Post Summary: The Ultimate Eastern Washington Road Trip Itinerary. This post was sponsored by the State of Washington Tourism. All thoughts and opinions are our own.
Are you a Pacific Northwest local, looking for a new adventure but without being too far away? While trips to the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Rainier, and the North Cascades are always fun, you might be looking for a fresh, new adventure!
Oh, have we got the perfect west coast road trip for you!
May we present to you, Eastern Washington! Eastern Washington is known for its drier climate, opposite of Seattle and the lush Cascade Mountains. The Columbia Basin is the dominant geographical feature here, with millions of years of history literally steeped into every rock and canyon!
There are hidden gems around every corner in Eastern Washington. Close-knit communities, sweeping canyon views, and quiet corners are just the start of it!
By the end of this post, you’ll be able to connect all these epic destinations in one complete road trip route. With our “secret” spots scattered in between, you’ll soon have the ultimate Eastern Washington road trip itinerary.
Let’s get started!
- The Perfect Eastern Washington Road Trip Itinerary To Discover Hidden Treasures
- Day 1: Spokane to Walla Walla (via the Palouse Highway (Hwy 195) and 12)
- Day 2: Walla Walla to Yakima, Washington (Via Highway 260 and 24)
- Day 3: Yakima to Soap Lake (Via Highway 821, I-90, and Hwy 283)
- Day 4: Soap Lake to Kettle Falls (Via Highway 17, 2, and 25)
- Day 5: Kettle Falls to Spokane
- Eastern Washington Road Trip Itinerary Examples
- Eastern Washington Map
- MORE WASHINGTON ADVENTURES
What Areas Are We Covering On This Eastern Washington Road Trip?
If it’s west of the Cascade Mountains, it’s likely on our way! This particular route goes through Washington’s wine country, across farmlands near Yakima, all over the gorges and canyons of Central Washington, and so much more!
Rich, fertile farmland covers the southeast. It’s famous for growing wine and a large amount of the state and country’s produce! This is the sunniest part of the state, averaging 300 days of clear skies per year.
The northeast has dense forest areas, and it is known for the timber industry, and the Grand Coulee Dam! The Northeast area also includes the second-most populous city in Washington, Spokane. All parts of Eastern Washington have incredible geological features scattered across the area.
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the powerful force of Palouse Falls, there is so much to see! Eastern Washington will give you a new insight into the diversity of the Pacific Northwest.
In this Eastern Washington road trip itinerary, you will have a newfound appreciation for the PNW high desert…a surprising thing to discover in the PNW!
Who is this trip for?
This Eastern Washington road trip route is for everyone, and we mean that! For our trip, we took Berty’s parents (both in their 60s) and they had a wonderful time. We also see this route being awesome for families with small children. There are so many things to do in Washington State on the east side that are easy to do and kid-friendly!
You can really cater this trip to anything you’d like. There are more advanced hikes to take (like the Ancient Lakes Trail) or even epic camping spots to try. Alternatively you could enjoy the comfort of local hospitality the entire way – the choice is yours!
Great! So Where Do I Start My Eastern Washington Road Trip?
The easiest place to start your Eastern Washington road trip is in Spokane, Washington. Here, you can grab just about anything you need before you hit the road.
Unlike an Eastern Oregon road trip, there are abundant amenities and towns scattered all around the east side of Washington. Don’t worry if you forgot something in Spokane, you will most likely find in along the way!
Spokane, Washington is a big city (for Inland Northwest standards!) with a fast-growing notoriety for great restaurants, breweries, and outdoor activities. There are tons of places stock up on groceries for your road trip around Eastern Washington.
In Spokane, you can also rent recreational vehicles if you want to drive something a little beefier than a regular sedan. We recommend looking for the perfect one to rent on Outdoorsy – it’s like Airbnb but for RVs. You can choose anything from giant Motorhomes to cute airstreams, and even Westfalias!
We are also aware that many of you will start this trip from the west side of the state! For routed directs starting from Seattle, scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to find alternative itineraries!
Preparing For Your Road Trip Around Eastern Washington
Before you enter spotty cell service range, it’s important to download a few key navigation apps. Here are some tools we use on every road trip around the Pacific Northwest:
The Dyrt: The Dyrt is the largest campground finding app on the market! You can filter camping spots to find the perfect one that fits all your preferences before you even visit. Pro members get access to offline browsing, trip planners, and our favorite – BLM and national forest boundary maps. Try their pro membership free for 30-days when using our code MANDAGIES!
