The Palouse is the most serene and pastoral of the seven wonders of Washington State. It is a region in south eastern Washington characterized by gentle rolling hills covered with wheat fields. The hills were formed over tens of thousands of years from wind blown dust and silt, called “loess”, from dry regions to the south west. Seen from the summit of 3,612 foot high Steptoe Butte, they look like giant sand dunes because they were formed in much the same way. In the spring they are lush shades of green when the wheat and barley are young, and in the summer they are dry shades of brown when the crops are ready for harvest. The Palouse hills are not only a landscape unique in the world, but they are beautiful to behold, making them one of my favorite areas to photograph and enjoy in Washington State.
Here are my Top 25 hot spots to photograph in the Palouse. They include rolling hills, barns, lone trees, abandoned farmhouses, windmills and even an awesome waterfall. Any person visiting the area for the first time will find this list useful to get a flavor of what this area can offer.
#25: Barn Group in Fairbanks
Fairbanks is one of the smaller farming towns in the northeast corner of the Palouse and close to the Idaho border. While driving, we came across a small group of 3 barns. The image below is a close up of one of the barns.
#24: Rosalia Flag Barn
When you are driving north from Colfax towards Rosalia on US 195, you will see a beautiful barn with a US flag hanging on one of its sides. I named it the Rosalia Flag Barn. As there were no clouds in the sky on the day I was there, I ended up using the nearby tree to frame the barn.
#23: Colfax Red Barn
Between Pullman and Colfax there are a number of farms that grow winter wheat. A number of these farms have a nice barn and some of those are painted red or crimson red. This is one of my favorite barns in the area which is just off of US 195.
#22: Oakesdale Abandoned Farmhouse
The town of Oakesdale is a part of the Palouse Scenic Byway located about 25 miles north of Pullman on WA Highway 27. It is one of the oldest communities in the state and has several homes and buildings on the National Historical Register. It is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills of wheat, peas, and lentils. Just outside the town on the west side off of Trestle Creek Road is a beautiful abandoned farmhouse. As the area is relatively free of light pollution, it is also a good foreground element to photograph the Milky Way.
#21: Abandoned Granary in Pullman
About 4 miles south of Pullman on US 195 is a cool looking abandoned granary that is good to photograph in the afternoon. There is a small pullout along the side of the road to park one car. I used a super wide angle lens to shoot the image below. Be aware of the traffic while shooting the granary. As the structure can collapse anytime, DO NOT go inside it.
#20: Driving along WA State Highway 23
Along WA Highway 23 between the towns of Steptoe and Ewan are some beautiful rolling hills with lone trees and barns. Although I prefer to drive in the afternoon, you should be able to capture nice images in the mornings as well.
#19: Rolling Hills along WA State Route 26 around Dusty
Between the town of Dusty and Colfax are some nice rolling hills worth photographing. Again, be aware of the traffic while shooting. Look for a pullout to safely park your car.
#18: 2 Barns on Eid Road south of Moscow
When you drive south out of Moscow, ID on US 95, take a left on Eid Road and you will see two very photogenic barns. Afternoons are good if you want to highlight their colors. It is not too difficult to park the car along the side of the road.
#17: Red Barn along US 195 in Colton
Between Pullman and Uniontown along US 195 is a beautiful red barn which is partly hidden from the road. To capture it, you need to park the car at the front of the driveway leading to the farmhouse located next to the barn. Mornings are good to photograph this barn.
#16: Abandoned Shack and an antique truck in Albion
Along US 195 between Colfax and Pullman is an awesome abandoned shack. The family that owns the land also has an antique truck nearby worth photographing.
#15: Endicott Barn
Endicott is another farming town in the Palouse with numerous photography hot spots. Along Union Flat Creek Road between Endicott and Dusty there is a beautiful white barn. You will need a long telephoto lens to shoot from the road. Mornings are generally better to photograph but we were there in the afternoon during a thunderstorm.
#14: An Abandoned Farmhouse in Endicott
Near the white barn on Union Flat Creek Road on the northern side of the road is an abandoned farmhouse that you can photograph from a number of angles.
#13: Rolling Hills along WA State Route 194
Along WA State Route 194 between US 195 in Pullman and Almota Road intersection are awesome rolling hills with numerous photo ops. You can easily spend half a day exploring this area. This year there are numerous canola fields with beautiful yellow flowers (June 2020).
#12: Latah Life Liberty Barn
In the small town of Latah on the northeast of the Palouse is a beautiful barn with the words “In God We Trust Life Liberty” and an American flag painted on it. When we were two weeks ago (June 2020), there were three antique automobiles parked in front. We were there in the morning. As there are other structures as well as a fence around it, you have limited options to photograph. Here are 2 images I captured.
