Journey to Palouse Falls
Little-known to out-of-state visitors, Palouse Falls is one of Washington’s greatest treasures. And getting there is part of the thrill because the drive is fascinating and somewhat convoluted. There’s no direct route and so a map or GPS is a must. The drive is a great setup for the big reveal, too. It really puts the falls into context. Nicknamed The Evergreen State, forests cover more than half of Washington. But central Washington is in the shadow of the Cascade Range so precipitation is scarce, the sun shines 300 days a year and there aren’t a lot of trees. Here lies the Columbia Plateau, part of the world’s biggest lava plateau featuring steep canyons and patches of dry lava. The rich volcanic soil and dry conditions are perfect for agriculture, so hundreds of crops are grown here, from corn and wheat to apples and wine grapes. Once you make it to Washtucna and Highway 261, rolling hills and hayfields lead to the Palouse Falls State Park turnoff. A couple of miles down a dirt road is a parking area. Then, a short walk leads to a spectacular overlook. Carved more than 13,000 years ago, Palouse Falls became Washington's state waterfall in 2014 after the legislature passed a bill written by 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders from a nearby school. Now, that part of the story is about as cool as the falls!
Keep in Mind
You must pay to park and only in cash. Right now, the fee is $10. The falls are pretty isolated, too, so be sure to watch the gas tank. And pack plenty of snacks and water, especially in the summer.
Route & Map
Vantage to Palouse Falls State Park, I-90 to WA Highways 26 & 261
Best Time to Visit
Spring runoff means the falls are at their peak and it’s also the season for milder temperatures and wildflowers. Fall is also pleasant. Summer can be really hot. Parking is tight and weekends and holidays are very busy so if possible, visit on weekdays during these seasons. Winters can be frigid and icy, making travel difficult. But if you’re lucky enough to catch the falls semi-frozen or covered in snow, it’s an unusual beauty most travelers don’t experience.
All of the pertinent information you’ll need, including the most up-to-date notices or closures, can be found on the fall’s official website, maintained by Washington State Parks.