Among the many little towns along the route from Walla Walla to Spokane, Dayton is the prettiest. Its old-fashioned, small-town American feel is as genuine as it gets. Dayton was one of the most important towns in this region and is still the county seat of Columbia County. Its 1887 Columbia County Courthouse is the oldest county courthouse still in use in the state. It's open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. The Dayton Historic Depot, 222 E. Commercial Street (tel. 509/382-2026; www.daytonhistoricdepot.org), is the oldest railway depot in the state (built 1881). From May through October, the depot is open for tours Tuesday to Thursday from 11am to 5pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 5pm; November to April, it's open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 4pm. Admission is by $3 suggested donation. All in all, Dayton has nearly 120 buildings on the National Historic Register. On the second Sunday in October, there is a historic homes tour. In nearby Waitsburg, where there are more Victorian homes, you can also tour the 1883 Bruce Memorial Museum, 318 Main St. (tel. 509/337-6157), open June through September, Friday and Saturday from 1 to 4pm. It is filled with Victorian-era furnishings.
If you didn't get enough wine in Walla Walla, you can sample some more at the Patit Creek Cellars, 507 E. Main St., Dayton (tel. 509/382-1357; www.patitcreekcellars.com). This winery also has a tasting room in Walla Walla at 4 S. Fourth St. (tel. 509/522-4684).
About 44 miles northwest of Dayton, you'll find Palouse Falls State Park (tel. 360/902-8844; www.parks.wa.gov). The spectacular falls here cascade 198 feet into a rock-walled canyon. To reach the falls, drive north on U.S. 12 and then west on Wash. 261. South of town 21 miles, you'll find Ski Bluewood (tel. 509/382-4725; www.bluewood.com), a small ski area in the Blue Mountains.
Some 12 1/2 miles north of Colfax, Kamiak Butte County Park provides the ideal vantage point for surveying the vast Palouse. To reach this park, take Wash. 272 east 5 miles to a right turn onto Clear Creek Road. Continue another 7 miles and turn right on Fugate Road. Nearby, Steptoe Butte State Park (tel. 360/902-8844; www.parks.wa.gov) also has good views of the surrounding landscape. To reach this park, drive 6 miles north from Colfax on U.S. 195 and turn east on Scholz Road.
A trip to the Palouse can also include an exploration of Hell's Canyon, which was carved by the Snake River and is the deepest gorge in North America. Beamer's Hells Canyon Tours (tel. 800/522-6966 or 509/758-4800; www.hellscanyontours.com), which operates out of Clarkston, Washington, offers a variety of day and overnight jet-boat trips up the Snake River. Prices range from $69 for a half-day tour to $119 for a full-day tour. There are also brunch cruises and wine-tasting cruises.
Go, Team, Go! -- In Colfax you can take a look at the Codger Pole, the largest chain-saw sculpture in the world. The pole depicts the members of two football teams that got together in 1988 to replay their 1938 game. You'll find the Codger Pole on John Crawford Boulevard just off Main Street.