#11: Lone Tree on May Road (Steptoe)
Lone trees in the Palouse are fun to photograph. There are three of them around the Steptoe butte that look similar. You can photograph the one on May Road either in the morning or in the afternoon.
#10: Lone Tree on J W Baylor Road (Garfield)
Compared to the lone tree on May Road, you can get closer to the one on J W Baylor Road off of Hume Road on the eastern side of Steptoe Butte. I used a wide angle lens to capture the image below. This is a good spot to photograph either in the morning or late afternoon.
#9: Lone Tree on Tennessee Flat Road (Steptoe)
The lone tree on Tennessee Flat Road off of US 195 is my favorite in the area. Afternoons are good time to photograph it. There is a small creek that goes next to it which you can use as a leading line.
#8: Colfax Barn
The Barn built in 1909 is an awesome barn to photograph in the morning. I just learned that it was built by our family doctor’s grandfather. I shot this image using a long telephoto lens from a pullout.
#7: “Leonard Barn” in Pullman
Located in the university town of Pullman, the Leonard Barn, frequently referred to as the “round barn” was built by Thomas Andrew Leonard in 1917. Constructed prior to the invention of electricity, the barn features many windows for light to extend the workday. This has been considered by many as the most photographed barn in the Western United States and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. It was restored in 2001.
#6: Dahmen Barn in Uniontown
Rank Wolf, whose family still farms in Uniontown, built the barn in 1935 for Jack Dahmen and his family who used it for a commercial dairy operation until 1953 when it was purchased by his nephew Steve Dahmen and wife Junette. Steve has made a public display of his artistic skills by building the surrounding wheel fence over a 30 year period. It all started with his building a gate of rake tines, and after friends began contributing wheels, the fence quickly grew. Says Junette Dahmen in a history of the wheel fence, “Every wheel has a story from the smallest to the biggest. There are wheels from every kind of machine, an antique baby buggy, threshing machines, push-binder wheels, sidewinder or delivery rakes, old hay rakes and gears of every kind, large and small.” Today the fence exhibits over 1000 wheels. Currently a number of art & craft workshops are conducted in the barn.
Mornings are good to photograph this beautiful place. My recommendation is for you to shoot the nearby “Palouse Country Barn” at sunrise and then drop in to shoot here.
#5: Abandoned “Weber” Farmhouse
The abandoned “Weber” homestead is a very popular spot for landscape as well as for Milky Way photography. It is a must-stop for all the photo tours that show up in June and August. You can shoot here in the mornings, afternoons and at night (for Milky Way photo shoot). This year, the farmer who owns the land has planted canola.
#4: Palouse “Knot” Barn in Colfax
Built in 1919 as a dairy farm, this is my favorite barn in Colfax. It has been beautifully restored and currently hosts events from May through October. Mornings are great to photograph the barn. An old yellow-orange trunk on the side of the barn is a huge plus.
#3: “Palouse Country Barn” of Uniontown
Located just outside the town of Uniontown on US 195 lies the “Palouse Country Barn” which I consider to be the most beautiful and photogenic barn in the Palouse. There are no nearby distractions and the rolling hills behind make it a photographer’s delight. Next to Steptoe Butte, this is the best spot for me to photograph at sunrise.
From the same spot where the above image was captured, if you turned around 180 degrees, on the other side of US 195, you can photograph a small grey shed. You can use the telephone poles as the leading line.
#2: Palouse Falls
The Palouse Falls lie on the Palouse river, about 4 miles upstream from the confluence with the Snake river near Washtucna. The falls are 198 ft in height. The falls consist of an upper fall with a drop around 20 ft, which lies 1,000 ft north-northwest of the main drop, and a lower fall, with a drop of 198 ft. It is the official state waterfall of Washington State.
You can shoot the falls with a wide angle lens. You can create good images year round at sunrise, afternoon, sunset and the Milky Way between March and October.
#1 View of the Palouse Landscape from Steptoe Butte
Steptoe Butte is a quartzite island jutting out of the silty loess of the Palouse hills. The 3,612-foot butte is preserved as Steptoe Butte State Park, a publicly owned 150-acre recreation area located 12 miles north of Colfax. The rock that forms the butte is over 400 million years old, in contrast with the 15–7 million year old Columbia River Basalts that underlie the rest of the Palouse.
This is an awesome spot to photograph the Palouse landscape at sunrise and as well as at sunset. You will need a medium telephoto lens to capture the rolling hills. During spring time, you can use a wide angle lens to photograph wild flowers on its slopes.
I will most probably update this list as as I continue to explore this beautiful area. Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.