Elk Lake Trail Hike Trail #559
• Latitude: 44.89300 / Longitude: -122.00741
• Distance 8.7 miles (one way)
• Elevation: 2400 – 3800 feet
• Snow Free: June to October
• Driving time from Portland: 105 minutes
Hiking Level: Difficult (The trail itself is not so difficult. There isn’t much of an elevation climb or scree to travel over. However, there are wide creeks that need to be crossed. Mossy rocks and logs and knee deep rushing water. A few balance beam sized logs crossing over as well. Definitely not easy, lots of jumping and hoping you’ll land in a dry spot or not fall off a log 10 feet below into the creek.)
This hike is a great place for day hikers and backpackers with a fit level of fitness. There are amazing places by the bigger creeks for your packed lunch and there are plenty of camping spots along the hiking trails all the way through the Welcome Lakes for one to two people. One spot can hold a bit of a larger group (up to 6 comfortably). Be extra cautious if you are packing in, again, crossing a mossy wet log over a creek with a 40-lb pack on might be a feat for cirque du soleil!
The hike begins with a gentle uphill to get the body warmed up. The smell of the pine as the warm sun breaks through the tree canopy is divine. As you enter deeper into the wooded area you begin to cross creeks and streams. The larger creeks begin to appear as do the giant trees that continue to grow. It’s lovely to have spaces and places that haven’t been chopped down by loggers. The hiking trail is lush with large Doug Firs and clumps of redwoods. 6 feet in diameter and so high I couldn’t even begin to guess.
Up and down and over the creeks with amazing things to see. Watch where you are stepping as to not crush the salamanders and slugs. Note all of the amazing wild mushrooms and the moss covered ground. And look for the Fairy Houses!
We also bumped into some of our friends out hiking in the same area today. Hello Eric & Tim! (and he’s hiking in a Mountain Hardwear Utility Kilt – yes, I am slightly jealous).
The Drive to the Trailhead: There are worse places in the world to be than the Estacada area of Mt Hood National Forest. The Clackamas River snakes its way through evergreen covered peaks and the road to get there winds its way along the rushing river.
As you come into Mt. Hood National Forest area, you will find Ripplebrook Guard Station. Here you can purchase some basic snacks, camping supplies, maps, permits and talk to the local hosts. There is also a pit toilet for use (You’ll want to bring your own TP if it’s not in season). After you pass through the Guard Station, you will enter the park area. The roads here are part paved and part gravel and there are a slew of gnome holes in the road (gnome holes are potholes made by gnomes – aka – their swimming pools). So exercise caution while driving through as you don’t want to drop an axil making your way to the trailhead.
Take Exit 12A on I-205 for Clackamas and Estacada. This is Highway 224E and 212E. It’s about 3.3 miles to a junction, where you peel off to the right on 224E for Carver and Estacada.
Drive another 15.2 miles into Estacada and, at the junction where 211S goes off to the right for Molalla, keep straight (gaily forward).
From here it’s 25.5 miles on 224E past the Ripplebrook Guard Station.
After crossing a bridge, FR 57 goes off to the left for Timothy Lake.
Keep right on FR 46 for Detroit and Bagby Hot Springs. Drive 3.6 miles and make a right on FR 63.
Drive 8.9 miles (After 6.1 miles the road becomes gravel) to the junction with the road for Graham Pass.
Keep right here and drive 0.8 miles on a road mostly paved with gravel patches.
Keep right at this next junction and travel downhill to a fork after 2.9 miles.
Keep right on FR 6380 where a sign indicates the Elk Lake Trailhead is ahead. It’s another 2.3 miles to a fork where you drive right over a bridge.
From here, bearing left after crossing the bridge, it’s 0.5 miles on a rougher, narrower track to the trailhead parking area.
Enjoy the hike! Happy Adventuring!