fall

Fall Textures | Photograph Story

Fall Textures | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Fall regularly comes to a close before I am ready to embrace winter.

Walks outside become a common practice, craving breaks from my desk and the feeling of lovely temperatures. And, of course, the sight of colorful leaves.

Last year I popped into the backyard to see what the leaves were up to. This solo, tiny, yellow leaf was resting on a large tree stump. I was instantly attracted to all the textures and earth tones.

The combination of swirls on the tree trunk, faint lines on the leaf and mixture of browns with a pop of yellow was hard to resist.

I noticed the tiny leaf had moved on from the trunk when venturing out the next day. I learned long ago to always head outside. Fleeting beauty constantly awaits.

Sugarloaf Mountain | Travel

Sugarloaf Mountain | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography Sugarloaf Mountain is one of my favorite local Maryland spots. A quick and easy drive from my home with several hiking trails, beautiful farm-filled overlooks and a lovely fall foliage treat of colors.

Sugarloaf Mountain | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

I am a bit excited to hike this little mountain when I return home next month :)

Sugarloaf Mountain | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Mountain Loop Trail - a 2.5 mile hike around the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain.
  2. Northern Peaks Trail - a five mile hike starting from the West View parking area. My favorite for when my mom comes along.
  3. Saddleback Horse Trail - this 7 mile loop is open to both hiker and horses, looping around the base of Sugarloaf Mountain.
  4. Strong Mansion - a lovely mansion on the mountain, available for events and weddings.
  5. Sugarloaf Mountain entrance road - this scenic drive up the mountain is always lovely. Pop in and out of the parking areas to enjoy the overlooks.

Would love to hear all about your favorite spots on Sugarloaf Mountain in the comments below!

Sugarloaf Mountain | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Allegheny National Forest | Travel (61/556)

Allegheny National Forest | Travel (61/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) After spending the morning in Cook Forest State Park, stopping in Allegheny National Forest was a great way to end a fall foliage filled day.

The orange, red and yellow leaves were absolutely stunning. On the trees and scattered on the ground!

Allegheny National Forest | Travel (61/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) Allegheny National Forest | Travel (61/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Beaver Meadows Loop - an easy 3 mile trail through wooded areas and over the lake on a floating boardwalk.
  2. Hearts Content Recreation Area - a perfectly chosen name. Located west of the Hearts Content Scenic Area, a 200-plus acre virgin forest.
  3. Minister Creek Trailhead - a 6.6 mile trail, starting at the Minister Creek Campground. The moderate trail offers varying terrain as you climb to the plateau in the undeveloped area.
  4. North Country National Scenic Trail - over 96 miles of scenic trail goes through the forest and many historic lands.
  5. Rimrock Overlook - take in a scenic view of Kinzua Bay, 200 feet above the parking area.

Would love to hear about your favorite hikes and places to explore in Allegheny National Forest in the comments below!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Travel (60/556)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Travel (60/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) My most recent visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Tennessee, was filled with pouring rain, fog and cool temperatures. Both the fog and cool temperatures were spectacular. The rain made it difficult to hike and go beyond the overlooks and scenic drives.

An excellent reason to make a return fall visit :)

During a previous visit, I made my way to the North Carolina portion of the park. Seeing the elk herds was fantastic!

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Cades Cove - allow two to four hours to explore this area, drive the 11 mile loop and enjoy Thunderhead Mountain.
  2. Charlies Bunion - an 8 mile hike along the Appalachian Trail, offering breathtaking distant views.
  3. Highway 441 - countless overlooks with beautiful views.
  4. Newfound Gap Road - this stunning stretch goes for 40 miles between the Sugarlands and Oconaluftee visitor centers.
  5. Rainbow Falls - another Appalachian Trail hike, at 5.4 miles in length. On a sunny afternoon you will see a rainbow appear in the mist of the waterfall.

What are some of your favorite hikes and places to explore in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? I plan to head back SOON!

Cook Forest State Park | Travel

Cook Forest State Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography Taking my mom to visit her childhood forest was one of the highlights from fall. Walking through the tall, colorful trees in Cook Forest State Park, Pennsylvania, is a memory I will hold onto always. Such a special day with a special lady :)

Cook Forest State Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Forest Cathedral - excellent area to see old growth timber.
  2. Forest Drive - the trees lining the sides of the road are breathtaking to view from the car.
  3. Indian Trail - love the stairway at the beginning! This is a 1.1 mile, difficult hike, through second growth and old growth forests.
  4. Longfellow Trail - a 1.2 mile, moderate hike, to some of the oldest trees in the Northeastern United States.
  5. Rhododendron Trail - a 1.2 mile moderate hike past the swinging bridge and through the Forest Cathedral.

Cook Forest State Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Have you ever been to Cook Forest State Park? Would love to hear about your favorite spots in the comments below!