Google Offline Maps: For navigation without cell service, it’s VERY important to download maps offline so you can continue to find your way. Find out how to download offline maps and discover more useful road trip planner tools here!
Washington State Park Discover Pass: This Eastern Washington road trip route takes you to SEVERAL Washington State Parks. Each park entry fee ranges from $5-10, but an annual pass is just $30. We recommend getting the annual one, because it will immediately save you money on this trip!
Podcasts: In addition to the perfect road trip playlists, we like to arm ourselves with a plethora of road trip podcasts. If you want something a little more regionally specific, here’s a list of our favorite Pacific Northwest podcasts too!
DIY Car Emergency Kit: Flat tire? Car won’t start? You don’t want to be left without tools to help you deal with unexpected situations! Follow our list for making your own DIY Car Emergency Kit so you can feel more prepared.
The Perfect Eastern Washington Road Trip Itinerary To Discover Hidden Treasures
Day 1: Spokane to Walla Walla (via the Palouse Highway (Hwy 195) and 12)
Start off your Eastern Washington road trip in Spokane. This will allow you to get all the road trip essentials you will need for your journey. (Don’t forget to put together your roadside emergency tool kit too!)
The city has everything from grocery stores to REI (for any last-minute gear purchases!), and even epic campervan rentals and local hikes!
Spend some time exploring Spokane before you head off on your trip.
A great day trip from Spokane would be a hike Waikiki Springs Trail on the Little Spokane River. This 3.5-mile out and back trail loop is great any time of year. Snap a few pics of this beautiful valley to kick off your Eastern Washington road trip!
Palouse Highway Stops
Driving south from Spokane to Walla Walla, take the scenic route on the Palouse Scenic Byway. This iconic Eastern Washington scenic drive is one of the most popular places for photographers, wildlife viewers, and road trip travelers.
Along the way, make a stop at Steptoe Butte State Park. You can drive your car all the way to the top, which sits at 3,612 elevation.
The light is STUNNING at sunrise and sunset, but don’t worry if you can’t make it then! The rolling hills of the Palouse look like a quilted blanket and it’s beautiful any time of day.
Other stops along the way to Walla Walla include Patit Creek Campsite, a site along the Lewis & Clark Trail that depicts what it was like to set up camp for the night with the whole traveling party.
Near Dayton is the Jolly Green Giant on the Hill, a viewpoint and placard of the historic significance!
Things to Do in Walla Walla
While you could absolutely choose between one of several gorgeous wineries or tasting rooms in Walla Walla, we opted for a more hands-on afternoon! If you want to do the same, make a stop at Old Homestead Alpacas, and Blue Mountain Lavender Farm.
Old Homestead Alpacas is run by husband and wife team Mike & Elaine Vandiver. What started out as two alpacas for “cute lawn mowers” turned into a bustling family of 10+ cute, fluffy members. Elaine is a wonder woman that creates and hand-dyes alpaca knitwear for sale, tends a cut flower garden, and hosts meet and greets that keep her busy all year. Come stop by to feed the alpacas, learn about the dyeing process, and enjoy her wonderful flower garden!
Blue Mountain Lavender Farm is a family-owned farm run by the Grimaud family, who moved to Walla Walla from France in the year 2000. This 10-are farms hosts 25 varieties of lavender, and the most popular activity is the U-pick bundles you can take home! Come enjoy the plant sales, farm boutique, picnic sites, and abundant event classes held around the property each summer. It will be a time to remember!
Note: Walla Walla is absolutely worth another trip, but longer! Here’s our guide to the perfect Walla Walla weekend itinerary (including wineries, hikes, food stops + more!) for your next trip back!)
Where To Stay Near Walla Walla
There are abundant places to stay in Walla Walla. Because of the uniqueness of the area, we suggest finding a local B&B for a more personalized experience! This way, your host can share their local knowledge about the best spots for you and your trip!
On our Eastern Washington road trip, we stayed at The GG. The GG is a newly renovated historic home (formerly called The Green Gables), perfect for your overnight stay in Walla Walla. (Although we would have loved to stay a few more nights too!)
Owners Karrie and Connie share their love of luxurious taste throughout the Inn, displaying their Louis Vuitton collection and carefully curated, one-of-a-kind antiques in nearly every room.
They welcome all kinds of travelers, from stopover visitors (like us!) to bachelorette groups and people seeking a charming stay.
Camping Near Walla Walla: The Umatilla National Forest (Oregon) and the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness (Washington) both have abundant options for campsites. We also found a quiet campsite off Highway 12, called Lewis & Clark Trail State Park.
