Tag Archives: nature photography

King Lake

The long hike to King Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness is worth the effort.  Near the end, you are rewarded with great views, rushing water, and abundant wildflowers.  Getting there requires a 6.5 mile hike from the Hessie Trailhead near Nederland, CO.  The trail begins steeply as it climbs over a rocky slope before reaching a trail divide after 1.5 miles.  Veer left (the right branch goes toward Jasper Lake). The trail crosses the creek and climbs past a beautiful waterfall.  You reach a trail divide again at mile marker 2.5.  Keep straight.  Then the trail enters the forest and climbs only gradually for the next three miles.  Not many views are found during this portion of the hike. Finally, the trail joins up with the creek again at around mile 5.5.  The next mile is steep as it switch backs up to a meeting with the Betty and Bob Lakes trail.  Just past the junction you have to cross the creek to reach King Lake.  In high water, the creek can be crossed easier to the right and then skirting back to the trail through some large boulders.  Finally, after a long hike, you reach the pretty shores of King Lake.  

Posted in Colorado, Indian Peaks Wilderness, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , |

Black Lake

Black Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is a long but rewarding hike in the Glacier Gorge area of the park.  The hike features a couple of beautiful lakes (including its namesake) and several waterfalls, including the elegant Ribbon Falls.  Ribbon Falls is a thin slip of a waterfall that descends a wide section of granite just below Black Lake.  Along the way, hikers are treated to several other cascades along Glacier Creek.  

Trail Description

The hike to Black Lake starts at the Glacier Gorge trailhead.  The trail climbs steadily to Alberta Falls, about a mile up the trail.  The falls thunders over the rocks.  Although it’s only a 25 foot drop, the falls is quite a sight.  This is the end of the road for many a hiker.  But the fun is just beginning.  Another small waterfall can be found just a few switchbacks up the trail.  The falls is tucked into a little hidden alcove.  Continuing up the trail, you reach a trail junction at mile 1.7 and bear right.  The left branch heads to the boulder field atop Long’s Peak.  Here, the trail cuts across a flat section of trail and approaches the canyon where lakes are located.  At mile 2.2, the trail divides again–the left branch heads toward Mills and Black Lakes, the right toward the Loch.  The trail climbs a series of steps and crosses the creek just before reaching Mills Lake.  Mills Lake is a calm respite and provides a good spot to grab a snack near the half-way point of the hike.  Try and spot a trout in its calm, shallow waters.

The trail then goes along the left side of the lake and parallels the creek for the next mile.  This section of trail ascends gradually and makes its way through an area of tree blowdown.   At mile 4, the trail begins to ascend more steeply.  The thunderous sound of Ribbon Falls greets you at mile 4.5.  This is a hard waterfall to photograph given its unique structure.  Going wide here will help.  You can walk off trail and reach the bottom of Ribbon Falls.  The next sight is the outlet of Black Lake.  The mountains in the background frame the falls beautifully.  Amending the steps above the outlet, you finally reach Black Lake.  


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Capitol Reef

I made a short trip to Capitol Reef National Park this past weekend.  The cottonwoods were just leafing out so it was a great time to be there.  I explored some new places and went to an old standby.  Overall, it was a fun trip but I wish the weather had been better so I could have explored Escalante National Monument.  Coyote Gulch will have to wait.    

Sheets Canyon

This is a short hike to a pretty slot canyon on the east side of the park.  Sheets Canyon is located off the Notom Road.  The trailhead is located just before the pavement ends, about 12 miles down the road.  The hike wanders through the Sheets Canyon wash for about a mile before the walls narrow.  There are some very interesting rock formation in the canyon.  The narrows stretches for about 1/2 mile and then the canyon widens.  The walls are quite high in this area so it is still an interesting through this part of the canyon.  There are a few chokcsotnes you have to scramble over in the narrows section but nothing too difficult.  

