Driving the Palouse Scenic Byway

Seattle-based freelance writer Anne Larkin shares highlights of her road trip on the Palouse Scenic Byway in southeast Washington State.

Palouse Falls is my first stop on the Palouse Scenic Byway, a 208-mile network of roads that winds through photogenic hills and among a handful of charming little towns.

Water, 200 vertical feet of it, shoots down a sheer rock face and crash-lands in a fury of splashes. The falls are made all the more dramatic by the fact that it’s tucked away in this hilly agricultural region. 

Leaving Palouse Falls, I head east on SR 26, pulling over just past Dusty, a tiny burg (population: about 10) filled with quaint charm, to take pictures of the fields. In this part of the state, agriculture becomes art: the arches of the green hills contrast with the bright blue sky, and crumbling barns with mossy roofs dot the landscape.

In Colfax, I switch to SR 272 and continue on to Palouse, home to just about 1,000 people and a handful of antique shops. Fueled by a pecan-laden cinnamon roll from Mimi’s Bakery on Beach Street, I start my shopping at Dot’s, a well-curated collection of retro “funk.” From there, Main Street rewards me with more antiquing, a peek into the Bank Left Gallery and a latte at the busy Green Frog Cafe.

Leaving Palouse with a “new” turn-of-the-century casserole dish and a half-dozen old pop bottles, I head south onto SR 27 to Pullman, a college town with its own charming—and much larger—downtown. The WSU Creamery is here, scooping ice cream in a quaint parlor, as well as the stuck-in-the-seventies Cougar Country Drive-In. But today I’m on the hunt for scenery and old-time charm, so I continue on to Uniontown, passing through more gorgeous country on the way.

In Uniontown, I stop at St. Boniface, the first consecrated church in the state, for a quiet moment amid beautiful stained glass, then beeline for the Sage Baking Co., housed in the 1893 Jacobs Brewery Building. The airy brick cafe serves soups and sandwiches, but I’m more interested in the divine blackberry scones. From my sunny spot by a window, I can see to the southern end of Main Street, where town gives way to country, the pavement winding off into rolling golden hills.

Check out things to do in Pullman, Palouse and other SE Washington cities.

—Anne Larkin