Guide To Exploring The Gorgeous Elk Creek Trail In Tillamook State Forest

elk creek trail
Photo by Jordan Inglee Photography (

I have always loved spending time in the Tillamook State Forest. We took several field trips to this gorgeous forest in middle and high school, planted trees in an old burn area, and have enjoyed many scenic hikes and drives through the area. If you'd like to get out and explore a little, I can't think of a better place to do so than the Elk Creek Trail. I've heard some say this trail isn't scenic, but I disagree. This trail is gorgeous at all times of year, and offers views of Elk Creek, and possible Elk sightings.

Hiking Elk Creek Trail In Tillamook State Forest

Elk Creek Trail is a 6.9 mile out and back type trail rated for moderate skill levels. It's gorgeous year round, with Douglas Fir, Red Alder and rocks covered in moss, and sword ferns covering the area.

The trail travels down old Elk Creek Road which was converted into a trail. You can mountain bike or hike this trail.

Elk Creek Trail follows Elk Creek for .5 miles and then passes the spot where Elk Creek and the West Fork of Elk Creek meet. Hikers will continue down the West Fork of the creek for about a mile before the trail ascends up out of the canyon and leaves the creek side.

Hikers then follow the trail as it switchbacks and climbs up to the ridgeline and the junction of the Elk Mountain Trail.

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There are many great trails in this area for hikers to explore, including the Elk Mountain Trail, Wilson River trail, and King's Mountain Trail, so this is a great area to come back to time and again to forest bathe and backpack. You can see a map of these trails here.

Wildlife Along The Elk Creek Trail

Elk are often spotted in this area, and hikers may see evidence of elk by spotting antler rubbings on the red alder trees along the Elk Creek Trail. Fall is rutting season when the males call out for mates. In the winter male elk lose their antlers, which then grow back in the spring.

In the main fork of Elk Creek, steelhead spawn, and hikers have frequently spotted river otters in the water.

Getting To The Elk Creek Trailhead

To get to the Elk Creek Trailhead:

  • Travel on Highway 6 to milepost 28.
  • Turn north onto Elk Creek Road.
  • Continue through the campground and across the bridge to the trailhead.
  • There are two trailheads here. The Elk Mountain trail starts right behind the information board. The Elk Creek Trail begins on the old road past the large boulders at the far end of the trailhead.

Elk Creek Trail Information

You can get more information about the Elk Creek Trail and surrounding area including maps here and here.

When Hiking in the Tillamook State Forest, please follow the seven easy principles of Leave No Trace. Due to people littering and abusing our gorgeous trails recently, Oregon has begun to require permits to access certain natural areas. By following Leave No Trace, we can help keep our trails and forests beautiful and open to the public.

  • Always research your destination before you go to be certain it's open.
  • Never hike beyond your ability.
  • Check the weather before you go, and plan for inclement weather.
  • Take all the food and water you'll need for your hike.
  • Hike with a friend.  Tell someone where you're going and when you plan to return.
  • Respect wildlife by staying a safe distance away. This is for your safety as well as the health and safety of wildlife.
  • Obey all signage along the trail.

Remember: Hiking and exploring are at-your-own-risk activities.

What's your favorite trail to hike in the Tillamook State Forest? Have you hiked the Elk Creek trail yet? Share your photos with us and tag the friends and family you want to go with!