Cohab Canyon

The trail to Cohab Canyon is located near the Fruita barn just before the main campground in Capitol Reef.  It climbs steeply up a series of switchbacks before leveling off at the entrance to Cohab Canyon.  Just before the entrance there are some interesting rock formations and trees that make great photography subjects.  The canyon itself, has pink or orange walls, and is quite pretty.  The walls are pockmarked with holes, alcoves, and other cool features. In about 1/2 mile, the trail veers to the left and ascends to a view of Fruita and the campground below.  The one way total is just under 2 miles.     

Navajo Knobs Trail

The Navajo Knobs trail leads to a panoramic overlook after a hard 4.7 mile hike.  Luckily, the views are pretty spectacular most of the way so making the top isn’t a requirement to get a great view.  The trail starts about a mile from the visitor’s center along the main park road.  It climbs steeply and intersects with the Hickman Bridge trail in about half a mile.  Veer right at the junction and continue to climb up to a great view of Pectol’s Pyramid across the valley.  At mile 2.5, the trail comes to a view of the Fremont River and you are looking back across at the visitor’s center.  From here, the trail descends for about 3/4 of a mile which of course leaves a steep ascent back up a long ramp.   At this point, the views are amazing.  One last side canyon has to be routed around before reaching the top.  This is a steep and long hike but the effort is worth it.  Views can be had in any direction from here.   

Sulfur Creek

Sulfur Creek features a neat waterfall after a short 1 mile hike.  Take the trail to the right of the visitor’s center and veer around to the back of it.  When you come to the creek, head toward a power line straight across the creek.  You can also head left down stream but the walk is much longer and wetter this way.  After climbing a short rise you will come to a lime kiln on the right and then the trail cuts back down to Sulfur Creek.  The waterfall is about .75 of a mile from the visitor’s center.  It isn’t particularly large but the scene is pretty with the read rock of Sulfur Canyon framing the shot.  

Posted in Landscape, Utah Also tagged , , , |

Valley of the Fire State Park

Valley of the Fire State Park in northern Nevada is a photographer’s dream.  It contains countless rock formations of eroded sandstone such as arches, rock fins, and multi-colored rock.  The park consists of four main areas: the Main Park Drive, the Loop Road, the Silica Dome Road, and Highway 169.

Loop Drive

The loop drive contains a number of small rock formations and arches that make for some very cool photography.  While the area has a handful of iconic formations such as Arch Rock, Piano Rock, and Windstone Arch, a creative photographer can come up with countless images due to the interesting geology of the area.  The are hundreds of little pockets carved into the rocks here and reflected light into them makes for orange-colored rock.

Arch Rock

Arch Rock is a small arch located at the top of a rock as the name implies.  It is found just past Arch Rock campground.  It is best photographed an hour or so before sunset so the arch has some light on it.

Piano Rock

Piano Rock is a rock shaped like a grand piano and is found on the left side of the road just as the road makes a turn toward Arch Rock campground.

Windstone Arch

Winston Arch is a little arch or rock leg found inside a small alcove.  It is best photographed in mid morning when reflected light makes the interior glow orange.  There is a small turnout about 200 yards from the junction with Highway 169.  Park here and go around the back of the first large rock formation. The alcove is straight ahead in a second set of small rock formations.  This whole area is very photogenic so don’t just focus on Windstone Arch.

Main Park Drive

Petroglyph Trail

This 3/4 mile long trail contains several large panels of petroglyphs carved into the rock face on the left side of the canyon as you descend.  It is an easy walk through a sandy canyon.  Mid afternoon works best for photos.

Rainbow Vista/Fire Canyon

This trail leads to two overlooks: one of Fire Canyon and its brown-colored chunks of volcanic rock and Rainbow Vista, an amazing, colorful plateau with a commanding view of the park.  If you take the main trail straight form the parking lot and then veer right upon arriving at a steep rock face, you will arrive at Fire Canyon overlook in about 1 mile.  A small arch can be found near the end of the trail.  As you walk back toward the parking lot, stop at the area of pink and yellow sandstone where the trail veered steeply to the right.  If you ascend 100 feet or so above this area, you will find views opening up.  Proceed to the left and then out onto to the rocks.  This is Rainbow Vista. Here is where you will find amazing small arches and an incredible view of Silica Dome.  This may be the most photogenic spot in the park.

