Imagine walking on a flat paved trail that winds through the woods on a beautiful early fall day. Light filters through the trees as leaves move gently due to a light breeze. The birds are chirping, and squirrels are doing fancy acrobatics between branches. Suddenly, you see signs for the Doll’s Head Trail and wonder, “What is that?”
Puzzled, you walk past boardwalks and a marshy lake that probably has too many snakes than you care to think about. You make your way down a dirt path but suddenly freeze.
A creepy brown-haired baby doll with splattered paint sits on a tree root. An empty glass bottle and a discarded electronic toy are a few feet away from the doll’s legless body.
You glance to the right and see a sign indicating that you have arrived at the Doll’s Head Trail. Debating, you wonder if you should continue your walk or head back. After a few seconds, your curiosity wins. Not looking back, you quickly begin your journey down the Doll’s Head trail before you change your mind…
What Exactly is the Doll’s Head Trail?
So, what is this “creepy” trail, and why are there dolls? The most unique trail in Southeast Atlanta, the Doll’s Head Trail is 1.6 miles to 2.5 miles roundtrip, depending on the routes and stops you take.
The trail gets its name from the many discarded doll heads or parts you find along the path. The dolls are repurposed to create art, along with other items: thrown-out electronics, jars, car wheels, signs, and toys, to name a few.
But Where Do These Unique Items Come From?
The items are things washed up from the lakes since flooding sometimes occurs, or they are tossed items found in the woods. You might even see something from the South River Brick Company, a brick-making factory that occupied this land in the late 19th century. We saw many bricks stacked together, which I assume were from this factory.
Visitors are encouraged to make their own artwork, but only from items found on the trail. They kindly ask not to bring in any outside items for repurposing.
Due to constant additions and changes to existing artwork, your visit might differ each time you go. You’ll see something extraordinary one day, but something changes the next day. I quickly learned this since we hoped to find an old, abandoned typewriter from a picture I saw online before going. Typewriters seem to be making a comeback, and we wanted to take a photo of it for a friend. The search was fruitless, however, as I did not see it on the trail. Maybe I missed it, or perhaps someone did something to it; I’ll never know.
The Story Behind the Doll’s Head Trail
What is the purpose of collecting these items and making them into art? In 2011, a local carpenter named Joel Slaton created the Doll’s Head Trail when he found many dolls and other abandoned objects in the area known as Constitution Lakes in DeKalb County, Georgia. Since this area is in a major city, there is sometimes runoff of debris in the water, which washes onto the land.
But what can be seen as trash might be another’s treasure, and he began to collect these objects to create art. Not only is it an excellent way to reuse materials, but it also preserves nature and keeps the area clean.
This trail started as something small but became much more. Today, Joel Slaton and volunteers help keep Doll’s Head Trail clean of trash while encouraging people to embrace their creativity.
Visiting Information for the Doll’s Head Trail in Atlanta
Doll’s Head Trail might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you want to hike or take photos, I’ve listed information below to help plan your visit.
Address to Doll’s Head Trail
The GPS address is 1305 South River Industrial Blvd SE, Atlanta, GA 30315. You’ll see an entrance sign for “Constitution Lakes Park.” Doll’s Head Trail is found within this park.
Parking is free. We had no trouble finding a spot in the gravel parking lot, but then again, we visited later in the afternoon when few people were there. Make sure you do not leave valuables in your car.
Constitution Lakes Park and Doll’s Head Trail is open from 7 am to sunset. I’m not quite sure if I would hike here when it’s close to nightfall, though. If it’s slightly creepy during the day, I can’t imagine how it is with little light in the dense forest.
Getting to the Doll’s Head Trail
There are two ways to get to Doll’s Head, but we took the paved pathway furthest from the parking lot entrance. If you go this way, follow this paved trail until you reach the boardwalk and the lake.
It’s a nice flat trail that is relatively easy. But I am not going to lie – it was eerie walking on this trail; however, I think that was because we didn’t see many people. I am used to seeing many people on trails at national and state parks, so the silence was unnerving.
You are close to the Doll’s Head Trail when you near the boardwalks and the lake. Currently, the boardwalks are closed due to damage, but you can still get nice lake pictures. We saw a person fly fishing on the day we went. I imagine he caught many since we saw numerous fish swimming just beneath the surface.
If you continue past the boardwalks, you will see a narrow trail surrounded by vegetation. It’s not a very long path, and once you reach the end of it, you will see signs indicating that you arrived at the Doll’s Head Trail.
Another clue that you’re near the entrance to Doll’s Head is a creepy brick well that reminds me of the movie The Ring, which still terrifies me today!
The Doll’s Head Trail is mostly a narrow dirt trail, and you’ll want to be careful where you step. There are snakes, and we saw a long, slithery one in the leaves on our way out. Luckily for us, it was a non-venomous snake, and it didn’t seem to notice us. Be careful around the lake, as snakes love that area, too.
Taking Double Exposures on 35mm Film at Doll’s Head
We planned to visit Oakland Cemetery and Doll’s Head Trail all in one day. After shooting some Kodak T-Max 400 at Oakland Cemetery, I loaded the film into my camera to reshoot it at the Doll’s Head Trail.
Of course, I wanted to do this tactfully since Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta is a gorgeous garden cemetery, and I want to be respectful. Therefore, most of my images were of statues, flowers, and plants you see at Oakland Cemetery. Read more about Oakland Cemetery in my post here.
Since this is my first time trying double exposure on my recently acquired Canon EOS-10s, I was unsure if the exposures would come out. To my pleasant surprise, they did! But with one small issue: when I loaded the film roll a second time, the framing didn’t align with the first time I shot it. This misalignment created an overlap in the gap between the exposures, resulting in a semi-black line in some of the images. Thankfully, this didn’t occur for all my pictures!
Luckily, the issue is easy to fix by cropping the photos to an 8×10 size in Adobe Lightroom. The image below wasn’t as recoverable, but I like how it came out, regardless.
Overall, I am thrilled with my double-exposed images. Some photographers try to plan the outcome of their double exposures or at least try to envision it, but I shot randomly and hoped for the best. Luck can be a factor when shooting double exposures on film, and I was fortunate with the placement of objects in some of my photos. I couldn’t have asked for any better, especially with my two pumpkin photos below!
Final Thoughts on the Doll’s Head Trail
Visiting Doll’s Head Trail is a fun morning or afternoon activity not too far from downtown Atlanta, where you can grab lunch or dinner. It’s easy to forget that you are near a major metropolitan city and not in a marshland in South Georgia.
Altogether, we spent about two hours on the trail and in the park but didn’t get to explore the whole area. If you want to visit Constitution Lakes Park more, you may want to stay longer. I would love to return and take additional photos of the lakes, especially when the leaves on the surrounding trees have more vibrant fall colors!
Have you been to the Doll’s Head Trail in Atlanta? Please share and comment below!