Posted by: kerryl29 | August 6, 2018

Favorite Trails for Photography, Part II

If you missed the first installment of this series of photo-worthy trails–which includes the criteria for inclusion as well as a set of five of my favorites–you can check it out here.  A general entry about hiking and photography, which led to the current series of posts, is here.

Here’s a second, unordered, list of some of my favorite trails for photography:

Cascade Stream Gorge Trail, Franklin County, Maine

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

This short (about a mile and a half) out-and-back trail is a hidden gem.  Located just a few miles south of the small town of Rangeley on ME-4 in sparsely populated northwest Maine, the trail leads into a deep (90-foot) gorge cut by Cascade Stream that’s filled with waterfalls and chutes on a tract of land protected by the Rangelely Lakes Heritage Trust–a local conservation organization.

The trail itself steadily climbs along the edge of the gorge, but isn’t exceptionally steep and there are numerous spots where the various cascades can be viewed and photographed, including several spots where–with care–it’s possible to descend all the way down to water level.  There are no rails and fences, so caution is advised.

If you can take your eyes off the stream you’ll find yourself wandering through a beautiful mixed deciduous/coniferous forest that includes several stands of towering pines.

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

The trail is rarely crowded.  I explored this trail twice–first as a scouting session and on a second occasion to photograph–over the course of several days and had the place all to myself on both occasions (the second of which lasted for several hours).  While there are more spectacular environs on this list, it’s the subtle beauty and quiescence of the Cascade Stream Gorge Trail that gives it a space on this list.

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

Some links to posts covering this trail:

Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

This isn’t a trail, per se; the Heart of the Dunes–a trackless area where one can wander contentedly for hours–is essentially the absence of a trail.  White Sands National Monument is the single most graphic landscape I’ve ever seen–whatever lies in second place isn’t even particularly close.  With towering, snow white sand dunes–formed from gypsum–in a stark setting surrounded by low mountains, there’s really no place quite like it on earth.  The Heart of the Dunes describes a trail-less area in the center of all this.

“The Cavity,” Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

While the area is overwhelmingly stark there are some pattern interruption elements upon which to focus–the occasional yucca or cottonwood tree, for instance.  And, if you’re lucky, you’ll find an inexplicable feature like the cavity–or depression in the sand–as represented in the image above.  While I reject the notion that there are no worthy images to be made at White Sands outside of 30-minute windows around sunrise and sunset (as I had someone tell me once), there’s no question that those periods, generally speaking, are the best times to photograph.  So park your vehicle on the packed sand roadway and hike out into the dunes to find photographic bliss.

Earthshadow, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Some links to posts covering this trail:

Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Located roughly 4 1/2 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitors Center on the Newfound Gap Road, the Chimneys Picnic Area is the jumping off point for the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, among the best spring wildflower locations in the Smokies.  (And that’s saying something because the Smokies represents one of the great spring wildflower locations in North America.)  The trail–a bit more than a 3/4 mile loop–can be steep in places and muddy after rainy weather, but the opportunities to photograph wildflower close-ups and “flowerscapes” are well worth the effort.

Spring Wildflowers, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

There are some wonderful trillium clusters–white, nodding and yellow–at the peak of the wildflower bloom (usually the second half of April), and the variety of flowers, combined with the compellingly hilly terrain, fallen longs and fresh spring greenery make for a fascinating photographic tapestry.  Be sure to take your macro lens along and aim for a cloudy day as the thickly forested setting is best rendered in even light.

White Trillium, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Damnation Creek Trail/Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Of the redwood groves I’ve visited in five different parks in northern California my favorite is the area along the Pacific Ocean in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park near Crescent City.  If you follow the Redwood Highway south of Crescent City for about 10 miles you’ll reach a parking area on the west side of the road with room for 15 vehicles or so.  This is the trailhead for the Damnation Creek Trail.  This trail descends irregularly for about 2/3 of a mile to the west until it reaches a junction with the Coastal Trail which extends–mostly with little elevation change–for more than a mile in either direction (i.e. north or south).  The Damnation Creek Trail then descends–steeply–for another 1.3 miles or so all the way to a narrow, rocky beach.  (From beginning to end over the entirety of its two miles, the Damnation Creek Trail includes 1100 feet of elevation change; approximately 850 feet of that comes in the 1.3 mile second segment, west of the Coastal Trail.)

