Fall foliage and a creek running downhill along Melvin Hazen Trail. See a larger version.

Thankfully, for folks like me, we have many enticing natural resources right in our backyards. During the second weekend of November, I spent the late afternoon through early evening in Rock Creek Park on both Saturday and Sunday. Even in the sections very close to the busier parkway, there are nooks and crannies as well as connecting parks and trails that can — for a portion of a day at least — make one feel like as if you’ve left city life behind.

Keep reading for more on the areas traveled and additional photos...

An 8-image panorama of a hill near the entrance to Rock Creek Park just off Porter St NW. See a larger version.

Notable for a city, D.C. has a number of microclimates, and I’ve found that Rock Creek Park is fairly sheltering on windier days and also tends to hold onto peak color longer than other spots, perhaps due to the relative warmth of its “valley.” Since the botanical assortment in the park is more natural to the area than many streets lined with imported plants — plus Maples mainly past peak by mid-November — the most vibrant colors are generally orange and yellow, though all colors make an appearance in spots.

I’m not a morning person (and I only shoot midday if I have to), so like most of my photo shoots, the images in this post were taken in the waning light of the day and toward the beginning of dark. Saturday’s weather proved mostly lovely, and blue skies were overhead as I made it out into the late afternoon. Sunday was another story, with clouds of some type covering the landscape the whole time.

Late-day light is grand. But in the fall, perfect sunlight is more of a bonus and not always a necessity. Leaves are bright, and they’ll expose brilliantly even with so little ambient light you can barely see what you’re looking at during the shots. Sure, technique changes (at least for me) a little depending on sky conditions. Though, when you’re under the cover of a canopy of color it’s easier not to think so much about what’s going on further above anyway...

As seen by the maps of each walk at the end of this post, I mainly stayed near easy-access areas of the park. Next year, hopefully I’ll have the time to wander further north.

Late afternoon light brightens some of the trees near and past peak at an entrance to Rock Creek Park between Cleveland Park and Mount Pleasant in northwest D.C.

Trees reflect in the water of Rock Creek as afternoon begins to give way to evening.

The setting sun brightens parts of the landscape along the creek and Beach Drive NW. See a larger version.

Rock Creek runs alongside the bike trail through the park.

A footbridge across the creek is embraced by the change of seasons. Some trees already looking winterlike...

An orange reflection off of leaves lit by the late-afternoon sun lights the creek on fire just south of a small dam. See a larger version.

Fallen autumn leaves pile up in the creek and gather along protruding rocks.

The small dam on the creek framed by greener leaves with more color in the background.

A small creek trickles along in pools of water along Melvin Hazen Trail.

Further uphill, the creek along Melvin Hazen Trail, water slowly meanders by during early evening. At this point it was so dark I could barely see, but a 10-second exposure brings out all the available light.

Vines on a tree near the Woodley Park entrance to Rock Creek Park.

Trees in every state of change along the bike trail near the Woodley Park entrance to Rock Creek Park. 8-image panorama. See a larger version.

A drier part of rock creek near the furthest south point in both days.

This big yellow tree next to the river created neat light below it and offered some unique views to the other side of the bank. Problem was the lightest whiff of wind sent all the leaves and branches upward. And there was a good amount of wind... See a larger version.

A close-up of the leaves in the same general scene above.

Taft Bridge (carrying Connecticut Avenue) towers above autumn colors along the trail.

More brilliant displays of fall color near the edge of the National Zoo while heading north on the trail.

A vehicle rounds a curve on Beach Drive while headed south toward the Rock Creek Parkway.

The Porter Street NW overpass is lit by passing cars and bright foliage in the background. See a larger version.

Water swirls in a slow-moving portion of Rock Creek among hills bathed in leaves.

An 8-image panorama of portion of Rock Creek Park just off Porter St NW at dusk. See a larger version.

Since only horizontal/landscape photos are included here (except in lede), a few verticals can be found at the links below:

Kissed by light |
Path through the trees
Rock Creek waterfall in autumn |
An autumn walk along Rock Creek
A quiet trail in fall
Blazing road


I framed the first day’s shoot around something that was close. I chose a trail I had not previously taken and wandered north from the Porter Street entrance to the park. After one day, another seemed like a good idea, so I covered areas to the south and worked back to the original spot. All photos were taken fairly close to the main trail with the exception of several images from the Melvin Hazen Trail which cuts up to Connecticut Avenue from Rock Creek Park.

Saturday, November 12: This path begins off of Porter Street NW in between Cleveland Park (main residential area shown in left center) and Mt Pleasant (to right off map). It is about 1.5 miles long as shown. The 0.5 miles of Melvin Hazen Trail are akin to a real hike in spots as it continually moves uphill.

Sunday, November 13: This path begins at the intersection of Calvert St NW and 24th St NW as it become an onramp to Rock Creek Parkway in Woodley Park (main residential area at center). I first followed the trail south and then returned back north , bypassing the tunnel through zoo property along the creek. The final destination was where the walk began the day prior.