Sarah chose this hike because it was something a little different from our South Sister climb, and the other dusty terrain near Bend, Oregon. This was the tail end of our 2010 trip, and we had a few days in Portland. Xander was getting ready to start Kindergarten in the fall, and his older sister, Elizabeth was heading into grade 3. The guide says this about Elk mountain.
This trail is extremely steep and narrow. Reaching the summit requires gaining 1,900 feet elevation in 1.5 miles, challenging even the experienced hiker. Because this trail is strenuous, make sure to pack plenty of water and be prepared for changing weather conditions. The reward for this hike is the beautiful view stretching from Mt. Hood to the Pacific Ocean.
The drive from Portland to the Tillamook State Forest was lovely. We took route 26 West and then turned onto Route 6 where things really become scenic. We saw beautiful rivers, lush forests and lots of clear-cut areas from logging. In a little over an hour we were at the trail head and ready to start our ascent.
It's Time to Hike!
We started our hike in a dense forest of ferns that reminded us a lot of the scenery from E.T. and we chattered our way up through the switchbacks. Scott was pleased with Sarah's choice as it was a lovely departure from the dusty terrain in the Cascade mountains.
Xander was 6 at the time, and this was his first 2nd big summer of hiking! He'd recently summited South Sister and was enjoying his first great hiking vacation. The terrain was steep though, and often there were very significant drop-offs. He's the type of kid who loves to chatter (and at 11 he still is), and when the chattering starts, often his footing becomes unsteady. By the time we finally made it to the top of Elk Mountain, I think that Xander would have used at least five of his nine lives if he were a cat! Sarah, my not-so-religious sister, gathered us in prayer at the top of each summit. It is tough to pick a mountain, and then see how challenging it can feel hiking with a 6 year old. Xander was happy as a lark on the trip, not complaining, just worrying the heck out of everyone else. He was about to lose his two front teeth on this trip, and with the dirt on his face and his wiggly teeth we called him a "homeless hilbilly" all day long! He did lose those teeth a day or so later in the hotel.
After we reached the summit of Elk Mountain, we had this to look forward to with Kings Mountain.
This trail is a challenging hike. In order to reach the summit of Kings Mountain, hikers face a 2,546-foot elevation gain in 2.5 miles, but the panoramic views from the top are worth the effort. The trail is a steep but gradual climb that in some places can be a scramble, making sturdy boots and plenty of water essential.
Sarah wasn't sure if we should turn around and head back Elk Mountain. Ultimately we all reasoned that we'd just hiked some of the most exposed parts of the trip, and moving forward to summit the second mountain would be more satisfying and possibly offer less exposure. Just past the summit of Kings, we found an awesome picnic table! This table was a local Boy Scout's Eagle project. We were so grateful to find this lovely spot to enjoy our peanut butter and jelly, pop chips and fruit for lunch!
As we descended, we again approached the fern forest and chattered about our day. The switchbacks seemed never ending by this point in the day! We all looked forward to a trip to Cannon Beach, followed by some Tillamook ice cream.