Wonders of Eastern Washington: 13 Fun, Educational Places

Giant dam, peach orchard, dry falls, soap lake, stone forest, rolling hills… Wonders of Eastern Washington: thrilling, budget friendly.

For a long time, we were sure there was nothing special “behind the mountains” until we became determined to discover this part of the state and … have found 13 (!) “Wonders of Eastern Washington”, fun and educational places for the entire family.

Eastern Washington is a region located East of the Cascade Mountains. The main differences between East and West – climate and nature. While West is wet, mild, lush, and green, East has four distinct seasons and is mostly dry and desert-looking.

1. Wonders of Eastern Washington. The US wonder of engineering

Grand Coulee Dam is the largest hydroelectric project in the United States. Harnessing Columbia River, Grand Coulee irrigates 600,000 acres of farmland and can supply 4 million households with electricity annually.

Grand Coulee Dam. You could watch laser show and water discharge from this spot
Grand Coulee Dam. You could watch a laser show and water discharge from this spot

On the photo below – guided tour (before covid-19). One hour-long, it is very informative, lots to see and learn. A great visitor center is nearby with a movie about Theodor Roosevelt and his vision of getting out of the Great Depression.

Grand Coulee Dam, guided tour
Grand Coulee Dam, on the guided tour

2. Lake Chelan, beloved vacation spot

Lake Chelan is my favorite. The water reminds me of the Mideteranian Sea: turquoise, crystal clear, and with a nice bottom and… sometimes warm :). No surprise – Lake Chelan is glacier-fed.

Chelan is one of the most popular camping spots, surrounded by endless apple orchards, to be exact 58% of all apple trees grown in the US.

Lake Chelan, Washington
Lake Chelan beach, Washington

Top camping spots are at the edge of the Lake Chelan, and usually booked 9 months before the season starts:

Lake Chelan camping
Lake Chelan camping, reservations and prices here

3. Steptoe butte or where to see rolling hills

The secret is… it isn’t the only butte in Washington, but the most popular and picturesque:

View from the Steptoe Butte, Washington
View from the Steptoe Butte, Washington

Steptoe Butte is a 150-acre State Park and natural monument. To get to the top, you are going by a winding narrow lane until you reach a 3612-foot-tall butte with swiping views over the endless farmland below. I would love to see Steptoe Butte in the winter, covered by a blanket of snow. 🙂

4. Wonders of Eastern Washington: amazing geology lesson at Dry Falls

Raging Ice Age floodwaters carved spectacular features throughout eastern Washington, creating unique landscapes. The sheer cliff in the picture below was once the World’s Greatest Flood and Waterfall.

Here you see only the western portion of this remarkable Ice Age flood feature. With the end of the last Ice Age, floodwaters were no longer swept through Grand Coulee, leaving the waterfall high and dry:

Dry Falls is an amazing Ice Age evidence for landscape detective
Dry Falls is an amazing Ice Age evidence for landscape detectives

Dry Falls has its special energy. It is hard to describe, but the air is filled with it. Highly recommend!

Pictures of “Then ” and “Now”:

Dry Falls, Washington
Dry Falls, Washington

5. The most delicious peaches in Washington: Stutzman Ranch

Eastern Washington has something in common with Eastern Europe (where we came from): mouthwatering fruits. The best peaches we ever tried in the US were from WA, Stutzman Ranch:

Pure goodness for 80c per pound
Pure goodness for 80c per pound

Stutzman Ranch also grows and sells cherries, apples, pears, grapes, and pluots. Before covid-19 you could also use a picnic area, and watch the farm animals. We would love to return there!

6. Wonders of Eastern Washington: Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge is located at the edge of Eastern/Western Washington and is worth visiting with a family during any time of the year. Gorge famous for its waterfalls, more than 90, to be exact. I love them for accessibility: most of them require no hiking at all. We could easily visit them during pregnancy, with a baby and 2 y.o.

Pay attention, waterfalls located on the Oregon side of the river. The Washington side has mostly scenic routes and great lookout points:

Cape Horn lookout, Columbia River Gorge, Washington

In the picture below – one of the countless and unique waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge is easy to explore without any effort:

Starvation Creek Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Starvation Creek Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

7. Winthrop, a tiny cowboy-themed town

Missing good Old West? Cowboys? Texas? Head to Winthrop – a small town located on the East side of the North Cascades. Preserved to look like 1850′ Wild West, Winthrop is great to walk down the main street past shops with fake fronts and wooden boardwalks:

Winthrop in summer
Winthrop in summer

Winthrop is also known for its large network of cross-country ski trails during winter.

