In the heart of rolling farmland, about an hour north of Waitsburg, 198 feet of water crashes down a basalt cliff and pours into a rocky bowl. This is Palouse Falls, a remnant of massive floods that swept over the land at the end of the last Ice Age more than 11,500 years ago—and also Washington’s official state waterfall. It deserves the glory—the view is splendid from the path near the parking lot, especially at sunset. A short hike leads deeper into the canyon, where the sound of the falls intensifies and wildflowers bloom.
Though Palouse Falls takes the high honors, the state is packed with plenty more astounding falls. Snoqualmie Falls, located in Snoqualmie, clocks in at 268 feet. It’s a real stunner, especially in the winter, when rain and snow runoff make it exponentially bigger and splashier. Nearby Franklin Falls is another good bet, especially for kids—it’s just a one-mile walk from the trailhead to the spectacular showcase, where massive icicles form in the wintertime.
Near Gold Bar in the North Cascades, Wallace Falls is divided into lower, middle, and upper sections, with corresponding hikes ranging from an easy four-mile round-trip jaunt to a steep six—all well worth the walk among the cedars and ferns. Meanwhile, on the Columbia Gorge west of North Bonneville, Hamilton Mountain is a toughie that pays off, offering up two falls in the 7.5-mile loop. Hardy Falls comes first, after just a mile, and then Rodney Falls, off on a side trail. Post waterfall-gawking, push on to the top for a killer view of the river.
Around the Olympic Peninsula’s beloved Lake Crescent, close to Elwha, Marymere Falls is a misty 90-footer in the heart of an old-growth forest. And also on the peninsula, Sol Duc Falls can be reached via a beginner-friendly loop through rain-forest greenery.
-- Anne Larkin