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Elk to Kings Mountain Loop

Located near Tillamook Oregon

A nice challenge with good views

One section has a rope to hang on to.

  The Elk Mountain to Kings Mountain loop is an eleven-and-a-half-mile trail. It’s well worth the trip to Tillamook Oregon area. We left on Friday morning from Redmond and hit the trailhead just before ten in the morning. We wanted a nice fresh breakfast burrito to give us the fuel but unable to find a shop open that early in the morning, we settled for a deep-fried gut nightmare from a gas station convenience store. We hoped that the convenience to the grease “food” didn’t become an inconvenience on the trail. We parked at the Elk Creek campground and Jose and me put our tents up real quick like, to save our spot. The Elk Creek campground is first come first served and we didn’t figure on finishing the loop until the afternoon, best to claim our little slice of property for the night right away.

  Tanka, one of the proud Posse members had made this loop last year and he suggested we climb up Elk mountain, traverse over to, and then down Kings. The trail to Elk is steeper and it’s easier going up then down this section of the loop. We are glad we took his advice. It’s only around two miles to the top of Elk and there are very few steps taken on level ground in those two miles. You gain altitude fast. There are many sections where it becomes more climb and less hike. These short scrambles make it a very neat experience.

   The terrain to the side of the trail can be very steep so it is best to keep your trail runners on the trail. There are many sections where you will be on a ridge with steep drops on either side, this makes the hike a little spicier. Even with the steep scrambles and terrain, there is no sense of danger if you stick to the trail.

   We had some great views of the summit of Elk at clearings along the trail and the quick elevation gain was apparent looking down on the highway only minutes after leaving the campground. Alltrails rates this climb as difficult, I wouldn’t go that far, I’d say it is mildly hard or fun time hard. If I said this loop is difficult, what word would I use to describe the climb up Mt Adams?

   We had read reviews of the trail and recently people have seen or heard beers milling about. It came as no surprise when we happened upon some droppings on the trail. When the chance of coming upon a bear becomes more of a reality than one wishes, the excitement level cranks up a notch. In all our Posse travels we have yet to see a bear, I wouldn’t mind catching a glimpse of one far away, the thought of rounding a corner and getting into each other’s personal space is not tasty like an N and out burger. It’s more like a soggy handful of grease soaked fries that leave a trail of misery to your belly. Shout out to Jose for demanding N and out burger on the way home. I’m a believer now.

   We didn’t see any bears and we kept scrambling and talking and sweating to the top of Elk mountain. It was an overcast day and the occasional wind made for a nice climb and nice break at the top of our first mountain of the day.

   When you stand on the summit of Elk and look all the way over to Kings, you understand that your traveling for the day has just begun. The good thing is most of the climbing is in your rearview mirror. There is some up and down along the path as you traverse over to Kings but nothing sustained like the way to Elk. The most intense climbing sections are between the two mountains. The first is right away as you leave Elk summit. It’s about fifty feet of rock climbing. It’s easy to navigate, plenty of hand and footholds, take your time and you’ll be fine. I almost ate dirt a couple of times on the steeper dirt trail so be sure to watch yourself on that slick gravely stuff too.

  Jose and Apolo are always on these expeditions. They are grinders, like a wind-up toy, get them moving and point the direction they have to go and they keep going and going. Young children have an honesty about them, they feel it, they say it. Jose and Apolo have this kind of demeanor on the trail and it makes for entertainment and drama. I always look forward to traveling with these guys.

  There is one spot where some other traveler has attached a rope to hold as you make your way down a steep section. It was a nice touch. It gave us something to celebrate between the peaks.

  As you make your way to Kings summit, the slope of the hillside on which the trail is cut into gets steep. Again, if you stay to the trail, there will be no problems.

  We made the summit of Kings mountain, took some nice pictures and enjoyed the views whilst putting some food down. There were very few people on the trail, we made  the loop early in  the season and were rewarded with a less crowded experience.

  The way down Kings wasn’t as steep as the Kings climb and the going is easy. Once you reach the trailhead, there is still a few miles to go to get back to the place you started. The trail is mostly flat and the miles float away beneath your feet like a dream.

 Back at camp we had one unsettling thing happen. We were sitting around the campfire and all of a sudden a dog came sprinting by us making the absolute worst sound I have ever heard a dog make. At first I thought it was coming for us but as it flew by, it was clear to see that it was in distress or intense pain. A few moments later a dude came up with a couple of other people and asked if we had seen his dog. Turns out, as they arrived at the parking lot, he had let his dog out of the car. Something happened in those moments that I believe led to the end of that dogs life. We pointed in the direction that we had seen the dog run and told him about the hair raising sound it was making.

   Just about that time, in the total opposite direction, we heard the noise again. That poor dog had been running blindly through the forest in agony. It was very sad. The sound was truly disturbing. I haven’t been witness to a soul being in so much pain that it was out of its own mind. It was running and screaming.

  The group took off running in the direction of the sound. A few minutes later, we heard it again, this time it was very faint. The dog was deep into the forest. Poor dog. I don’t know how they intended to find it, it was moving too fast and not following a trail. I thought about helping search for the dog, but it wouldn’t have been the smart thing to do.  If it was my dog, no doubt I would be out in the forest in the middle of the night, all night if need be. The owner of the dog was the one to be out there, and he was. His decision to let the dog out of the car had resulted in a bad situation. So many times, I have seen dog owners make dumb decisions in the outdoors. I have had loose dogs galore bull rush me or go after other people or animals. I have seen loose dogs get kicked by horses. Now I have seen and heard a dog run into a forest in much distress. Please, if you are a dog owner, by all means bring your friend with you so they can enjoy the great outdoors but look out for their well-being. You never know what can happen.  

  We sat by the fire for a few minutes and discussed the event that had unfolded so quickly. We were unsettled, mostly from the sound the dog made, but also how out of control it was running. It was something unlike we had ever seen or heard. The whole thing had changed the evening. It was past nine in the evening, we decided to pack up and drive home. There was no reason to stay.

  We had planned on stopping at in and out burger on the way home and Jose said that we might be able to make it before midnight. We arrived at the drive-thru around 11:30. The line was so long, people everywhere. It was a party and hamburgers were the drug of choice. Jose had raved about how great they were. I have to admit, they were quite alright.

  Elk to King mountain loop is a good choice if you are craving a more meaty hike. It has some good elevation gain and you get to stand on two mountains on the same hike.

  Coming from Central Oregon, go through Portland on Highway 26. Outside Portland, near Mountaindale turn on Highway six to Tillamook. Twenty five miles later will find you at the Elk Mountain Trailhead. The campground is Elk Creek Campground. There are fourteen sites which are first come, first served. The fee is $15 per night. If you are wanting a space, good luck, get there early.

  Please support the Peak Posse and purchase an Elk/ Kings Mountain Patch from our Etsy Shop

 You can also see a video of this expedition here

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Sign from the trailhead. It's not a long way to the top of Elk from here, it is steep. Prepare your mind.

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A nice trail before the climb

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The summit of Elk Mountain

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Stick to the trail. 

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There are several steeper sections of trail that are scrambles. They give a nice variety and add to the adventure 

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A nice set of mountain stairs 

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The Coastal range is a nice change for the Posse

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Jose and Apolo making their way up Elk Mountain

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There is Kings Mountain summit

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The trail between the two peaks has ups, downs and some great campsites.

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The signs are easy to see, no worry about getting turned around up there

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Nice viewpoints

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The steeper sections arrive as you near Kings summit

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I really enjoy the more rugged landscapes found on this expedition

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Apolo, myself, and Jose at the summit of Kings