Designated Washington State's official waterfall in 2014, Palouse Falls is an absolute must see!
A little history for ya.... Ages ago.. like the last Ice Age... 13,000 YEARS AGO to be more precise.... Upper Montana /Canada area was full of ice.... so much ice. The climate began to warm which meant all that ice began to melt, and giant floods raced through Montana, northern Idaho, and eastern Washington. And all that flooding reeked some legit havoc on the landscape. but HEY! no complaints, because Palouse Falls and its canyon were carved out for us to enjoy now, yay!
The then-palouse-river was on a completely different course, but when the floods came through, it overflowed that river and carved out a brand new course all the way to the Snake river, which is our current day Palouse Falls and its canyon. The falls is actually among the last active waterfalls on the Ice Age floods path. It's like looking at a history book but so much cooler (literally cause it's kinda misty, ya know?)!
Okay so that's only part of the coolest part. The giant canyon where the waterfall plunges is 377 ft deep, and you can see all these layers in the rock. So that basically is a big giant slice of Earth's history right there, which science people call the "Columbia River Basalt Group." Basically, in layman's terms, that "basalt group" was a GIANT 41,000 cubic mile slab of rock that was formed from all these massive lava flow events over millions of years. Like as far back as 17 million years ago. And then 13,000 years ago, the floods came through like a knife and cut out a big old slice of cake so we could see all the layers. So when you are there at Palouse Falls, admire the falls, BUT ALSO admire the giant slice of geological cake that you are seeing that is millions of years old full of lava events! Because who doesn't get excited about volcanoes and lava?
But also, waterfalls. Because they are my favorite! And what's better than one big giant waterfall?! ANOTHER WATERFALL RIGHT UPSTREAM!! Just up from the gorgeous giant TALLER-THAN-NIAGARA-FALLS-AT-198-FEET Palouse Falls is an upper falls with a drop of around 20 ft! This takes a little more walking to see, which I will get to shortly in my hiking directions.
Okay, so here are the fast facts:
Distance: At the state park, there are several different variations of hikes you can do, although none are designated trails. The main viewpoint of the falls is a very short walk from the parking area. This is also where the picnic and camping areas are. If you don't want to do much walking/hiking, this is still a great destination to go, view the falls, enjoy a packed lunch, and soak in some sunshine.
As for the hiking... If you choose to hike the rim loop (NOT a designated trail, I would guess 1.5 miles) or down to the upper falls (also not a designated trail, I would guess under 1 mile roundtrip), or to the top of the main falls and back out the way you came, maybe 1.25 miles out and back.
Elevation gain: 250 ft (my very rough estimate for the hike)
Rating: Easy for Viewpoint, Moderate if you choose to hike
Parking: Parking Lot with room for a couple dozen cars
Toilets: Pit Toilets
Dogs: Dogs are allowed on a leash
Fees: Discover Pass
Features: Two Waterfalls, Picnic Areas, Camping Areas
What makes this exciting: The waterfalls are so gorgeous, the landscape is so unique.
This is a perfect outing for young and old!
Monica's Real Talk: This place can get pretty crowded since it has grown exponentially popular over the last several years. Try to go early or during a weekday if you can. This area does not have great cell service, so plan accordingly for that. There have been 4 deaths in this area over the last couple years in the NOT designated trail areas-- KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Be very careful along edges and drop offs. I literally saw a mom holding her baby less than a couple feet from the top of the falls where there are totally unprotected cliff edges and it's a loose dirt area. If you are afraid of heights, do not plan on doing the entire rim loop. If you decide to scramble down to the base of the falls, it is definitely a scramble!!! I have done it twice but not sure i will do it again as it does get sketchy going down. There is a lot of loose dirt and rocks.
Directions: From Spokane, take I90 West towards Ritzville for approx 58 miles. Take Exit 221 for WA-261 towards Washtucna/Ritzville. Follow WA-261 for 33.4 miles. Turn left to stay on WA-261 (you will begin to see signs here for Palouse Falls State Park) and drive for another 8.7 miles. Turn Left onto Palouse Falls Rd (another big sign to know where to turn) and continue for 2.4 miles until you enter the parking area.