You might even find free ones, or get reservations at sold-out campsites using The Dyrt. Try it free for 30 days with out code MANDAGIES here!
Day 2: Walla Walla to Yakima, Washington (Via Highway 260 and 24)
Breakfast in Walla Walla
Before heading out on your Eastern Washington road trip, stop in Downtown Walla Walla for breakfast.
Carte Coffee has excellent lattes to-go, and just a few blocks away is the Colville Street Patisserie for authentic French pastries and desserts. For a heartier breakfast, consider the Maple Counter Cafe. It’s like Walla Walla’s local version of the Cracker Barrel, with BIG plates and all the familiar comfort foods of the morning.
Lyons Ferry State Park
One of the first stops of the day will be Lyons Ferry State Park (45 minutes from Walla Walla). This state park sits at the confluence of the Palouse River and the Snake River. With over 52,000 feet of shoreline in this park, it’s an excellent choice for those who love water sports.
There are plenty of shady picnic tables and clean bathrooms on site – Berty and I bookmarked this to come back with our friends ASAP!
Palouse Falls State Park
One of the most popular destinations on this Eastern Washington road trip is Palouse Falls State Park! Mornings and evenings are the best times of day to visit, as they are the most pleasant for hiking, sightseeing, and photo-taking of this majestic Washington waterfall. However, coming any time of day is still okay!
If you are coming in the shoulder season (fall and spring) don’t forget to pack a jacket. Once the sun sets or before it rises, Palouse Falls gets very chilly – bundle up!
There are many photo opportunities to be had at Palouse Falls. One of the most popular things to do (beside see the waterfall) is hike Palouse Falls Trail.
Both the Overlook trail and main trail are very short, less than a mile each. The run across the rim on the canyon, with clear fence lines that keep you away from the dangerous edges.
Please respect those boundary lines and stay on the protected side of the fence! Unfortunately people have fallen and died here, so their presence is for your protection! Berty and I never cross fences or boundary lines, not even for a photo. That doesn’t take away from its beauty though – the view is as magnificent in real life as they are in pictures!
Hanford Reach National Monument
Spend the rest of the morning driving through this quiet part of Eastern Washington on Highway 260. On the way to Yakima, you’ll be able to stop in parts of the Hanford Reach National Monument. This wildlife refuge hosts 196,000 acres of arid land. It doesn’t look like it has much on the surface, but this area is teeming with wildlife, fish, wildflowers, and rich geological history.
It’s got an interesting history. This area has been blocked off from public use during World War II, when the US’s first full-scale nuclear reactor was being built. It developed plutonium, some of which was used in the first atomic bomb. After stopping all operations in the 1990s, it then became the biggest environmental cleanup project in US history.
For great views, drive the dirt road to White Bluffs Overlook and Wahluke Ponds in the Wahluke Unit of the park.
For the night, check into the Hilton Garden Inn in Yakima. This hotel is conveniently located downtown, with walkable access to lots of good restaurants, coffee shops, and stores.
If you are visiting during the summer, you’ve got to check out Downtown Summer Nights. It’s an outdoor festival that happens weekly between Memorial Day and Labor Day, hosting live music, food vendors, and local artists! Check out the full music schedule for the 2023 summer here.
For a great dinner in Yakima, we highly recommend Thai House. We loved their signature Pad Thai (a classic) and the “butterflies” which are crab rangoons served with a yummy honey sauce.
Day 3: Yakima to Soap Lake (Via Highway 821, I-90, and Hwy 283)
On Day 3 of your Eastern Washington road trip, wake up early to beat the morning heat on Cowiche Canyon Trail. Starting at the Weikel Trailhead, take this 3-mile one-way trek for an easy morning stroll to see wildflowers and birds, especially in March and April!
There are a network of trails off the main trail, so spend some time wandering around for the full experience. This is also a multiple use trail, which means you’ll likely see horses, bicycles, dogs, and more!
After your morning hike, come back into town and have breakfast at North Town Coffee House, or grab a coffee and bagel to go at Doolie’s Kitchen. You’ll want to fuel up before today’s adventures begin!
To learn more about the history and geography of the area, forgo I-82 North and take the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway instead. This winding route follows the Yakima River between Yakima and Ellensburg. It’s one of the most scenic routes in Washington state!
It’s only ~30 miles long (approx a 1-hour drive), but this route is packed with recreation spots, boat launches, and tons of places to go fishing. On a hot summer day, don’t be surprised if you find groups of people floating down the river!
