Some of you are probably wondering: “You’ve spent all that time in Washington! What about the Grand Canyon of Washington?” Never fear! It took us a while to get there, but Tom and I definitely saw the Grand Canyon of Washington: Palouse Falls State Park.
Palouse Falls State Park is frequently called the Grand Canyon of Washington on Tripadvisor.com. It is a small and remote state park in eastern Washington. We traveled to Palouse Falls by driving up US 395 to WA 260 and taking WA 261 to the park entrance. The park entrance is clearly marked. Once you turn into the park, you have to follow a dirt and gravel road three miles before you get to the canyon. All of it feels very remote, with the closest gas and eating services back on US 395. But the drive is beautiful and this pretty little canyon is worth it.
Palouse Falls State Park is only 105 acres, mostly encompassing the waterfall and the canyon immediately after the waterfall. There are a couple of trails. A nature trail around the rim gives you several great overlooks for seeing the falls. One of the overlooks allows you to see Palouse Falls to the left and the Grand Canyon of Washington straight ahead. The canyon curves just past the falls.
Another trail, two miles each way, leads you down 1,000 feet to the Palouse Canyon floor. The trail has some steep parts which made me a little nervous. I don’t like trails that are narrow and on the cliffs of canyon walls.
Tom and I expected the waterfall to be less than spectacular. Washington had a very dry summer and waterfalls are usually smaller in the fall. Palouse Falls, however, was spectacular! The water thundered and tumbled over the basalt cliffs 200 feet down to the deep pool at the bottom of the canyon. Palouse Falls was created by the great Missoula Floods about 13,000 years ago when a glacial dam burst and drained Lake Missoula. The vast waters of the lake flooded the area and created the Columbia River Gorge. Palouse Falls is one of the few active waterfalls left from that geologic event. Today it is part of the Ice Age Floods National Geological Trail, another of those trails administered by the National Park Service.
My favorite thing about this Grand Canyon of Washington wasn’t the scenery. The waterfall was named the State Waterfall of Washington in 2014. This came about when the State Legislature passed a bill written by local schoolchildren. The children go to a small school (one room for Grades K-2 and one room for Grades 3-6) in nearby Washtucna and the kids lobbied for the designation. The Governor even came to their school to sign the bill. What a wonderful lesson in citizenship and government for these kids!
Palouse Falls State Park has a small, primitive campground right on the rim of the canyon. It also had handicapped accessible overlooks so anyone can enjoy the beauty of the falls and the canyon. Tom and I talked to the volunteer at the park for a little while. He said we would be surprised how many people visit despite the remoteness. Just as we were leaving two tour buses pulled in!
Palouse Falls State Park is a lovely and accessible bit of remote western scenery. It is definitely worth the drive and deserves the designation “Grand Canyon of Washington.”