One of my favorite local hikes is the Dark Hallow Falls trail in Shenandoah National Park. Not far from the Big Meadows campground, it's a relatively easy hike with a nice waterfall at the end. Last weekend I made my fifth visit to the falls with some friends.
The trail to Dark Hallow Falls is located at mile mark 51 on Skyline drive. The trail is fairly short - only 1.5 miles round trip, but it's got a few steep parts on the uphill. I recommend hiking boots and some water for the trip. To learn more about this hike, visit the National Park Service Website.
My first visit to this trail was several years ago when I hiked it with my sister; it was also the first hike I ever did in the Shenandoah National Park and holds a special place in my heart as a result. Since then I've made at least one trip to the falls annually. In some of these hikes we've been treated to a waterfall that was flowing hard with lots of rainwater, while other trips have been far more disappointing.
Along the trail to the falls there are several good photo opportunities- the trail follows the creek that feeds the waterfall and there are multiple pools on the trail to stop and admire. Many photographers overlook the frequently travelled or easy photo trips, but Dark Hallow Falls is one hike to bring the camera along.
This photograph was taken along the trail shooting downstream.
Dark Hallow Falls - April 2012 (notice how the falls are flowing fairly well)
The falls make for a great photo opportunity. You'll probably want a tripod and I highly recommend good boots for when you get down to the falls so that you can rock hop to get into the best position for your shot. Depending on your lens, I'd also suggest a neutral density filter so you can slow your shutter speed if you want the soft and smooth flow effect of the falls.
Even though this is a waterfall hike and the main objective is probably to make a photograph of this waterfall, don't overlook other potentially great images. My favorite image from the weekend was actually made by looking at an old dead tree that was covered in a variety of wild moss and lichens to give these abstract colors....
Don't end your adventure after the falls! This park has lots of other great photo opportunities. As I learned last weekend, it's also good to have a telephoto lens mounted as you drive in case you see a baby black bear on the side of the road. I missed that shot, but got a few others from the weekend. These were taken at Big Meadows, just up the road from Dark Hallow Falls.