I-90 Stops Along The Way
Once you reach I-90 on your way north, there are a few more stops to explore, particularly the Ginko Petrified Forest and the Wild Horse Monument. Most Spokane to Seattle drivers are familiar with these spots, but probably have never stopped to check them out!
The Ginko Petrified Forest has a really cool visitors center, interpretive walk, and incredible views of the river. Come with water and a hat though, because there is very little shade here!
This is also true with the Wild Horse Monument. On the east side of the river, follow signs for a pull-off from the highway to a parking lot. The trail to the top is short but steep, so watch your step! Once you reach the tallest point, you can see pretty far – across the river, through the Gorge, and more. It’s gorgeous up there!
Hot Tip: Nearby is free camping at Frenchman Coulee’s “The Feathers.” It’s a climbers camp, which means there are no formal sites and no amenities. Come prepared with everything you need, and pack in/pack out!
Soap Lake Natural Spa and Resort
For the evening, drive on to Soap Lake and stay overnight at the Soap Lake Resort. This place is commonly frequented by couples on a romantic Washington getaway, especially because of their spa amenities.
In each room, guests have an option of filling their tub with water straight from the lake, which is known to have healing properties. The indigenous communities in the area regard this lake as sacred, and it’s still used today for relieving ailments for things like arthritis, and poor circulation.
The resort has a private beach for guests, water toys for rent, and several spa amenities. You can use their saunas inside, hot tubs outside, or simply enjoy your rooms!
Day 4: Soap Lake to Kettle Falls (Via Highway 17, 2, and 25)
On your way out of Soap Lake, wake up early to catch a sunrise at Dry Falls State Park! This is one of the most stunning areas of Eastern Washington to capture photos and the soft light will really make it shine. You are most likely to have these spots all to yourself at this morning time too!
Dry Falls State Park is the location of an extinct waterfall, which occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, 15,000-18,000 years ago. It carved out the Columbia basin and canyon as we see it today, leaving behind a spectacular gorge for our viewing. 🙂
Lake Lenore Caves
If you want another option for sunrise, head over to Lake Lenore Caves. The park opens at dawn and the trail is an easy hike up (~200 feet) to a series of caves on the side of the ridge.
The Lake Lenore Caves have been used by indigenous communities for centuries, and they are now available for our exploration and enjoyment too. This is a great hike for families, as there are a network of trails and caves to check out, all close to one another.
Grand Coulee Dam
Continuing on your way north, stop by the town of Grand Coulee to see the magnificent Grand Coulee Dam. This dam has a lot of historical significance, bringing revenue, jobs, and prosperity to the area, while also leaving devastation and relocation of whole communities for others.
The free interactive museum tells the whole story. Inside, you’ll learn about dam building, affected communities, see historic pictures, and find cool artifacts! They also have 45-minute free films to watch, if you come in time to see one of these!
If you decide to stay until it’s dark, you can stay to watch the free Grand Coulee Dam Laser Light Show. It runs roughly between Memorial Day and Labor Day, starting when it gets dark, at 9:30pm. There is a large parking lot and cement bleachers for anyone and everyone to come and enjoy the show.
Continuing north on your drive to Kettle Falls, take the scenic route along the edge of Lake Roosevelt on Highway 25. Notable stops include Fort Spokane and St. Paul’s Mission. Both places will give you a peek into what early settler life was like, and how the area was used (in good and bad ways) to cooperate with the local indigenous communities.
If you decide to camp along the way, Fort Spokane Campground, Hunters Campground, and Kettle Falls Campground are all really great options. However, there are MANY campsites along the route (including boat-in locations!). We find all of our favorite paid and free campsites on an app called The Dyrt!
The next major stop on your Eastern Washington road trip will be Kettle Falls. Kettle Falls is a small community (only about 1,000 residents) and it’s known for recreation, fishing, and camping. We also found really great thrift shops and antique stores here! Our favorite was the Old Apple Warehouse. It’s a vintage store, plant shop, cafe and more all one convenient place!
Columbia Point Resort
For an overnight stay in Kettle Falls, book a room at Columbia Point Resort. Located conveniently on the edge of town, the resort has close proximity to both amenities like gas, but also access to trails and day use recreation sites.
Overnight guests can use the fire pits, a barbecue, lawn games, and more around the property. The caretakers, Mark and Amanda, even go the extra mile to make guests feel welcome. Occasionally they will do campground cookouts for everyone on-site, and in the summer they have fresh eggs and garden produce for people to enjoy.
