Photographing Appalachian Mountains: Table Rock

November 18, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Photographing Table Rock


Location: Canaan Backcountry, West Virginia 

Best time of year to photograph: Spring, Summer, and Fall

Subject Focus: Landscape, Nature, Sunrise

Popularity: Low

Distance: 2.4 mile out and back


This hidden gem is located near Lindy Point and Blackwater Falls State Park.  Unlike Lindy Point, which is very popular, hikers are usually able to enjoy the views from Table Rock all by themselves.  

Table RockTable RockSunrise from Table Rock in West Virginia During Fall

(Table Rock looking South, 21mm, F/16, 12sec, ISO 100) 


The Table Rock trail head is located off of Canaan Loop Rd.  I highly recommend driving to the trailhead from Highway 32 (Appalachian HWY).  It is possible to reach the trailhead from Blackwater State Park and is only four miles down the road from the Lindy Point Trailhead, but those four miles are very rough.  A lifted 4x4 wheel drive vehicle with a short wheel base is required driving this section of the Canaan Loop Road.  The road from Highway 32 is a lot tamer.  Its a normal gravel/dirt road with small potholes and some shallow ruts, but any vehicle will be able to drive this section of Canaan Loop Road. While driving down the road, stay right at all of the road forks to stay on the Canaan Loop Road. The Table Rock Trailhead is about 9.5 miles down the road and is located on the lefthand side and is marked with a wooden sign.  There is a nice turn off to park in so your vehicle will not be on the side of the road.  

Fall Road in West VirginiaFall Road in West VirginiaFall in West Virginia is always beautiful and the Canaan Loop Road that runs through Blackwater Falls State Park was no exception.

(Canaan Loop Road, 86mm, F/10, 0.5sec, ISO100)


Once at the trailhead, follow the Table Rock Trail Southeast for 1.2 miles.  Even though the trail is not very popular, it is very well marked and easy to follow.  Unlike the drive, the trail is very easy, and hikers will gain under 200 feet in elevation over the 1.2 miles.  Most of the hike has a very gradual incline resembling a false flat.  After a great hike though the Canaan Backcountry, hikers will be rewarded with an outstanding 200 degree view.  

Trail to Table RockTrail to Table RockHiking the trail to Table Rock is very beautiful.

(Table Rock Trail, 31mm F/4, 1/60sec, ISO 400)

Table Rock offers a breathtaking panorama view of the Allegheny Mountains.  This 200 degree, unobstructed vista allows hikers views from the north, to east and south, and even south southwest making it ideal for sunrise images.   A nice deep valley zigzags to the northeast away from Table Rock, which can be used as a natural leading line for pictures, but at the same time offering some layers to show depth while being able to photograph the sun rising over the Allegheny Mountains.  That same valley continues directly below Table Rock zigzagging to the southwest and intersecting with another valley heading southeast.  This south view will allow hikers the ability to capture side light at sunrise, which is great for seeing all of the texture in the mountains ranges, and during the fall, it helps showcase all of the beautiful fall colors. Table Rock offers a very large quartzite outcropping, which can easily be used as a foreground element. If you are going to be photographing the sunrise, remember to bring a headlamp or flashlight in order to make the hike easier.  While on the Table Rock be mindful of snakes bathing in the sun.  The first time I was there, I saw a copperhead.  I left it alone, and it left me alone, so just watch your step.

Table Rock Sun StarTable Rock Sun StarSunrising behind Allegany Mountains in West Virginia. This was taken from Table Rock. (Table Rock looking Northeast, 18mm, F/16, 1/20sec, ISO 100)

This is an out and back hike, so after taking pictures, enjoying the view, and being out in nature, follow the same trail back down to your vehicle. If interested in camping overnight, back down the trail about 500 yards from Table Rock is a clear, flat area big enough for two tents.  There is no water source, so backpackers would have to bring in everything they would need. Also, if you are like me and have young kids, I would highly recommend bringing them. This hike is a great hike for kids; it’s short and not steep with the reward of an outstanding view.  While in the area, I also recommend exploring Blackwater Falls State Park, Lindy Point, and the Dolly Sods Wilderness.  

Epic View From Table RockEpic View From Table RockHiker enjoying the epic view from Table Rock.

(Table Rock looking North, 35mm, F/16, 1/60sec, ISO 100)



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