The entire Damnation Creek Trail–both the parts east and west of the Coastal Trail–is absolutely beautiful.  The path winds through magnificent groves of redwoods, lush understory and, for a few weeks in the spring (usually late May to early June), magnificent blooming Pacific rhododendron.  On days when fog is wafting through the groves, this area is especially magical.

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The Coastal Trail, for more than half a mile in either direction of its confluence with the Damnation Creek Trail, is every bit as beautiful.  This track–which follows the roadbed of the old coast highway (you can occasionally see segments of the old asphalt with the road lining still visible) winds through its own set of redwood trunks and its flatness is a welcome reprieve from the steepness of the Damnation Creek Trail.

I doubt these trails are ever that crowded.  I’ve hiked the area on the morning of a holiday weekend and it was never all that bad.  At early times on non-holiday weekdays you can have the place more or less entirely to yourself for hours.  This is one of my very favorite places not only to photograph but simply to be.

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Some links to posts covering this trail:

Falls Trail, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Water Meet, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The Y-shaped Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park in northeast Pennsylvania is one of the greatest photographic “bang for the buck” locations I’ve ever experienced, particularly if you like waterfalls and cascades.  With more than 20 named waterfalls and countless smaller rapids, if moving water is your thing you’ll be in heaven.  The trail can be done as a loop of more than seven miles; there’s a considerable amount of up and down.  Coupled with photography, it’s essentially a full day’s endeavor.

Seneca Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The upper left-hand part of the Y shape is known as Ganoga Glen and the creek along this stretch of the trail contains 10 named waterfalls.  The upper right-hand of the Y–known as Glen Leigh–has eight waterfalls.  The confluence of the two creeks is known as Water Meet.  Kitchen Creek–the joined waterway below the confluence–has three more named waterfalls.  Most, if not all, of these falls include numerous compositional options; don’t ignore the numerous unnamed spots along the streams, including Water Meet itself.

The park is open all year.  Best time for water flow is in the spring or following heavy rain at any time of the year and the scenery can be brilliant in autumn in a good fall color year.  The trail is quite steep in places and the footing can be challenging in spots, so take care.

Tuscarora Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Some links to posts covering this trail:

Next time:  more favorite photography trails



  1. They all look fabulous! Wish I was a bit nearer 🙂 🙂

  2. Earth Shadow is stunning. The Trilliums took me back to my childhood walks in Ontario, Canada.I love the rays coming through the trees on the Damnation Creek Trail, as well as your comment “my very favorite places not only to photograph but simply to be.” Yes, I agree, so important. The pause always gives rise to a wealth of gratitude and may even give me the inspiration to check out another viewpoint. Well written and exceptionally
    well-photographed blog.

    • Thanks very much, Jane!

      FWIW, the earthshadow experience was transcendent; the image that resulted from it was almost incidental, as related here.

  3. I’ve not been to any of these places in person, but because I’ve read all your blog posts from the very beginning, I feel like I have been there before. I, too, have places where it is great “simply to be.” It’s a treat to see your images each week.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

      For some reason, I thought you’d had a chance to explore the Damnation Creek Trail.

  4. Beautiful photos! I am sorry I have been so busy lately to view your photos. Your photos never disappoint me.

    • Thanks, Roland!

  5. […] Favorite Trails for Photography Part II […]

  6. Just think of all of the amazing places you have visited in your life. Truly you are so blessed with the spirit of adventure.

    • Thanks very much, Emily; I really appreciate the sentiment.

  7. I’m partial to the White Sands photos, and the Tennessee spring wildflowers – all beautiful!

  8. Gorgeous Images! I am particularly fond of waterfalls! Love the silky water.

    • Thanks very much!

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