The greatest thing about Pullman, Washington isn’t Washington State University (WSU), but rather the beautiful land that surrounds both the city and the school. While there are certainly many great sites within the city of Pullman (with many off and on WSU campus), you can see them all with the Palouse Scenic Byway.
What is the Palouse Scenic Byway? Think of it as a road to connect all of the old Indian trails, wagon roads, and railroads that once connected the entirety of the Palouse region. Not only are you going to see a lot of beautiful scenery on this drive, but you are going to see a lot of great towns around Pullman, such as Colfax, Dusty, Garfield, Latah, Palouse, Rockford, Tekoa, Colton, Fairfield, LaCrosse, Oakesdale, Rosalia, and Uniontown.
There are many ways to take the Palouse Scenic Byway, and it is recommended three different types of day trips.
Day Trip No. 1
This day trip starts in Pullman and involves traveling north on US-195 toward Colfax, a small town located about 15 minutes from Pullman. You can even take a small detour and go to Klemgard Park, which has an awesome 1-mile trail and picnic area.
Colfax has many interesting shops along its Main Street, and it also is the home of Codger Pole, which is the world’s tallest chainsaw sculpture. Another great place to see in Colfax is the Whitman County Historical Society Perkins House and Cabin, an original log cabin west on Last Street off of Highway 195, located on Perkins Avenue.
If you travel west on SR-26, you will get to the town of Dusty. Here, you can enjoy Pampa Pond, a three-acre lake, a good fishing spot for rainbow trout.
If you continue west and then turn south on SR-261, you will be at Palouse Falls State Park. Palouse Falls State Park is home of the last active waterfalls on the Ice Age floods path, as the Palouse River runs through a narrow cataract the drop 200 feet into a churning bowl. There are three distinct viewpoints of the falls (sometimes with a rainbow): One from the top at the main entrance, one is from the top at a paved interpretive path, and the other is at the end of a difficult trail.
Then, on the way back, turn north on the LaCrosse Airport Road to see some historical basalt houses and cabins on Scharpenberg Road built between 1934-1936.
From there, head back to Colfax and back to Pullman. Pullman has many great spots to visit, such as Bryan Tower, and the clock tower has a beautiful glowing red face at night.
Day Trip No. 2
This is another trip to start from Pullman, and if you head on SR-194 to Almota, you can stop at Boyer Park to hike or bike along the 4.5 Snake River Trail. Then you can travel up the road to Lower Granite Dam, you can see a lot of interesting things such as the fish viewing rooms.
You can then return to Pullman through US-195, and you will pass through Colton and Uniontown. Colton has a very old place known as St. Gall’s Church, which is north on Steptoe Street off of Highway 195. Uniontown is the home of Artisans at the Dahmen Barn, which has a surrounding gate made of 1,000 wagon wheels.
Now, if you go to Colton, you can visit the historic St. Boniface Catholic Church. This particular church was built in 1904, and it has original stained-glass windows.
From those towns, you can head back to Pullman to see the sites in and around WSU, or you can head down the very steep grade to the Lewiston/Clarkston area.
Day Trip No. 3
Once again, you start in Pullman and take SR-27 to the town of Oakesdale to an ongoing restoration of the J.C. Barron Flour Mill, originally built in 1890 (when Washington State University was founded). If you head north to the Tekoa Train Trestle on the John Wayne Trail, you can then go north on 27 to the town of Latah, which has a prehistoric mammoth skeleton found in 1880.
You can then head to Fairfield and Rockford, two small towns along the way. If you head back to SR-271, this will take you to Rosalia on an easy drive on West Prairie View Road. Then you can go to Steptoe Battlefield to turn south US-195, and then head to Steptoe Butte State Park.
Steptoe Butte State Park is a steep drive upward, and you can find a lot of great views up on top. If you like to take your bike, it is a very steep climb, but it is a very fast way down.
From Steptoe Butte, head to Garfield, and if you are in Garfield during the late summer/early fall, then you can stop by Bishop’s Orchard, where you can pick some apples. There are also some great places to visit in the city of Palouse, such as the 1895 Holy Trinity Church with Litch Gate, not to mention the McCroskey House. All you need to do is go north off Highway 27, the corner of Bridge Street and East Alder.
After you see what is in both Garfield and Palouse, you can also stop by Kamiak Butte Park. This is where you can hike the Pine Ridge Trail for all kinds of interesting sights, with one heck of a view to see both Moscow and Pullman.
From there, it is back to Pullman to see many of the things in town such as WSU.
Other Points of Interest on the Palouse Scenic Byway
The Day Trips will allow you to see many points of interest within the Inland Northwest, and many of them are worth going out of your way to see.
Rock Lake: This is the largest natural lake in eastern Washington, with a year-round open fishing season for rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, and bluegill. You can access it on Day Trip No. 3 by taking Highway 23 west from Steptoe and turn north on Rock Lake Road.
Steptoe Battlefield Monument: On Day Trip No. 3, head to Rosalia and take the East 9th Street to the battlefield, and follow the signs.
Old Milwaukee Bridge: On Day Trip No. 3, it is on Highway 195, and go to south of Rosalia.
Manning Rye Covered Bridge: On Day Trip No. 1, take the Green Hollow Road off Highway 26 just outside Colfax. You can park at the grain elevator, and then take a short hike to the bridge.
Snake River: You are going to see a lot of this on Day Trip No. 2, but you can follow it and discover a lot of great sites along the way, such as Wawawai Park.
Country Bible Church: On Day Trip No. 1, you can see this nearly 100-year-old building in the town of LaCrosse. You will need to go to Dusty, and head south on Highway 127.
Hooper: Hooper is an unincorporated community and company town, and there is a store and a “haunted” hotel, located off of Highway 26 on Gray Road.
Tekoa Empire Theatre: If you follow Highway 27 in Tekoa, you can see a very old movie theatre built in 1940.