8. Wonders of Eastern Washington: Spokane, underrated “Waterfall City”

Sometimes called “Seattle’s little sister”, Spokane is an overlooked urban destination. It is the second-largest city in Washington (the largest in Eastern Washington) and is located near the state border with Idaho.

Spokane's Riverfront Park
Wonders Of Eastern Washington: site of the 1974 World’s Fair, Spokane’s Riverfront Park

Spokane has multiple waterfalls right in the middle of the city! And that’s not all: there are many more cool spots for the city of 200k residents. We made a separate post about it.

One of the multiple Spokane Falls

9. Ginkgo Petrified Forest

Ginkgo Petrified Forest interpretive center is quite small, but has one of the most diverse petrified wood collections in the US – 30 kinds, all near 15 million years old!

Ginkgo Petrified Forest
Ginkgo Petrified Forest

Ginkgo Petrified Forest is worth visiting even after closing time. Kids (and us) would be fascinated by how something that appears to be a stone is a petrified tree! Oak, maple, birch, ginkgo, fir, and many many other species.

The park was named “Ginkgo” because the ginkgo tree is a rare species to find among petrified wood.

Cold like a stone and looks like a tree, Ginkgo Petrified forest
Wonders Of Eastern Washington: cold like a stone and looks like a tree. Ginkgo Petrified forest

10. Wild Horse Wind Farm

The Wild Horse Wind Farm is a unique chance for older kids and adults to know more about renewable energy, see a huge wind turbine close up, and actually go inside!

We missed our chance twice, as it was too windy to go on a tour for us (it’s also colder on the ridge). When covid-19 will finally end we will come back for sure!

Wild Horse Wind Farm, Washington
On the Wild Horse Wind Farm, Washington

11. Wonders Of Eastern Washington: Soap Lake. 23 minerals and healing mud

Soap Lake looks like a typical lake but feels like liquid soap! Worth stopping by just to try it yourself. In the last century, Soap Lake was well known all across the country.

Containing 23 minerals and healing mud, the lake attracted soldiers and veterans who used its healing power. Although the mineral content of the lake has declined, Soap Lake still has the highest diverse mineral content in the world.

Wonders Of Eastern Washington: Soap Lake
Wonders Of Eastern Washington: Soap Lake

12. Palouse Falls

Nearly 200 feet tall, Palouse Falls is surrounded by rough basalt cliffs. It reminds of the last Ice Age glacial floods swept across Eastern Washington. We like it for the scenery: it is spectacular and easy to enjoy. All you need is to park a car and walk a couple of minutes to the overviewing platform!

In 2014 Palouse Falls was named “The official waterfall of Washington”.

Palouse Falls, Washington
Palouse Falls, Washington

Plan your visit to Palouse Falls during sunset for the best photo opportunity.

13. A “Quail Camping” aka Alta Lake

Alta Lake is good for camping, especially if you love the heat. The lake has a pleasant sandy bottom, and the water is warm, shallow, and clean (July 2020). The beach is rather narrow so it’s hard to keep distance during covid-19. But overall – great for coming with a family:

Wonders of Eastern Washington: Alta Lake camping
Wonders of Eastern Washington: Alta Lake camping

I love bird watching and couldn’t resist mentioning Alta Lake in Eastern Washington. California quails are funny, plump, and very fast birds, we had a lot of joy watching them during camping at Alta Lake:

Where did we stay while visiting Eastern Washington

During our 5 days trip, we were staying in the hotels booked through Usually, we prefer Airbnb, but only if we stay more than night.

If you love books and movies as much as we do…

You might like to watch “At Middleton” (2013), a romance, comedy shot at multiple Eastern Washington locations. Starring Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga. IMDb 6.5., 1h. 39min.

“Day Hiking Eastern Washington” is good for nature and hiking lovers. The book covers 125 hikes and 1% from every sale are being donated to the trails.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is a teen fiction about an Indian boy from Spokane rez who is not giving up to be what he wants to be.

I finally got this book and can’t tell how much I like it! Hilarious, sad, enlightening just a few words about it. No wonder it won so many awards… 😀 And the author is Spokane Indian :).

Thanks for reading! I was glad to share with you the fun and educational wonders of Eastern Washington :). All the mentioned places on My Maps.

Read next:

Summer in Washington: What is it Like. Winter in WA. WA water top activities and where to find them. YMCA family camp at Orcas Island, WA

Spokane: Underrated Urban Destination

10 places you can’t miss on the way from Seattle to Yellowstone

Vancouver, Canada: most interesting places to visit with a family

By Mrs. Grazy Goat

I am Ira, the author behind Grazy Goat. My husband and I run this blog and share our experiences about thrilling places and cultures. Our son Artem recently joined us and helps with editing.

We are very happy to have YOU here 😻

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