Palouse Falls Dayhike
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Distance: 3 miles round trip
Hiking time: 2 hours
Season: Virtually year around
Maps: USGS Palouse Falls
Info: Lyons Ferry State Park, (509) 646-3252
HIKING TRIP NOTES
Access: Drive State Highway 261 south from Washtucna 14 1/2 miles and head east on gravel access road 2 1/4 miles to Palouse Falls State Park.
Attractions: Invigorating views of spectacular Palouse Falls amphitheater. Overlooks give bird’s-eye views of falls that plunge 198 feet from basalt rim to large pool. Afternoon sun often provides rainbow effect on falls.
Colorful wildflower displays - including balsamroot, larkspur, wild hyacinth - vivid in late April-early May. Expect aerial shows by swallows and hawks. Developed park area has green grass oasis with shade trees, water, restrooms available for picnics. Ten primitive campsites open April through September.
Comments: Short portions of trails along rimrocks are bordered by fence for safety. Other trail sections are undeveloped and leave hikers to their own wits. Hiking beyond fenced areas NOT recommended for unattended small children or child-like adults. Loose rock makes potential for fatal falls.
Unofficial trails sprawl from parking area. Best route leads hikers upstream from parking area to overlook of falls. Then walk northeast to railroad tracks, where trail loops back downstream along river. Path leads to cathedral-like rock pinnacles directly above falls. Use extreme caution near falls. There’s nothing to grab to stop a fall.
Heading downstream from parking area, walk to gazebo overlook for excellent view. Then follow path away from river gorge to railway. Hike along tracks to edge of draw leading toward river. Carefully walk down path through steep scree slope. Vague path continues down through brush to river. For best hike, however, bear right from scree on path that contours on bench through sagebrush above river. Hikers get another abbreviated glimpse of falls followed by breathtaking views of rapids and downstream canyon.
Summer hiking best in morning and evening to beat heat. Also, browning cheatgrass can be troublesome to people with low-cut boots mid-May through November. Ticks common in spring. Rattlesnakes always possible in scabland country. State park rules prohibit firearms, random camping or campfires.
For more hiking: Drive back to Highway 261 and head south 5 1/2 miles to Lyons Ferry State Park. From day-use area, hike 1 1/2 miles round trip on good path to hilltop gazebo. Display discusses history, geology and nearby Marmes rock shelter, where, in 1968, Washington State University scientists discovered ancient skeleton dating back 10,000 years - oldest human remains discovered in Western Hemisphere.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of Palouse Falls area
The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN - Routes: Classic Trips in the Inland Northwest