Parking Lot #2

Pink Canyon

Pink Canyon is a short slot canyon just off the main park road.  It lies directly between parking lot #2 and #3.  There is one parking spot on either side of the road at the canyon entrance that seems to be an informal parking area for the canyon.  If these spaces are full, it is about a .6 mile hike back to one of the parking areas up a steep hill so be prepared.  The hike itself is quite short through the slot canyon.  The sculpted walls make for some interesting photography.  Be prepared to use HDR or a graduated neutral density filter to keep the sky from blowing out.  Don’t forget to scramble up one of the rock faces and do a little exploring.  This is possible where the canyon makes a sharp left turn.  The area up top contains some beautiful rock fins.

Swoosh Rock

Swoosh Rock is named for the streak of red rock that adorns the base of the formation, and looks like the symbol of a famous shoe company.  The rock itself is mainly pink and yellow sandstone.  This rock is located just across from the mouth of Pink Canyon.  As you cross the road from the canyon, veer to the right and stay close to the road. You will find it in about 100-200 feet.

Rock Fins

If you head out on a route at about 2 o’clock form parking lot #2, you will come to some incredible rock fins.  There is no trail so you have to pick your way across the sandstone.  Be careful as the area is criss-crossed by large canyons so route-finding skills are required.  This is not an area to blindly wander in the dark for sure.  My favorite spot was an area of sandstone that looked like it had been melted like candy and then curled under.  The rock fins make for great leading lines in a photograph as well.

Parking Lot #3

Crazy Hill

Crazy Hill is a name that does;t do the formation justice.  Painter’s Palette might be a better name as it looks as though a painter spilled several paint buckets on the rock and let the colors run down the side of the rock.  It is found by walking straight out of the parking lot #3 a couple hundred yards.  You follow the mouth of a small canyon and continue heading straight down the hill.  You will see a couple of small arches along the way in the sides of the rock.

Fire Wave

The Fire Wave is the park’s iconic formation. The name comes from its resemblance to the more famous Wave formation in North Coyote Buttes, AZ.  A better name for it might be Ribbon Candy Rock as it consists of stripes of red and white rock swirled into a bizarre ribbon-like shape.   A new trail leading out to Fire Wave has been built by the park in recent years that leads from parking lot #3.  It is about 1/2 mile to the Fire Wave.  This trail is popular so park here well before sunset if you want a parking spot.  Like all popular photo stops these days, be prepared for large crowds during the golden hour.

White Domes Loop

Silica Dome

Getting There

Take Exit 75 on I-15 heading north from Las Vegas onto Highway 169 heading east.  The entrance to the park will be about 13 miles ahead.  The first thing of note will be the Loop Drive and the campgrounds.  If you are coming from the north, you can also access the park from exit 93, as Highway 169 loops back to I-15.  This way takes a little longer as the road goes through two small towns.

Camping and Accommodations

The two campgrounds are first come/first serve.  Get there by 10 am to ensure a spot.  The park campgrounds usually fill during the temperate moths of fall and spring.



Posted in Landscape, Nevada Also tagged , , , , , , |

Herman Gulch in Fall

Herman Gulch in fall is a great hike.  It is short and rewards the hiker with great views and some brilliant fall color.  I even saw the last vestiges of summer wildflowers.  To see columbine blooming in September was quite a shock.  Some high clouds were also racing past high above giving some definition to the scene.

The hike ascends through willows which had turned yellow.  The ground cover was also brilliant orange and red in spots.  There were even a few aspen that had started to turn.  It looks like it will be an early fall but one with good color this year in the high country of Colorado.

Herman Gulch is located at mile marker 218 off of I-70 near the Loveland ski area.  It is 3.3 miles to the lake but only a couple of miles to hike through most of the meadow areas.

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