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Elk Lake Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Small waterfall on Elk Lake Creek 0.6 miles from the trailhead (Matt Reeder)
Welcome Lakes trail junction (Matt Reeder)


Hike Description

Isolated and wild, the Elk Lake Creek Trail is a treat for anyone searching for solitude. Though the southern end of the trail from Elk Lake sees occasional foot traffic coming down to the Battle Creek Junction, the northern end of the 8.9 mile through trail is seldom visited. Seekers of solitude are rewarded with sublime old-growth forest, June rhododendrons and waterfalls on deep green Elk Lake Creek. Furthermore, the trail is very backpackable, with many nice sites along the trail. This page covers the first 2.2 miles of the trail up to the junction with the Welcome Lakes Trail; these 2.2 miles are very beautiful and are hikeable often until the end of November.

Such solitude, however, comes at a price: a long drive to the trailhead on lonely forest roads. Allow 2 hours and 30 minutes for the drive to the trailhead. The trail begins in a reforested area but slowly climbs into a deep forest. Soon deep, green Elk Lake Creek can be seen in the gorge below, and soon after that, waterfalls can be heard. Continue past the waterfall overlook a bit to a spur trail which leads down to the falls. Be careful here, as the spur trail can be steep, particularly close to the falls.

The Elk Lake Trail enters into deep woods a bit above the glassy and amazingly clear (in summer) creek. Cross Pine Cone Creek and enter the Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area at about 1 mile into the hike. Enter deeper into old-growth forest and marvel at how lonely the Elk Lake Trail is in comparison with nearby Opal Creek (less than 10 miles as the crow flies). At 2 miles in, cross first Knob Rock Creek, then Welcome Creek; amazingly, the two creeks empty into Elk Lake Creek within 100 feet of each other. Both are fords, and Welcome Creek in particular can be wide and swift. While both are easy to ford in summer and early fall, exercise caution earlier in spring or later in the fall. Look upstream a bit on Welcome Creek to see two 10-15 foot waterfalls just above the trail. Continue on 0.2 of a mile to the junction with the Welcome Lakes Trail. This makes a good turnaround point for those desiring an easy hike, as the Welcome Lakes Trail gains 1600 feet in 2.8 miles to Welcome Lakes, while the Elk Lake Trail soon fords 40-foot wide Elk Lake Creek, not always an easy task.

Return the way you came.


  • Green Trails Maps: Battle Ax, OR #524
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • Geo-Graphics: Bull of the Woods and Opal Creek Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Most of the hike is within the Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area. All wilderness area restrictions apply.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes In Northwest Oregon - by William L. Sullivan [Note: Only covered in a short writeup in the back of the book.]

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.