Tag Archives: Tillamook State Forest

Elk Creek Trail April 2022

It has been about 4 months since I last hiked here and the forest has changed a lot in that time.

A rather nice weekend around Portland and I wanted to go to the mountains. I was after my great white whale and hoping the bridge across Elk Creek would be open so I could hike to my favorite overlook spot. I took the chance and got a late start for Tillamook State Forest and Elk Mountain to check on that footbridge.

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Elk Mountain October 2021, The Long Way Around

It was a beautiful Halloween weekend and I took the opportunity to get outside into nature, shocker I know. I know from past experience the bridge up the Wilson River Trail is seasonal and if I remember right it comes down November 1st. Technically it was 10/30 so I had time, packed my gear and headed to the Tillamook Forest for the day.

Elk Mountain Summit
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Wilson River Trail September 2021

Technically fall arrived this year on September 22nd and the weather that weekend was perfect for a hike. Last year I found this amazing spot near the top of Wilson River Trail that has this breathtaking view across the valley towards the coast line. As I unfortunately found out the second time I tried to hike this trail it is only open during the summer months. Come winter they tear down the foot bridge across the river. That sucks.

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High Into the Mountains

It was yet another nice Saturday. The weather was cloudy early which allowed me to catch up on a few things and enjoy some coffee. By late morning the skies had cleared and it was going to stay like this the rest of the afternoon. Hard to pass up the opportunity for nice weather so I decided to head to the Tillamook State Forest for a high along Elk Ridge up into the mountains.

Not far along the Elk Creek Trail there is a small footbridge crossing the creek. This is the Wilson River Trail and leads to the Idiot Creek Loop Road near the summit of the mountain. I have been past this a few times but never had any interest till this afternoon. I didn’t know what I would find but I was excited to find out.

I think I ran into one person who was coming down rather close to the trailhead and that was it. It was a very quite trail this late in the afternoon which was really nice. Not long after the bridge the trail quickly starts to climb. The switchbacks are numerous as the trail snakes its way up the mountain. Most of the hike was in the shade and it was getting cold outside with the slow sun on the horizon. Near the top as I got closer to the ridge line sun was finally peaking over, making an appearance. One last switchback and into full sun.

Neared the top of the trail I found an small opening in the trees. I followed it for a few feet as it bursts through the last of the brush to an amazing view looking across the valley. This late in the evening I was treated to a spectacular view of the sun as it slowly set in the west. There was no foliage on these rocks so a perfect place to site and watch nature. I was awe struck by what was in front of me. After the long hike to get here I welcomed this break.

I took off my gear and settled in for some writing and drawing as the sunset. I could have spent hours on this perch but as it got into early evening the sun would be completely behind the mountains and I didn’t want to get caught out on the trail in the dark. While I had plenty of day light from on top of the mountain that would quickly change long before last light.

It was time to leave so I gathered my stuff and started my way down the mountain. I didn’t feel tired after that long rest and relaxation period. This was great as I kept a good pace down the mountain trying to bet the light. By the time I got to the creek crossing it was 6 with a decent amount of light left. From here it wasn’t much further to my car. One thing I did after this trip was put my headlamp in my day pack so it is always with me.

I just couldn’t believe my luck taking the Wilson River Trail and finding this rock ledge. Just the most amazing sight and really easy to get to all things considering. The only gotcha is the trail has a limited season. The park service takes down the footbridge at the end of October. Not sure when it goes back up but I have a feeling sometime in late spring. I honestly can’t wait for the trail to open.

Elk Creek Trail July 2020

Another weekend and time to get out of the house. I decided to head back to the same area of the Tillamook State Forest as the prior week and hike the Elk Creek Trail. No giant climb up a mountain or anything this time around. What I was really searching for was a spot to sit along the creek and get some writing done.

Northwestern Garter Snake (Thamnophis ordinoides)

I wasn’t to concerned with time so I slept in and took my time getting out to the forest. 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 east on 6 and everyone else was taking 26 to the coast. I had very little traffic to deal with getting to the forest which was great.

In no time I was parking in the same lot when we hiked up Elk Mountain. Today it was a beautiful day so while lots of people were headed to the beach people still were out enjoying the forest. The campsite was closed but the lot outside the gate 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.

The trail starts along the creek and follows it for a 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 many 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. I would freak me out when I saw them. Not sure who was more surprised, me or them. Often they wouldn’t move till I was right on them.

There is an option to cross Elk Creek and take another trail that follows along another creek 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 at the Elk Creek Campsite which is pretty cool.

Eventually the trail climbs up the mountain. This trail is longer but less difficult way to reach the summit of Elk Mountain. Be aware that if you go this route you are talking 5-8 miles or something like that. Soon the sound of the creek fades away the higher into the mountain you get. Eventually you can’t hear it at all but you know it is there. Finally the trail wraps around a valley and the creek is gone. Further up the mountain you go. Near the top you split off to the summit or head along the fire road. I already went near the summit so stuck to the fire road and climbed further into the mountains. Eventually I stopped and just hung out before turning back. There was no destination, the road would just end and the Forrest would take over. I knew I wasn’t getting my view.

Never found my spot at the top of the mountain to write. Hung out, searched for a view across the valley and headed down the trail. When I got to the fork across the creek I found a mostly uncomfortable rock and wrote a letter.

We are currently in the in between time with regards to temps. We will on occasion luck out and get some really nice weather still, why waste it indoors. Didn’t get nearly enough writing done but it didn’t matter as I was just happy to be outside enjoying nature.