Keep a lookout for future expansion too, they are adding glamping tents and slowly renovating all the rooms for a modern, PNW touch!
Day 5: Kettle Falls to Spokane
For breakfast, head over to Sandy’s for classic diner-style pancakes and eggs. In town, Little Gallea and Crandell’s Coffee in the OAW are also great options.
As you pack up, you have a few options for directions to go on your road trip in Eastern Washington:
- Drive through the towns of Colville, Chewelah, and Clayton and take Highway 395 South to Spokane. This brings you through cute towns, with delicious mom & pop shops. The Bread Box in Chewelah and Masters Brewhouse in Deer Park are great choices.
- Drive east on Highway 20 to Metaline Falls. This way, you can visit the Boundary Dam, and Crawford State Park’s Gardner Cave.
For us, we chose to take a tour of the Gardner Cave near Metaline Falls. Tours are free, but advanced reservation online is required here. The tour runs between May 15th – September 15th and is roughly 1-hour long.
The Gardner Cave is quite a large cave, with stunning examples of stalactites and stalagmites, historic markings, and ever-changing landscapes. Our guide Sandy was super informative and fun to listen to. The whole family will enjoy a tour or Gardner Cave!
On your way south to Spokane, drive the North Pend Oreille Scenic Byway home. The route kind of reminded us of Highway 20 through the North Cascades! Stops like Eagles Nest Viewpoint, Sweet Creek Falls, Box Canyon Viewpoint, and Metaline Waterfront Park are all great places to pull over and snap a photo.
Eastern Washington Road Trip Itinerary Examples
Are you planning your epic route but don’t have time to spend exactly 5 days in Eastern Washington? Below, we’re sharing three example itineraries for a modified Eastern Washington road trip, and how you can reduce or extend your time around the Columbia Basin.
Want the original route as a download? Sign up to our email list below and have a printable Washington road trip planner sent right to your inbox!
One Week Eastern Washington Road Trip (Longer, more stops)
You can see a lot of Eastern Washington in one week! This route is an even longer itinerary, with plenty of great stops along the way.
- Day 1: Spokane to Walla Walla
- Day 2: Walla Walla to the Tri Cities
- Day 3: Tri Cities to Yakima
- Day 4: Yakima to Soap Lake/Grand Coulee
- Day 5: Grand Coulee to Lake Roosevelt
- Day 6: Lake Roosevelt to Kettle Falls
- Day 7: Kettle Falls to Spokane
Eastern Washington Road Trip in 3 Days
An Eastern Washington road trip in 3 days will introduce you to the highlights of the east sides’s vast and diverse landscape! From the Palouse Highway to the Gorge, this route will bring you to some of the best Washington photo locations.
- Day 1: Spokane to Tri Cities (Palouse Falls, Palouse Highway)
- Day 2: Tri-Cities to Grand Coulee (Vantage Area, Grand Coulee Dam)
- Day 3: Grand Coulee to Spokane (Steamboat Rock, Lake Roosevelt, Fort Spokane)
Eastern Washington Map
Before you embark on your journey, save this map of Eastern Washington on your phone!
See the map here.
Frequently Asked Questions About An Eastern Washington Road Trip Itinerary
Where do I stay on my Eastern Washington Road Trip?
Depending on how you like to travel, there are several accommodation options to choose from. Unlike Eastern Oregon, Eastern Washington actually has quite a few small towns, with tons of cute places to stay. It’s not necessary to camp the whole way, but you can if you want to.
Throughout the post, we recommend both hotels and campsites to let you choose the best option for you!
How Do I Get Around On An Eastern Washington Road Trip?
Depending on the type of road trip you are hoping to experience, there are a few options for modes of transportation to consider. Here are our suggestions for your Eastern Oregon road trip:
Rental Cars: Rental cars are a great choice if you want to sleep mainly at resorts, hotels, or Airbnbs. They are small and compact and get great gas mileage to cover long expansive Washington scenic byways without breaking the bank.
Camper Vans or RVs: Do you picture yourself driving around Washington in a vintage VW van or fully-converted sprinter van? You CAN get a taste of that lusted-after van life by renting a recreational vehicle through Outdoorsy. Think of it like Airbnb but for cars – you get to borrow someone’s cool rig during your Washington road trip, fully insured and everything! Browse Washington RVs and van rentals here!
Have you ever experienced an Eastern Washington road trip? What Eastern Washington itinerary is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!