The iconic Palouse Falls is considered to be the official waterfall of Washington State. When you first walk up on the falls, you will understand why. Located in the southeast corner of Washington, the falls are like an oasis in the middle of the surrounding arid plains.
Out of nowhere, the powerful Palouse River falls 200ft. to a glacier cut bowl, and then leads to a S shape at the end of the ravine. For a landscape photographer, under the right conditions, the falls offer one of the more unique images in the Pacific Northwest.
Trail Difficulty (2 out of 5)
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 1 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The hike to the location for shooting the falls is an easy 200yd. walk. However, to get the shot to include both the falls and gorge, you have to stand very close to the ledge of a cliff that drops about 100ft. straight down. If your have a fear of heights, you might want to avoid this location!
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
761 Ft Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
CLICK HERE to get driving directions the Palouse Falls parking lot.
The Palouse Falls are in a very rural part of southeast Washington. The closest towns are Kennewick, WA (75 miles west) and Pullman, WA (85 miles away).
The directions are from Kennewick, WA, drive north on US-395 for 37.5 miles to the little community of Connell. Turn right (east) on WA-260 and drive 24.3 miles to WA-261. Turn right on WA-261 and travel for 8.7 miles until you get the Palouse Falls State Park. Take a left and drive 2.2 miles to the entrance of the park. Again, you will be in a very rural area—nothing around for miles and miles. There is no cell service and no gas stations.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
The best time to shoot this location is late afternoon/evening and sunset.
Best Time of Year to Shoot
The best time to shoot the Palouse Falls would be in the spring and summer, when the falls are running strong.
What Lens(es) Do You Need
Most people will shoot this wide to super wide. Depending on the composition you are looking for, you can use anything from an 11mm to a 35 mm lens.
There are no permits required; there is a $15/vehicle/day fee.
Direction of the Shot
The direction of the shot is south at 205°
Special Nuances of Shot
The only way to capture both the falls and the gorge together is to get very close to the steep ledge that drops about 100ft. straight down. If your have a fear of heights, you might want to avoid this location!
There are 3 primary spots that most photographers shoot from. The best location is a little rock peninsula that holds 1 or 2 photographers. The other locations are to the right and left of the peninsula and can hold 3-5 photographers each.
The window for a great sunset shot is very short and the light changes quickly. I would suggest setting up early and knowing what/how you are going to shoot.
Special Equipment Needed
You will need a tripod, a polarizer, and a neutral density (ND) filter to reduce your shutter speed to ½ second or longer to create the silky water flow. You may also want use a tilt/shift lens to compensate for the keystone effect while pointing down at the falls.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
The Palouse Falls State Park is a long way from any major town and difficult to get to. However, the falls are special at sunset, and you will most likely see several other photographers there.
As mentioned, there are a few locations to shoot the falls, but the best spot is a very small area right on the edge of a 100ft. cliff (that holds a maximum of 2 photographer). If you want the premium spot, you should arrive a couple 2-3 hours before sunset to stake your position.
The Palouse Falls State park is in an arid part of southern Washington and doesn’t get as much rain as other parts of the state (or the Palouse).
Palouse Falls State Park is in a very rural part of southeast Washington. I use Verizon, and there is NO cell service anywhere near this location.
The Palouse Falls state park is located in a very rural area. The closest town is Kennewick, WA - 75 miles away. However, the park does have a small campsite area with 10 or so picnic tables. The campsite is nothing fancy and does not have RV hookups, but does have restrooms. Camping fees are $15 per night.
There are no restaurants or eating establishments for 75 miles. If you are staying at the state falls, make sure you bring food and water.
The closest laundry mat is in Kennewick, WA (75 miles).
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closest airports are:
Spokane, WA, (GEG) - (105 miles) is an international airport servicing: Alaska Airlines, Delta, American Airlines, Southwest and United.
Portland International airport (PDX) – (294 miles) is a full international airport with services to most of the major airlines.
Area Guides and Workshops
If you were looking for a GREAT photography guide for Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington areas) - I can highly recommend Mark Metternich. I have taken workshops with Mark in the past and he has been hosting workshops in the Pacific Northwest for many years.
Mark knows all the VERY best places to take you and just the right time to be there - to help you get the shot. He is a great photographer, an expert at photoshop, an excellent guide/instructor and a super nice guy.
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.