THE PALOUSE SCENIC BYWAY is a 208-mile patchwork of roads that shows off southeastern Washington’s quaint towns and rolling farmland. It’s hard to take a false turn on any of the designated routes, but the 75-mile, north-to-south stretch of Highway 195 from Rosalia to the Idaho border packs in the most jaw-dropping views.
Set out 30 miles south of Spokane at Rosalia’s Visitor’s and Information Center, housed in an old-fashioned Texaco service station where folks can fuel up on everything they need to know about scenic Whitman County.
Just 20 miles down the road, Steptoe Butte State Park offers the perfect vantage point for panoramic views of the Palouse. A narrow, paved road guides cars to a parking area at the top of the 3,612-foot butte, where it’s not uncommon to see hang gliders taking flight.
About 30 miles south of the butte, the town of Pullman anchors the region. Home to Washington State University and named after the renowned railroad car manufacturer, Pullman bustles with bars, bistros, and shopping spots, making it a great place to hunker down for an overnight and take in some of WSU’s cultural offerings.
Farther down Highway 195, St. Gall’s Catholic Church in Colton, a lovely century-old structure, merits a brief stop; the famous Wagon Wheel Fence, with its 1,000 antique tractor and wagon wheels all in a row outside neighboring Uniontown, also draws gawkers. Press on into Clarkston, where the Clearwater and Snake Rivers intersect at the gateway to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and you can inform your friends back home that you’ve been to hell and back—and couldn’t have enjoyed yourself more.
> EAT ROOSTERS WATERFRONT RESTAURANT, CLARKSTON
Serving more than 170 drinks and everything from buffalo wings to
blackened catfish, this local favorite has a great view of the Snake River from its deck.www.roosterslanding.com
> SEE JEWETT OBSERVATORY, PULLMAN
You probably didn’t expect to see stars while visiting earthy southeastern Washington, but the lack of light pollution and a broad stretch of sky make this an ideal place to stargaze. In spring, summer, and fall, WSU’s observatories are open to the public for Star Parties. You probably won’t see Uma Thurman, but Ursa Minor is almost always around. http://astro.wsu.edu/observatory.html
> PLAY COLFAX GOLF CLUB
It’s been said that golf is a good walk spoiled. But when you’re teeing up in the Palouse, that’s debatable. Bordered by the Palouse River, the nine-hole Colfax course presents sterling views of the region’s signature landscape: rolling hills and amber waves of grain stretch as far as the eye can see. www.colfaxgolfcourse.com