The iconic Palouse Falls -- Washington State's official falls -- is not to be missed.
Also known as Aput Aput, meaning “Falling Water,” so named by the Palouse Indians, Palouse Falls is located within Palouse Falls State Park. The park boasts a 105-acre camping area with 11 tent spaces, including one campsite that is ADA compliant. All sites are available on a first come, first served basis. You will also find other amenities including sheltered and unsheltered picnic tables, information kiosks, pit toilet restrooms, and wheelchair accessible paths. All visitors should be aware that this area is home to rattlesnakes, so be careful where you walk. You may also encounter the infamous yellow-bellied marmot during your visit. Many reside in the park and can be found grazing throughout the area.
From the parking area, where there is a nice overlook of the falls, a graveled path winds for one-third of a mile around and through grassland and back to the parking area. Keep an eye out for wildflowers that add splashes of color to the landscape.
You will see a dirt path ahead that descends into the canyon; this is a user-created social trail that the State Park encourages hikers NOT use. It is quite steep and riddled with loose rocks making for a potentially hazardous descent. In late 2015, due to misuse of these trails and many injured hikers, the park closed the bootpaths leading to the base of the falls. They reopened for several years with signage about hiking safely, but accidents and injuries continued, and the park permanently closed all the trails leading to the canyon and base of the waterfall in early 2022.
WTA Pro Tip: Time your visit to the falls with the sunset. Watching the light and shadows change along the canyon walls is an experience not to be missed. This time of day also offers the opportunity to take advantage of the optimal golden hour lighting that so many photographers seek.
Geology and History
At the end of the last ice age, repeated glacial floods, known as the Missoula Floods, swept across eastern Washington carving out the unique scablands landscape we see today. Among the coulees, potholes, buttes, and plateaus, Palouse Falls remains as one of the magnificent and lasting remnants of these glacial floods. It is the only major waterfall left along this thousands-of-years-old glacial flood path, on February 12, 2014, it was established Washington's official state waterfall. Standing at a height of 198 feet and surrounded by striking basalt cliffs, the powerful waterfall lies on the Palouse River upstream of the confluence with the Snake River.