Holly State Recreation Area – Wildwood & Valley Lake Loop

Holly State Recreation Area – Wildwood & Valley Lake Loop Photo Tour

When you think about the most iconic and notably beautiful places in the state of Michigan, chances are good that Holly is not the first place that comes to mind. While it is not one of the more iconic tourist spots, the Holly State Recreation Area is quite picturesque and beautiful in it’s own right. During the peak of color in Southeast Michigan’s fall season, Jess, Anoush, Duncan, and myself paid a visit to one of the trails here. This is what we saw!

Our Wildwood and Valley Lake Loop journey begins…

When we headed out to the park from Downriver, we had intended on exploring the entirety of the Wilderness and Lakes Loop. However, a bit of a GPS coordinate mix-up led us to the south end of the park and trail. Allowing fate to guide us, we decided to simply trek where we were instead of wasting more of the beautiful daylight in the car trying to find our original destination. If you’d like to retrace the trail we are about to show, you’ll start at marker number 22, and follow it through the following sequence: 22 > 21 > 20 > 19 > 24 > 23 > 22

The trail-head is well marked, and the map is easy to read.

Holly State Recreation Area Trailhead Marker
The beginning of the trail is well marked, but there are certain areas of the trail that can get a bit confusing. So, be aware as you’re strolling down these paths.

Fall color on full display!

We were instantly met with an effusion of autumn. The color being the most obvious. However, my favorite part of being in the woods in fall, is the deep earthy and sweet fragrance that wafts through the air. Aromatherapy at it’s most pure form. Here’s our first views as we hit the trail!

So much color to enjoy!

Beautiful color along the trail at the peak of autumn at Holly Recreation Area
Our path was awash with color. There really wasn’t too much green left over at this point, as we were able to enjoy a full fall peak color experience here at Holly State Recreation Area!


Our Adventure Collies Really Enjoyed the Trail!

One of Jess and my favorite aspects of all Michigan State Park trails, is that they are very pet-friendly. Hiking is definitely our pup’s favorite activity, so we really will only go hiking where pets are welcomed.

The adventure Collie, Duncan.
Duncan stops to pose for me as he waits for us to get moving again.

Spectacular view of Wildwood Lake.

After making our way down the path, we found ourselves blessed with this view of Wildwood Lake. Idyllic blue skies framed the intense fall colors, and beautifully accentuated the reflections on the relatively still waters. We had to stop and capture this view, keep scrolling to see why!

Fall color surrounds Wildwood Lake

A view of Wildwood Lake in Holly State Recreation Area

Fall color surrounds Holly Rec Area's Wildwood Lake

Wildwood Lake awash with Fall colors!
Well worth a moment’s rest, this is a scene that filled our souls with peace. Until, that is, our restless adventure puppies decided that we should be forging ahead down the path. This picture would look great on your walls! Get it by clicking on the image! 😉


Turning back into the Holly Rec Area forest

Pretty much immediately after this view, the path winds back into a moderately hilly, forested area. With the sunlight blasting through, it didn’t take us long to find something else to point our lens at.

We loved how the sun was really bringing out the color of the leaves

Beautiful yellows backed by the striking light of the sun.

Beautiful autumn yellow forest on the Wildwood & Valley Lake Loop

Sunlight backlighting the autumn colors at Holly Rec Area

A bit of zoom lens wizardry at Holly State Recreation Area
As much as I am a sucker for “down the path” scenes, I also love trying to capture the magic of the forest off of the trail. This time I even managed a more abstract “trick” shot that I hadn’t attempted in a while. Definitely, this was my best attempt at this yet.

Onward to see more of Wildwood Lake

The bigger portion of this hike, took us on a trail which bordered the shores of Wildwood Lake. As we were casually strolling about, there was simply so much beauty along the shore, and in the forest. Here’s a bit of what we saw

Trees overhanging and bordering Wildwood Lake

Reds, yellows, and greens surrounded by the peaceful waters of Wildwood Lake in Holly.

Lovely sunlight creates a strong contrast with the trees along the shoreline.

Sometimes, looking up gives the coolest views!

A wider view of Wildwood Lake
So much to see here! Stately Oak and Maple trees slowly drop their leaves into the peaceful waters.


After a sojourn near the lake, it was time to continue the adventure!

After so much beauty along the shores of Wildwood Lake, the adventure continues. It was at this stage of the adventure that I was able to find a bit of smaller details to capture the fall mood of our afternoon. There were still some bits of foliage holding onto their vibrant green. But, the little Maples and Oaks were ablaze with color.

Taking a moment to stop and see the little things

Every path is beautiful. But, loved seeing this scene and had to capture it!

The green still hanging on in some spots!

A small maple ablaze in beautiful color!

A young Oak weilds it's earthy colors in Autumn
This park has it all. Beautiful paths, stately trees, and bits of young nature.

Views of Valley Lake at sunset

The very last leg of our journey took us back to Valley Lake. The skies were at their most vibrant here. While, the sunset was not what would be considered spectacular… They are all unique and picturesque in their own ways. And here, finally, Anoush accommodated our lens and posed for a peaceful shot of her own. Lol

Valley Lake Sunset

A beautiful tri-headed white collie
Anoush finally takes a break!

Holly Recreation Area's Valley Lake during Golden Hour in Autumn
Experimenting with landscapes and narrow depth of field.

A long exposure of Valley lake's shoreline in Autumn

As the sun went down, the scene got moody.

Our final shot of the evening at Valley Lake

Wide angle view of Valley Lake @ Sunset
Here’s the gamut of what we were able to capture around sunset time. The soft light really gave us a bit of a moody view which, I really loved.



Thanks for taking a trip with us to Holly State Recreation Area!

Thanks for tagging along on our adventure! We hope you enjoyed and even more-so, hope you get out into the woods and enjoy your own hiking adventures. This will give you an idea of what you can expect to find on the Wildwood and Valley Lake Loop.

Happy shooting!


For further reading about some other Michigan State Parks, don’t miss the following:

Pinckney State Recreation Area

Bald Mountain State Recreation Area

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

For further camping and hiking information, visit the Michigan DNR’s Holly Recreation Area page:

Holly State Recreation Area – Official Site

Nothing in the world is more exciting to a photographer than, the perfect light at the perfect moment. However, if this convergence of events happened all the time, perfect light might become imperfect, and the amazing could become mundane. Since the perfect scene is dictated by nature... a travel photographer must make the best use of the opportunity at hand. Attempting to make the mundane, extraordinary with creativity and a variety of techniques. This pretty much sums up my experience with nature and scenic photography. Which forces me to do my best to make the most of the opportunities at hand... regardless of what mother nature has planned. I look forward to sharing our adventures in Michigan, and showing off the beauty of our mitten-shaped corner of the world. While also sharing some of my knowledge of photography, which might be helpful in your adventures.

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