William B Bankhead National Forest | Travel (59/556)

William B Bankhead National Forest | Travel (59/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) William B Bankhead National Forest was just starting to pop with color during my early October visit. This national forest has two of my favorite things to explore: waterfalls and a large wilderness area.

William B Bankhead National Forest | Travel (59/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Bee Branch Trail - enjoy waterfalls and beautiful forest views during this 11.4 mile hike.
  2. Caney Creek Falls - a 2.75 mile round-trip hike to the stunning Caney Creek waterfalls. The starting point is on an old closed road off Winston County Road 2.
  3. Clear Creek Recreation Area - located on Lewis Smith Lake with access to water and multiple camping locations.
  4. Little Natural Bridge - a short paved trail takes you to a natural bridge within the forest.
  5. Sipsey River Trail - a moderate 10.1 mile hike in the Sipsey Wilderness Area, along the Sipsey River.

Tell me all about your favorite hikes and places to explore in the comments below!

Natural Bridge Park | Travel

Natural Bridge Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography While looking at a map, planning my route home, I saw a little park symbol for the Natural Bridge Park in Alabama. After a few minutes of research, this new find became part of my whirlwind around the country trip. An excellent last minute addition!

Natural Bridge Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

The park is small with an easy, short trail to the natural bridge. The bridge measures in at 60 feet tall and 148 feet long. This is the longest known natural bridge east of the Rockies.

Natural Bridge Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

In addition to the hike, there are picnic areas and a gift shop. Have you ever made your way to the Natural Bridge Park in Alabama? Would love to hear about your visit!

Natural Bridge Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Take a close look at the final photograph to spot my hiking friend. This Jack Russell Terrier gave me the grand tour of the bridge :)

Pinehurst Fog | Photograph Story

Pinehurst Fog | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Once upon a time, I lived in Pinehurst, North Carolina. While living among the golf courses, I had the pleasure of meeting so many great people and still call many dear friends today.

After photographing a lifestyle session on a cool, foggy morning, I decided to switch lenses and capture a few landscape photographs.

I am *mildly* obsessed with fog and fall.

This morning was a lovely combination of both. The pops or orange and red in the trees with the misty fog moving between the branches was absolutely beautiful.

Having a photograph from an old home, with nature elements I love, makes my heart happy :)

Ouachita National Forest | Travel (56/556)

Ouachita National Forest | Travel (56/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) The rain was falling pretty hard when I woke up in Arkansas, ready to explore Ouachita National Forest. Each mile in the car delivered smaller raindrops and a bit more fog. Quite the moody scene for exploring.

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Beech Creek National Scenic Area and Botanical Area - with over 32 miles of trails and a 400 acre botanical area, this is a must see spot.
  2. Buffalo Gap Trail - 9 mile trail offering panoramic views of the national forest.
  3. Hunt's Loop - great day hike at 4.3 miles. Short Mountain Vista offers panoramic views, wooded areas and cliff side views.
  4. Ouachita National Recreation Trail - this is a long one at 192 miles. Hiking smaller sections during the spring and fall offers great temperatures and beautiful colors.
  5. Scenic 7 Byway - loved driving this mountain road. The fall colors were spectacular!

What are your favorite hikes and places to explore in Ouachita National Forest?

Childhood Forest | Photograph Story

Childhood Forest | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography This childhood forest belongs to my mother. And I absolutely LOVED taking her back last year for a hike and reminiscing. She recalled the trees being a bit bigger when she was a girl :)

Cook Forest State Park was my pappy's choice for exploring with my mom and aunt when they were little girls. While walking through the forest, we decided my love of photography, nature and adventure comes from him. He was a great man and I love knowing we share so many passions, even if most of mine were realized after he was gone.

Capturing this photograph was relatively simple. It's a handheld shot from the hike we were enjoying toward the end of the day. My mom was looking up with a smile on her face and I was happy to be sharing the moment.

We are already chatting about a return visit this fall.

Santa Fe National Forest | Travel (54/556)

Santa Fe National Forest | Travel (54/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Talk about aspen heaven! If you are in the Santa Fe area during early October, I highly recommend exploring Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico. The colors, light and blue skies are amazing.

I was grinning from ear to ear my entire visit :)

Santa Fe National Forest | Travel (54/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Aspen Vista Picnic Site - step out of your car into aspen goodness! The picnic tables are perfect for a relaxing meal. Also serves as a trail head for Tesuque Peak and Alamo Vista Trail.
  2. Holy Ghost Trail - a 3.3 mile hike filled with colorful trees or wildflowers, depending on the season.
  3. Jemez Falls - a short half mile hike to Jemez Falls, the tallest waterfall in the Jemez Mountains.
  4. Jemez Mountain Trail Scenic Byway - the scenic byway covers 163 miles, with approximately 65 miles in the national forest. Enjoy cliff dwellings, small mining towns and endless beautiful views.
  5. Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway - a glorious, aspen filled 16 miles of highway starting in historic downtown Santa Fe, ending at the Santa Fe Ski Area.

