From hobby photographers to seasoned professionals, Spokane’s Finch Arboretum is a not-so-secret spot bursting at the seams with photographic opportunities for all skill levels. Every season of the year holds something different but equally as beautiful in this 65-acre tree wonderland minutes from downtown Spokane. Started in 1949, John A Finch Arboretum contains more than 600 varieties of trees and shrubs. Beyond being merely beautiful, it’s also perfect for photographing for children. Here is why I believe it’s one of the best spots for kids and how to make the most of it.
What About the Crowds?
OK, first, the bad news.
Finch Arboretum is crawling with photogs pretty much anytime the light is right and most of the fall. When I say busy, I mean that you will be parking well down the road on any given Wednesday afternoon in October. Forget about the parking lot.
Do not fear the mob of crowds. The vast, beautiful, and colorful maples are where most photographers and families stop. Don’t get me wrong, the first 10% of the park is stunning, and the colors are breathtaking. It should absolutely be taken in. However, if you plan on taking your family photos here, you’ll need to accept people in the background or brush up on your photoshop skills.
If we have the chance to do a session together, be ready for a 10-15-minute walk with a BIG payoff.
What Lies Beyond the Entrance
Have your camera ready (or your photographer on standby) as you take a hard right over the first bridge and jump on the gravel trail towards the back of the park. This access road makes for some fun photos while you let kids stretch their legs and get the wiggles out.
The first section you hit is some towering fir trees. I know many people like Christmas sessions at a tree farm, but these graceful, old trees add a nostalgic feel.
Hidden Touch and See Trail
Right in the heart of the park connecting the second bridge to the apple orchard is a short nature trail with signs talking about everything along the way. I’m not sure if it’s the dense bushes and trees that seem like a tunnel or the cool old rope on the side, but kids LOVE this. Read the signs along the way or snap photos as they explore.
Towards the back of the park is an old crab apple orchard. Any time of the year, the orchard looks like something out of a fairy tale. So much so that I’ve seen other photographers doing Snow White themed photoshoots in the back corners. Making the orchard even more fun for young explorers are different sized rocks perfect for climbing and exploring.
My Favorite Corner of Finch Arboretum
I debated sharing this part with the world; that’s how much I love this spot. However, it’s too good to be kept a secret. The furthest most corner of Spokane’s Finch Arboretum is home to a Rhodedrum Garden, secret sitting areas with benches nestled into overgrown shrubs and old trees, a meandering creek with several “mini” waterfalls. This spot feels straight from The Secret Garden, and when it’s blooming… amazing.
It’s definitely pushing the upper end of a 15 min walk, but I promise it’s worth it. My son will spend hours watching the water, looking for leaves, and checking out this area’s hidden features. Plus, even on the busiest days, I rarely see anyone else for the several hours we hang out.
Why Spokane’s Finch Arboretum is so Great for Photographing Children
To answer the above question, I should first mention that my preference for family or child photographs focuses on connection, not perfection. This park encourages the natural exploration that kids have and creates beautiful moments as they explore the world around them.
There is no need for “cheese” and forced smiles here. The magic of the park will inspire many natural moments, smiles, and joy. Kids being kids.
As for the technical side of things? Well, Finch provides a lot of shade and natural diffusers for light making images soft and dreamy without a lot of work. Even on the brightest day, you can hide in the shadow of a tree and snap away.
A Few Notes About Finch Arboretum
A lot of wildlife calls this place home. I’ve seen 100s of squirrels, coyotes, deer, and even moose. Actually, I’ve seen a lot of moose this year. Here is my gentle plea. Be cautious with the moose. They seem so chill because they mostly do NOT see humans as a threat. This means if you get too close for a photo, they can charge. If you see a moose, stop and quietly leave the area, giving them space.
No parking pass is required.
Dogs are NOT allowed. There are so many fantastic places in Spokane to take photographs that are pet friendly. Please respect the arboretum and keep your pets home, even for just a quick picture.
To get to John A Finch Arboretum, head West from Spokane up the Sunset Highway.
Have you been to Finch before? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing more about this place.