The Palouse is a photographer’s paradise. Each year thousands of amateur and professional photographers visit our region to capture its beauty through their lenses. On nearly everyone’s short list is a drive to the top of iconic Steptoe Butte. It’s not uncommon to see numerous vehicles pulled over at various vantage points on the way up, especially during the golden hours of late afternoon, through dusk and sunset. This is where many of the “National Geographic” sorts of images you find online and in books are captured by amateurs and professionals alike.
Some pay big bucks to one of the numerous Palouse photography tour operators for the opportunity to take part in a “Palouse photo safari.” But for most visitors, a rewarding (and free) photographic adventure begins with an easy drive to the top of Steptoe Butte. You’ll want to visit several times to capture the magnificent, ever-changing views of our Palouse landscapes from various vantage points on your way to the top. From sunrise to sunset, spring to fall, the patterns and textures are constantly changing, affording you endless photographic opportunities.
Further exploration requires no more than a few readily accessible maps and brochures. Start with a visit to the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, where you’ll find lots of helpful free maps and brochures to plan your own self-guided tour of the Palouse. (I was honored to have my photo Picture-Perfect Palouse chosen for the cover of the Photography Hot Spots” brochure several years ago. The Chamber subsequently started a Facebook page of the same name, where folks are encouraged to share their photos of the area.)
You might also want to pick up a copy of Martha Mullen‘s excellent photographic journal and guidebook, Reflections on the Road, chronicling her quest to travel every road in Whitman County.
Speaking of Whitman County, a wonderful, detailed map of county roads is available at the courthouse in Colfax from Whitman County Public Works, or you can snag the downloadable .pdf version here. If you prefer the booklet version, get it here. I like to keep a copy on my smartphone and iPad.
You’re sure to fall in love with our Palouse landscapes, barns, farms, fields, flora and fauna, wagon-wheel fences, abandoned buildings, rusted vehicles, low-flying crop dusters, and myriad other curiosities, that await your discovery just around the bend, over the hill, and all along nearly every winding Palouse road. Enjoy your time here.
Warning: whether traveling as part of a tour or going solo, please don’t trespass on private property. It’s a problem that has increased in recent years, resulting in the loss of formerly accessible spots.