds you would see it following the wind patterns down the valley and up mountain sides. As we got higher up the mountain the weather cleared up. Near the summit the tree cover never really clear up but it was still a decent view. Here we cracked open a beer and toasted our victory. The extra weight was worth it. This hike was shorter and I thought not as difficult getting to the summit compared to Kings Mountain. Even coming down wasn’t that bad on my knees.

With the early start and short hike we again stopped at Cornelius Pass Roadhouse for a drink. Way more crowded this time but we found a secluded spot on the lawn to enjoy the sun, nice weather and a beer.

Another good hike in the Tillamook State Forest. Still thinking about that full loop. Its doable I think. Just need to see if we can camp and plan out a visit. The summit trail head starts at the Elk Mountain campsite so if we can’t camp on the mountain we can at least camp at the base. A sunrise or sunset from this area would be pretty cool.

Kings Mountain July 2020

A holiday weekend and after many months of quarantine it was time to get outside. Among many other activities this long weekend Jenny and I went for a hike. We decided to hike up Kings Mountain in the Tillamook State Forest. We found this from a hiking book I have. It talked about the summit and the view and we both where in before even really understanding what it was we where getting ourselves into.

summit of Kings Mt.

We then saw just how challenging this hike was going to be. It is a only 2.5 miles but in that distance you cover 2500′ by the time you get to the peak which is 3226′. You spend most of your time climbing. There are very few flat sections on the trail. What you find is that you’re constantly climbing up the hill. The trail doesn’t have many switchbacks like some other trail because you just climb up the hill.

It took us just over 2 hours to get the to top. Thankfully the weather was cool that morning because I needed it. I was sweating my ass off the entire way up and if it was hot and humid it would have been a brutal hike. Its just shows how out of shape I am not necessarily how extreme it is. As we walked up a guy passed us running down the trail. Later as we started our hike down he passed us hiking up the mounting. Before we returned to the trail head he ran past us down the trail. That guy was crazy fit.

several other trails can start from here

We hung out at the summit for a good bit to relax and take in the view. The pictures don’t do it justice. Even thought it was cloudy we could see pretty damn far across the valley. We also ate lunch to regain some energy. After about 20 minutes of relaxing we started making our way back down the mountain. While it only took 1:20 minutes to get down I feel it was much harder. As steep as it was it was hard on my knees. Weird as it sounds running down the mountain helped. We could use the momentum we already had which would help carry us down the mountain.

On the way back we stopped for a well deserved drink at McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse. I think next time I might just bring a bottle with us to the top of the mountain. I know the glass is heavy but after a long hike up a mountain like that a beer is well deserved. This location has a huge grass area you can lounge at along with several areas with picnic benches. Considering the circumstances we decided to drink outside. Nice place on a good day to be outside.

One thing I realized was the deforestation you can see. When you are at the summit you can see well manicured cleared patches of forest dotting the valley. It is such a shame to see this broken and disjointed patch work of forest. Only the valleys are left with trees as everything else is cleared. It seemed like half where not replanted either. As we walked down I noticed all the uniform trees and a single tree section that must have been 5′ across. It was then I realized this was a reforested patch of land. I was glad to see it have trees again but sad knowing all the old growth had been cut down.

We talked about continuing the hike around to Elk Mountain. If we did that we would camp and catch the sunrise/sunset across the valley which I bet is pretty amazing. At least hike up that mountain as a single hike. Initially I didn’t read the description closely but it is 1.5 mile and 1900′ elevation change. So it is shorter but sounds like it is a steeper grade. I just need to pack plenty of water and snacks and I will be able to make it.

Kings Mountain certainly is a challenge but if you are determined you will make it up. Just take breaks as you go but you will make it. There is a larger loop if you are interested in completely in. Several other trails from this central location which is also nice.