Grand Coulee Overlook Hike

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 6.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 540’
Trailhead Elevation: 1,070’
Best Season: April-June and September
Driving Access: Any vehicle

Plus Points
• A walk along jeep trails leading to a dramatic, panoramic overlook of Grand Coulee
• Arguably one of the most scenic day hiking destinations in Southeast Washington
• For the first mile, the hike is over the historical
Caribou Trail wagon road
• On uplands, the route follows wet meadows and grasslands between low rock benches
• Spring wildflowers include wild iris, bush lupine, globe mallow, wooly daisy and aster
• Small groves of hawthorn trees en route provide welcome shade on hot days

Minus Points
• Basic route-finding skills are needed to follow the jeep trails leading to the rim
• Cows may be encountered in the upland meadows in very early Spring
• Rattlesnakes are a possibility throughout the summer, so be aware

Download (PDF, 629 KB): Photos of Grand Coulee Overlook Hike
Download (PDF, 632 KB): Topo Map for Grand Coulee Overlook Hike
Download (GPX, 1 KB): GPS Points for Grand Coulee Overlook Hike
Download (PDF, 733 KB): Road Map for Grand Coulee Overlook Hike

Trail Notes
Map of Grand Coulee Overlook Hike
From the trailhead parking area, walk south across the paved road to the white vehicle gate, then follow the jeep trail behind the gate, southeast through the sagebrush. At about 200 yards, look for an enormous pothole on the north side of the road, excavated by Ice Age floods. For the next 0.5 miles, the jeep road ascends the side canyon to the south, following the bed of the old wagon road up the talus slope. At 0.6 miles, the road passes through a wire gate, leaving WA State Parks land and entering BLM land.

Past this gate, the old road is difficult to follow and it's best to just walk cross-country up the coulee bottom, through grasslands between the rock walls. At about 1.0 miles, one meets a jeep
road crossing this coulee north-to-south (GPS Point 1). Turn right (south) on this road and follow it for about 200 yards, where another faint jeep trail branches to the right (west). Follow this faint track west to a second wire gate at the base of the bluffs (GPS Point 2). Go through this wire gate, leaving it as you find it, then follow the old road as it climbs south up the cliff face to the top of the rim.

Once on top, the jeep road is easy to follow as it crosses the dry desert. At 1.8 miles, the road descends steeply into a shallow coulee near a grove of hawthorn trees (GPS Point 3). For the next 1.9 miles to the overlook, the route winds and turns west and north through this shallow coulee, past dry grasslands, wet meadows and small reed marshes. The road is faint and discontinuous in this section, but if one keeps to the bottom of the coulee, following prominent cow trails, it's hard to go astray. At 2.3 miles (GPS Point 4), next to small hawthorn trees, one finds a green wet meadow encircled with wild iris in Spring.

Past this meadow, the route continues on the coulee bottom for another 0.9 miles to the rim, passing a small reed marsh and open grasslands. Just before the rim, one comes to a circular pothole lake bounded by a barbed wire fence. The route follows the fence line east of this pond to the overlook (at GPS Point 5). At the overlook, one finds spectacular, panoramic views north up Monument Coulee to Dry Falls and east up the Deep Lake Coulee. A great spot for a lunch and a hike destination. Return as you came.

Road to Trailhead
From State Route 17, about 17 miles north of Soap Lake and 4 miles south of Dry Falls Junction, turn east into Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park. Drive 1.2 miles, past the State Park Campground, before turning left (east) onto the park road to Deep Lake. Drive for 2.1 miles to the Caribou Trailhead parking area on the left (north) side of the road. The trail starts south across the Deep Lake Road, on the jeep track behind the white gate.

A Washington State Discover Pass is required to park at this trailhead. Also note that the Deep Lake Road is closed in winter, opening after April 1 each year.

Camping Options
The nearest camping area is right at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, just 2.1 miles from the trailhead. This is a large campground with flush toilets, showers, drinking water, full hookups and over 190 campsites, including spaces for tents as well as the largest RVs and travel trailers. Be prepared for strong winds. Reservations are available April 15 through September 15 and are highly recommended for the summer months. Visit the WA State Parks website or call (888) 226-7688. Camping fees are based on the type of campsite selected.

Also within the park is a private concessionaire, Sun Lakes Resort, offering campsites, rental cabins, a park store, boat rentals, propane, firewood and a laundromat. The resort can be reached at (509) 632-5291.

Agency Contact: Washington State Parks, (360) 902-8844

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local public land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 11/11/13