Spring-Summer 2007: Various hikes on Kings and Elk Mountains
Elk Mountain summit This season I've been trying to hike up Kings or Elk mountain at least once a week for some exercise. The mountains are nearby, and the trails are short but steep. Here is a view from the top of Elk Mountain, looking southwest down the Wilson River drainage. Beyond the horizon here is the town of Tillamook and the Pacific Ocean.
Sun spots This is a view over the Wilson River basin to sun-dappled forest from the slopes of Elk Mountain. The Tillamook State Forest covers a large part of the northern coast range in Oregon. 60-70 years ago, nearly all of this forest burned in a series of fires called The Tillamook Burn. Throughout the area, one regularly encounters charred snags left standing since the days of the fires.
Forested ridge The sun lights some trees on the slopes of Kings Mountain.
Elk Mountain view The Elk Mountain trail is shorter and steeper than the Kings Mountain trail (which is also quite steep). It follows a ridgeline and has more views along the way.
Elk Mountain Trail This is a typical bit of trail on the ridge of Elk Mountain. As taxing as it might be to climb a trail like this (even for only a couple miles), it can be more difficult on the way down - where the footing is slippery and the pressure on one's knees is intense. The human body was designed for going uphill, not down.
Paintbrush In late spring, flowers like this paintbrush dot all the open areas along these mountains.
Beargrass field The beargrass on top of Kings Mountain was especially thick this year, perhaps due to the healthy rainfall the past winter and spring.
Beargrass at Sunset More views of beargrass, backlit by the setting sun. The sun sets close to 9pm in the height of the summer, giving until about 9:30 before it's too dark to see one's way down.
May 2006: A loop hike of Kings and Elk Mountains
Wilson River Trail Kings Mountain and Elk Mountain are two neighboring peaks in the Oregon coast range. A system of trails connects the two peaks, so that it's possible to do a loop hike. The loop trail is quite steep in places, and undulates to negotiate the craggy ridge between the mountains. The approximately 14 miles of trails can feel more like 20.
Tillamook Forest Most of the views are of lush Oregon forestlands covering the nearby hills. However, there are numerous reminders of gigantic fires that swept through the region in 1933 and other years. Nicknamed the "Tillamook Burn", the largest was started by logging activity, and burned 355,000 acres of mostly old-growth forests. Standing burned skeletons of giant trees still dot the landscape in places.
Oxalis Some of the more impressive views are on a much smaller scale. This thick patch of Oxalis was in full bloom.
Beargrass Bloom The beargrass was just beginning to bloom.
Thick flowers on Elk Mountain The tops of Kings and Elk Mountains are right around 3000ft, the trailheads are just under 1000ft. Kings Mountain is a more popular day-hike. The Kings Mountain trail is quite steep, and slightly eroded in places... the Elk Mountain trail is even steeper. The most relaxing part of the loop is the 3.6 mile Wilson River trail, connecting the two trailheads. Whoever built it did a really professional job!
Where is it? The trailheads for Elk and King Mountains are located in the Oregon Coast Mountains along Hwy 6. Elk Mountain trailhead is at milepost 28, and Kings Mountain is at milepost 25.
Before you go... Both the summit trails are really steep, and the hardpan gravel covering sections of the trail can be slippery on the downhill bits. Using a pair of hiking poles is a really good idea.