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Best Pacific Northwest State Parks With Unique Scenery Near The Snake River

The Snake River Valley cuts through and nearby some of the most unique natural areas in the Pacific Northwest. These areas include scenic State Parks that showcase some of the most striking features of the landscape. Here are a few of the best scenic State Parks along the Snake River for your next Pacific Northwest adventure.

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Snake River State Parks: Palouse Falls State Park (Washtucna, WA)

Best For Scenic Waterfall
Featuring Washington state’s official State Waterfall, Palouse Falls State Park is a must see for anyone traveling in the Southeast Region of the state. Carved over 13,000 years ago by the Ice Age floods, the Palouse Falls is one of the last remaining waterfalls from this time period that is still active, making it a popular sight for visitors and state residents alike. You can see the falls plummet a spectacular 200 feet from three different look out spots framed by the large bowl of basalt columns that surround, before eventually heading into the Palouse River Canyon and emptying into the Snake River. Park visitors enjoy tent camping, picnicking, birding, boating, and viewing the scenery, though you should be prepared for a remote recreational experience without phone service and be able to pay with cash or check.

Palouse Falls Trip Tips
Permit Needed: Discover Pass, Season: All Year Round, Most Popular Activity: Waterfall Viewing, Best Nearby Attraction: Washtucna Heritage Museum, Local Outfitter: https://arriveoutdoors.com/

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Snake River State Parks: Hells Gate State Park (Lewiston, ID)

Best For Most Recreational Activities
Being located on a river bottom created by the Ice Age floods 15,000 years ago, featuring geological basaltic formations from the Pomona flows that occurred 14 million years ago, and once serving as the site of a Nez Perce Village, Hells Gate State Park in Idaho is steeped in history and culture. Here you can enjoy jet boat rides up the Snake River in Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest river gorge, fishing for steelheads, hiking and biking along the Clearwater and Snake River trail, and learning at the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center. Visitors also enjoy camping along the shores of the Snake River with options for Cabins, RV Campsites, and Tent Campsites. If you enjoy history, you won’t want to miss the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center in the park documenting Lewis and Clark’s journey through the area with indoor and outdoor displays and an outdoor film.

Hells Gate Trip Tips
Permit Needed: The Idaho State Parks Passport, Season: All Year Round, Most Popular Activity: Canyon Jet Boat Ride, Best Nearby Attraction: The Nez Perce National Historic Park, Local Outfitter: http://snakeriveradventures.com/

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Snake River State Parks: Malad Gorge State Park (Hagerman, ID)

Best For Most Diverse Scenery
One of the seven units located within Thousand Springs State Park, a rugged area of southern Idaho divided into unique scenic units all within a short driving distance of each other, Malad Gorge is a scenic gem hidden just a mile off the Interstate. Once at the park, you will have the opportunity to see the Malad River cut through the 250-foot Malad Gorge in an epic natural display, before it empties into the Snake River two and a half miles downstream. A short hike will bring you even more unique views of the various fingers of the gorge where crystal-clear springs have created many ponds and streams. There are also interpretive areas and guided tours where you can discover more about the area. If you’re not afraid of heights, the sturdy bridge across the canyon offers the best views of the gorge and the surrounding natural scenes and wildlife. While you’re there, be sure to check out the other six areas for even more beautiful views and things to do.

Malad Gorge Trip Tips
Permit Needed: The Idaho State Parks Passport, Season: All Year Round, Most Popular Activity: Hiking, Best Nearby Attraction: Balanced Rock Park

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Snake River State Parks: Bruneau Dunes State Park (Bruneau, ID)

Best For Camping
Boasting the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America at 470 feet high, Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho is one of the most unique parks along the Snake River. The park also has many attractions and recreational activities for you to discover including hiking trails, bluegill fishing, horseback riding, picnicking, and star gazing and tours at the Observatory. But perhaps the most popular and exciting attraction is sandboarding on the dunes, a unique activity much like snowboarding that allows you to see the dunes up close and personal. Bruneau Dunes State Park has the longest camping season in the Idaho Parks system, if you are interested in camping, but the cabins and campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Breneau Dunes Trip Tips
Permit Needed: The Idaho State Parks Passport, Season: All Year Round, Most Popular Activity: Sandboarding, Best Nearby Attraction: Silver City Historic Mining Town

Content Writer and Social Media Coordinator. I paint, listen to music, and play with my dogs a lot. When I’m not doing all that, I love to read and try new things.

Maeve Miller

Writer, River Travel Magazine

Little Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau