The unique geology of these eastern Washington state hills are a photographer’s dream…and a road trip dream. Imagine driving on a beautiful sunny day, sunroof open, your favorite music playing, and these gentle rolling hills as the view out your window.
Green or Brown?
Depending upon the time of year you go, the hills will either covered in green or golden brown. In spring, the hills are a verdant green of growing fields of wheat. In summer, the wheat has turned golden brown and is getting ready for harvest. This photo was taken the first week of June:
Pronounced “pah loos” the Palouse is a region in Southeastern Washington near Washington State University and roughly between Spokane and Walla Walla. The vast area is best seen from the summit at Steptoe Butte State Park, with an elevation of about 3,400 ft, it helps you get a feel for the geology. The rolling hills are like giant sand dunes, but of fine silt and dust gathered and collected into rounded hilltops. The fine soil composition of the Palouse makes it great agricultural location and the hills are covered in wheat. Working the steep inclines of the hills can be challenging, and as a result resulted in the invention of the self-leveling combine to help the equipment from tipping over.
Fine for wine too
The more southern hills of the Palouse being at approximately the same latitude as the Bordeaux region in France, are also increasingly becoming wine country. There are two designated wine regions, the Columbia Valley viticultural area and the Walla Walla viticultural area. Both areas are becoming well known for their fine wines and especially their cabernet sauvignon. The Columbia Valley Viticultural Area covers almost ⅓ of Washington State’s land mass – almost 11 million acres alone.
When you are ready for a day trip, gather up your camera and some extra batteries, load up the car with your snacks and music, and head off to the Palouse for a road trip you won’t soon forget! You will come back with a tremendous feeling of space – at the sheer size of this wide open area, a memory card full of photos ready to frame, and maybe even a bottle of local wine or two.
To enter the Steptoe Butte State Park, there is a day pass fee ($10) or you can use a Washington State Discover Annual Pass ($30).