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Palouse Falls State Park – A Waterfall Worth a Day-trip

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Palouse Falls, in South-Eastern Washington, is a beautiful waterfall and features an interesting hike if you want to reach the top of the falls. It’s a long drive from just about anywhere in the state, but if you make a day of it, it can be well worth it. Halfway to the start of the waterfall you can swim in the river safely and sunbathe on a stony beach. There’s more than enough space for a picnic and a range of trail difficulties throughout the park. On the long drive, there’s not much to see aside from farms, but we did come across a few little country gems like abandoned farmhouses and antique trucks.

Abandoned house in the Palouse

The best time of year to go is definitely in the spring when the runoff makes the waterfall a roaring tower.  Keep in mind that the hike to the beginning of the waterfall can be difficult, especially in the heat, and it’s a place you want to use a lot of caution with your footing. The edge can be pretty precarious and several people have either died or been seriously injured at Palouse Falls in the last couple years alone. 

When we hiked to the top, it seemed especially difficult at the beginning. The heat contributed a lot – it gets very hot out there in the desert farmland of eastern Washington; but I was also having trouble focusing my eyes and kept feeling dizzy*. After getting all the way to the waterfall it was hard to not want to hike the rest of the way, which consisted of a very narrow trail skimming the cliff next to the waterfall and eventually leading down to the water (look to the left of the falls in the main photos). We started on this precarious path, eager to get away from the crowd milling around the falls when about 40 feet in I realized I was attempting it out of stubbornness alone and should probably stop being an idiot. We hike just about everything without pause (unless dying of heat stroke is a possibility) so I didn’t want to stop for this nonsense, but that’s exactly how you fall to your death. 

We turned around to cautiously head back to the falls, where most people were still taking selfies and resting in the limited shade. I sat under a rock formation for a while before we headed back up to the parking lot where we had lunch in the company of nosy gophers and crows. There is plenty of space to BBQ and a shorter rim trail to take if you don’t feel like getting too close, though the upper trail is probably even hotter than the lower one due to the lack of shade.  Either trail, on a hot day, definitely bring a few liters of water. We have two backpacks with camelback pouches in them, on 3 liter and one 1.5 liter and we never regret wearing them. 

 

Basalt Columns

*I found out later that I needed a prism in my glasses and that my new double vision would probably be a permanent thing unless my brain adapts, which it has pretty well since then, unless there’s a smudge on the windshield I can’t stop focusing on. Hurrah for aging!

Old Farm Truck, Palouse Washington

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