Last Updated on March 3, 2022
Imagine walking on a flat paved trail that winds its way through the woods on a beautiful early fall day. Light is filtering through the trees as leaves move gently due to a light breeze. The birds are chirping, and squirrels are doing some fancy acrobatics between branches. All of a sudden, you start to see signs for the Doll’s Head Trail, and you begin to wonder, “What is that?”
Puzzled, you carry on and walk past some boardwalks and a marshy lake that probably has too many snakes that you rather not think about. You make your way down a dirt path but suddenly freeze.
Sitting on a tree root is a creepy brown-hair doll that looks like it had paint splattered on it. An empty glass bottle and a discarded electronic toy are not too many 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 inside your head, you wonder if you should continue your walk or head back. After a few seconds, your curiosity wins over your uncertainty. You quickly begin your journey down the Doll’s Head trail before you change your mind.
What Exactly is the Doll’s Head Trail?
If you’ve never heard of the Doll’s Head Trail in Atlanta before, you might be wondering what in the world is the Doll’s Head Trail? And why are there dolls?
The Doll’s Heat Trail is about 1.6 miles to 2.5 miles roundtrip (depending on the routes and stops you take), and it is probably the most unique walking trail in Southeast Atlanta. The trail gets its name from the many discarded doll heads or dolls you find along the route. The dolls are repurposed to create art, and you will also find other items used to create these art pieces: thrown-out electronics, jars, car wheels, signs, toys, to name a few.
But Where Do These Unique Items Come From?
The items are things previously tossed and then found in the woods or washed up from the lakes since flooding occurs sometimes. You might even see something from the South River Brick Company, a brick-making factory that used to be on this land in the late 19th century. We saw many bricks stacked together, which I assume are from the old factory.
Visitors are encouraged to make their own works of art, but only from items initially found there. They ask kindly not to bring in any outside items to create your art.
Due to constant additions and changes to the artwork, your visit might differ from a day you previously visited. You can go one day and see something, but come the next day, something has changed.
I quickly learned this as we were hoping to find an old, abandoned typewriter since I saw a picture online of it before going. Typewriters seem to be making a comeback, and I find this so awesome! 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 guess I’ll never know.
The Story Behind the Doll 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 is in Atlanta, there is sometimes runoff of debris in the water, which washes up onto the land.
But what can be seen as trash by some might be another man’s treasure, and he began to take these objects to create art pieces. Not only is it an excellent way to repurpose materials, but it also preserves nature and keeps the area clean.
This trail started as something small and fun but became something much more. Today, Joel Slaton and volunteers help keep Doll’s Head Trail clean from trash while encouraging people to embrace their creativity with the objects found.
Taking Double Exposures on Film at Doll’s Head
In one weekend, we made plans to visit Oakland Cemetery and Doll’s Head Trail. After shooting some Kodak T-Max 400 at Oakland Cemetery, I loaded the film back 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. Most of the images I took centered around the statues, flowers, and plants that you can see at Oakland Cemetery. You can 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 not all!).
Luckily, the issue is easy to fix, and I simply cropped some of the photos to an 8×10 size in Adobe Lightroom. The image below wasn’t as recoverable with this issue, but I like how it came out, regardless.
I really liked how most of the images came out in regards to the double exposure. For example, the two pumpkins photos below are my two favorites out of all the photos taken. I know some photographers try to plan the outcome of their double exposures (or at least try to envision it).
For my visit, I shot randomly and hoped for the best. Sometimes luck plays into shooting double exposures on film. And I think I got lucky with the placement of the objects in some of my photos!
Where You Can Locate the Doll’s Head Trail in Atlanta
Doll’s Head Trail might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you want to go hike or take some 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 will see an entrance sign for “Constitution Lakes Park.” You will find the Doll’s Head Trail 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 there were few people there. You will want to make sure you don’t leave valuables in your car.
Constitution Lakes Park and Doll’s Head Trail is open from 7 am to sunset.
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, you will 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 did feel slightly eerie walking on this trail; however, I think that was because we didn’t see many people. I am used to seeing numerous people on trails at national and state parks, so this was different for me.
When you near the boardwalks and the lake, you are close to the Doll’s Head Trail. 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 got lots of fish as I could see many fish swimming in the waters below.
If you continue past the boardwalks, you will see a narrow, dirt 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 are near the entrance to Doll’s Head is a creepy brick well. Anytime I see wells like this, I automatically think of the movie the Ring, which still terrifies me to this day!
The Doll’s Head Trail itself is a narrow, dirt trail in most parts. You will want to be careful where you step. We saw a snake on our way out! Luckily for us, it was probably a non-venomous snake, but I rather not find out. You will want to especially be careful around the lake as snakes love that area too.
Final Thoughts on Visiting
Altogether, we spent about two hours here from when we parked our car in the parking lot to when we got back. Visiting the Doll’s Head Trail makes for a fun morning or afternoon activity! You can then hop on over to downtown Atlanta for some lunch or dinner.
Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get to explore the whole area of Constitution Lakes Park. I would love to come back and get more photos as it’s a beautiful area overall. You quickly forgot that downtown Atlanta is only minutes away. Instead, it felt like I was in marshland in South Georgia.
If this sounds like a nice hike for you, you will want to plan more time for your visit to Constitution Lakes Park!