Washington is a beautiful state, one of the most stunning in the country, many would say. Within its landscape are heavily-wooded forests full of ancient trees, mountain summits (including Mount Rainer) which seem to stretch to the sky, and waterfalls that cascade down cliffsides as if flowing from an ethereal source. Of the latter, the Palouse Falls is one of the most picturesque in the state and has officially been voted the waterfall of Washington.
The waterfall itself was created during the glacial flood that occurred at the end of the last known ice age, called the Missoula Floods. These floods were also responsible for the vistas that many have grown to love in the state, not just Palouse Falls. It says plenty about the sheer size and power of these floodwaters that they were able to create such a landscape, and Palouse Falls is by far one of the best examples of that. It's also the last remaining falls of that time which is part of the reason it was crowned Washington's official waterfall as of 2014. It's spectacular water flow cascades over a basalt cliffside as it comes to a crashing crescendo 128 feet below. To catch a glimpse at this triumphant waterfall is nothing short of spectacular.
At The Falls
The Palouse Falls are quite an attraction in Washington which, in a sense, is good, because that means they're pretty accessible to everyone. Without having to conquer great heights or traverse slippery, often unsafe, terrain in order to see them, the Palouse Waterfall is located in the adequately-named Palouse Falls State Park. The park is home to plenty of amenities for those who wish to spend some time and camp there, including a 105-acre campsite with space for 11 tents and an ADA-compliant campsite, according to the Washington Trails Association. The area also features pit toilets, a variety of picnic tables that are both covered and uncovered for sunny days, as as well more information which can be found at the kiosks throughout the campsite.
The Palouse Falls can be seen right from the parking lot where there's a specific overlook, meaning it takes virtually no work at all to get a good first look at this waterfall. There are three overlooks in total for the falls and research should be done beforehand in order to determine which one is the best for hikers, based on their skill level and the amount of time they have to spend on the trails. The overlook in the parking lot is the first, and can be reached easily by the short staircase that sits adjacent to the parking lot itself. This is the most easily found route and offers great views for the least effort.
The second trail to the falls follows the interpretive path. As hikers walk along this trail, they'll be met with signs that detail the history of the falls and the story of its creation and the canyon below, with the second viewpoint found at the very end of the trail. As hikers continue to follow the interpretive trail, they'll eventually reach the third viewpoint which is also the highest in the park surrounding the Palouse Falls. This vantage point, called Fryxell Overlook, will give hikers a full panoramic view of the falls below and the surrounding landscape and its trails around the waterfall.
While it is possible to reach the bottom of the falls, it's heavily recommended that hikers forgo this route - because it's not actually a trail. The 'trail' to the bottom of the falls is one that was created by hikers themselves and is not maintained or inspected for safety, which has led to many hiker accidents, loose rocks, and injuries along the way. The area is narrow and descends straight down into the canyon itself, making it an isolated and remote dirt path. The path itself is incredibly steep and wouldn't be recommended by anyone who's inexperienced, to begin with, but the state park strongly urges hikers to stay away from it regardless of skill level due to the unpredictability of the surrounding terrain. The trail proved to be so dangerous that it was actually closed in 2015 and reopened with new regulations and cautions regarding hiking safety. With three other vantage points by which to view the falls, it's not likely that anyone would feel the need to hike down to the base of this waterfall, to begin with.
The best time to visit the falls is undoubtedly at sunset as golden hour illuminates the waterfall in an unimaginable way. This is a popular time for artists and photographers as well as they capture Palouse Falls in all of its late sun-colored glory.