The ascent up Elk Mountain is very steep and has slippery footing, but limited exposure. Not all runners will enjoy this
The road leading to parking for Elk Mountain is the same for the Elk Creek Campground. It is a single-lane dirt road that should be accessible for any vehicle and has pull-offs for passing other cars. The first parking area is only for the campground. There are two more parking areas that access this trail and should provide plenty of space to park.
You'll need to take the Wilson River Trail
a short distance (0.1 miles) to access Elk Mountain Trail. The intersections were well signed and included distances. Elk Mountain Trail begins in earnest - it will be clear how steep this trail can be from the very beginning. There are essentially no switchbacks and the trail has lots of small, loose rock, so be careful not to slide down the mountain. There are some sections that may require your hands for support. This makes the trail a fun scramble for some runners, but one to avoid for others.
Along the way to the top, you'll pass multiple excellent viewpoints (mostly facing south-ish). There is a semi-false-summit that you need to descend from before the final push to the top of Elk Mountain (stay to the left). At the top, there is a box with a registry and a sign proclaiming the elevation for a "did it" photo-op.
The trail continues onward for those looking to do a loop with Elk Creek Trail
or Kings Mountain. However, the steepest part of the trail is the descent off of Elk Mountain to the southwest. Take your time on this scramble down. A few more semi-scrambles will be necessary before the trail suddenly becomes a smooth, easy former forest/logging road. The gentle grades and big switchbacks on the second half of the trail couldn't be more different from the first half!
A few more view points keep things interesting, including a rescue helicopter landing area, before you come to an intersection with Kings Mountain Trail
and then end at Elk Creek Trail
, not far from the actual high point of the ridge.
Wildflowers and fall colors in their respective seasons.