Palouse Falls, Washington

A yellow-bellied marmot at the cliff’s edge.

As I was driving through Iceland viewing many of the different waterfalls, the scenery and surroundings kept reminding me of some other waterfall I had seen before…And then it clicked, a number of these falls were reminiscent of Palouse Falls, a truly spectacular waterfall in eastern Washington.

I don’t usually spend a significant amount of time at any one waterfall, but this is one I would suggest planning to explore more. Getting there is not terribly difficult, though you will drive through some grazing areas. The falls are not difficult to view either, but there are a number of interesting features of Palouse Falls that are worth more time.

First of all, I’ve got to say I’m amazed that people were able to get down to the base of the falls, and I’m not even remotely sure how they safely did it! There are a number of trails that lead to rapids further upstream, and many of these trails lead to steep and what seemed like very unsafe offshoots. I doubt that the park system supports the use of these trails, but there must be some way to get there. I’m just not sure I’d be trying!

Second, the geological features of Palouse Falls and the gorge that it has formed are just spectacular! At the right viewpoints, you can see the sharp cliffs and the river winding far below. Depending on the time of day, you might be in photographic heaven…

Finally, Palouse Falls is a great place to see a very interesting mammal, the yellow-bellied marmot. These creatures live at the cliffs edge, obviously unafraid of heights. When they sense danger, they will crouch down and lie as still as possible. They don’t seem to be as wary of humans (considering they are in very close contact with them), but they will still often respond in that way. It’s a really great surprise!

Directions:

  1. From Washtucna, head southwest for about 6 miles of WA-261.
  2. At the junction of WA-261 and WA-260, CONTINUE on WA-261 for a little under 9 miles.
  3. Turn left onto Palouse Falls Road. If it seems as though your headed through land meant for cattle, you haven’t chosen incorrectly. Drive for 4 miles to the parking area for the falls.
  4. The falls are very easy to visit from the parking area.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 198′
Length of Hike: negligible

Palouse Falls in April 2011

Where in the World is Palouse Falls?

Hog Canyon Falls, Washington

Hog Canyon Falls in April 2011

A NOTE OF CAUTION (5/31/2016):  After reading comments elsewhere and here, I feel led to state that you should use caution when approaching this waterfall. I believe in respecting ALL private property so we can continue to visit waterfalls. In this case, I would suggest staying some distance from the waterfall EVEN if it seems like you might be able to get closer to barbed wire or other marked boundaries. It (anecdotally) seems that the landowner has some extreme reactions at times, and so I wouldn’t risk getting too close. Bring a lens that can zoom and enjoy it from afar on public land…

I’m not really sure why Hog Canyon Falls isn’t more widely known, but maybe that’s a good thing. The waterfalls in downtown Spokane are popular, as is Palouse Falls, which is southwest of Spokane. In the books on Pacific Northwest waterfalls, though, there really isn’t any mention of falls in between. I personally feel this falls is more than interesting enough to warrant a stop, and it’s right in on the way!

Getting to Hog Canyon Falls is not really that bad, as long as you stay on the trail, which sometimes seems to lead away from the lake. The lake itself is very beautiful, and the rock cliffs that rise out of the water are impressive and photogenic. At first, when you’re hiking along, you might wonder where the falls are (or where they could be hidden), and then suddenly, you’ll see the falls off in the distance, over the blue lake in front of you. Since the falls is on private property, please pay attention and do not go any further than any wire fence boundary that has been set up. There are great views to be had even from a distance. (Please respect any boundaries…there seem to have been some altercations over trespassing as of April 2016, and I wouldn’t want access to see the falls to disappear.)

Directions:

  1. From I-90/US-395 south of Spokane, take exit 254.
  2. We were heading south along the way. Once you exit, turn LEFT (if you were going south) onto Sprague Highway Road.
  3. Drive south along the road until you come to the first dirt road on your LEFT. You will have just passed under a railroad overpass.
  4. Head south a short distance down the dirt road (on maps/GPS as Lake Valley Loop Road).
  5. After a little over a mile, turn right toward the BLM access area. After a ways, you will reach a sign indicating a trail head. You may be able to get to the falls from here, but you won’t see the lake. Continue heading down the narrow dirt road until it ends at a boat launch.
  6. Park here. Walk toward the lake and start following the trails near the lake. The best bet to finding the falls is to keep the lake in your sight at all times (unless when it’s dangerous!). You’ll walk the whole length of the lake to get to the falls, which is not nearly as long as it seems, but the terrain is a little steeper than might be expected. Still it’s doable.

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate, may be easier if you stay on the wider trails, but you may not see the lake as well)
Height: 50′
Length of Hike: 3.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Hog Canyon Falls?