What are you favorite hikes and places to explore in Santa Fe National Forest?

Santa Fe National Forest | Travel (54/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Rio Grande National Forest | Travel (50/556)

Rio Grande National Forest | Travel (50/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) This was my second time driving through Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado. The first was during late spring and I ran into snow while in Wolf Creek Pass. Driving through the same region two years later pulled on my heart strings a bit, taking in wildfire devastation for the first time. Still beautiful, as you might expect, just a bit different than I remembered.

Favorite Hikes + Places to Explore
  • Continental Divide Trail - the full trail is over 45 miles long. Popping on for a quick turn around hike is always a beautiful option, especially during fall.
  • Silverthread Scenic Byway - State Hwy 149 offers great overlooks throughout the forest, with a few interpretive stops along the way.
  • The Colorado Trail - 14.8 miles of the trail falls in the forest, between San Luis Pass and Spring Creek Pass.
  • US 160 - love this drive through Wolf Creek Pass. Expect snow!
  • Zapata Falls - a 2.5 mile moderate loop trail to the Zapata Falls.

What are some of your favorite spots in the Rio Grande National Forest?

Mesa Verde National Park | Travel (49/556)

Mesa Verde National Park | Travel (49/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) While visiting familiar places, I sometimes have a habit of keeping my camera tucked away. This is what happened during my most recent trip to Mesa Verde National Park, aside from a few iPhone captures.

Mesa Verde National Park | Travel (49/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

I have had the pleasure of driving the scenic entrance road six times, always wearing a huge smile. Each visit offers quiet hikes, stunning views of cliff dwellings and distant snow capped mountains.

Photographs from my first visit are shared here.

Mesa Verde National Park | Travel (49/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

Favorite Hikes + Places to Explore
  • Knife Ridge Trail - this 2 mile trail offers great views of Montezuma Valley.
  • Petroglyph Point Trail - as the name suggests, this 2.4 mile hike offers the only views of petroglyphs in the park.
  • Point Lookout Trail - another great trail for valley views. Both Montezuma Valley and Mancos Valley may be seen from this 2.2 mile hike.
  • Prater Ridge Trail - a 7.8 mile hike following a loop along the top of the ridge.
  • Spruce Canyon Trail - one of my favorites, taking you down and through Spruce Canyon over a 2.4 mile hike.

Stargazing and cross country skiing are both on my list for upcoming visits.

Would love to hear about your favorite spots from this unique and beautiful national park.

San Juan National Forest | Travel (48/556)

San Juan National Forest | Travel (48/556) | Alaina Ann Photography The San Juan National Forest is at the top of my must visit list, especially during fall. Covering over 1.8 million acres of land in southwestern Colorado, there's plenty of goodness to enjoy.

San Juan National Forest | Travel (48/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

On another note, Durango (my favorite mountain town) is located within this amazing national forest. All the more reason to stop in and stay awhile :)

San Juan National Forest | Travel (48/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Favorite Hikes + Places to Explore
  • 14,000 Feet and Above - several mountain peaks fall into the 14'ers category. For a full list, click here.
  • Durango - my favorite mountain town :) Always worth a visit and overnight stay if you find yourself in the area. Other great towns include Telluride, Ouray and Silverton.
  • Hiking - the Dolores and Columbine Ranger Districts are my most visited areas for hiking. My list of favorites is far too long to share!
  • San Juan Skyway - SO much goodness on this 232 mile scenic byway loop. I try to drive this at least once a year.
  • South San Juan Wilderness - includes portions of the southeastern San Juan Mountain range and the Continental Divide.

What are some of your favorite spots in San Juan National Forest?

Durango, Colorado | Travel

Durango, Colorado | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography Durango, Colorado is my favorite happy place. One day this mountain town will be called home and these amazing areas will be just outside my doorstep :)

Durango, Colorado | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

I try to make my way through Durango each year while on my around the country road trip. As you will notice from the posts below, my arrival almost always coincides with peak fall foliage.

Durango, Colorado | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Favorite Hikes + Places to Explore
  • U.S. Route 550 - this curvy drive from Durango to Silverton, and even Ouray, is quite spectacular. Each turn offers a new perspective of mountain goodness. And the mountain towns are small yet grand.
  • Hiking - this website is great for finding hikes in and around Durango.
  • Historic Downtown - filled with restaurants, shops and great mountain views.
  • Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad - this train ride is fun for all ages, taking you to areas only accessible by backpacking or from the windows of this train.

Durango, Colorado | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

To take a trip down memory lane, here are links to other Durango blog posts.

Fall in Colorado Durango & Silverton Fall Photo Train Fenced Aspens Passing Train Moody Mountain iPhone Favorites Durango Fall Goodness Durango Ranch Tall Aspens

So... there are just a FEW mentions of Durango on this little website of mine!

What are you favorite hikes and places to explore in Durango, Colorado?