by Allen Cox
Straddling the border of Washington and Idaho sits a scenic region of rolling farmland called The Palouse, and in the heart of The Palouse, the twin cities of Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington, offer many reasons to make it a getaway destination unlike any other. Lewiston and Clarkston sit at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers, the lifeblood of the region.
First, check in at the Holiday Inn in Clarkston, with rooms overlooking the Snake River. This comfortable hotel is in a perfect location to access everything the Lewis Clark Valley has to offer. And no visit to this valley is complete without scheduling two guided experiences: a jet boat cruise up Hells Canyon on the Snake River and a winery tour of the valley’s burgeoning wine region—reserve both before leaving home.
Spend the evening exploring the downtowns of both cities and settling on a spot to dine. Three casual fine dining restaurants known for featuring local ingredients are Meriwether’s Bistro in Lewiston, Jollymore’s in Lewiston and Sauté on 6th in Clarkston. If you are in the valley for at least three nights, you can experience all three.
Today, plan to experience the Lewis Clark Valley Wine Region with an expert guide who will do all the driving. Twisted Vine is owned and operated by Clint Holland, a born-and-raised-in-the-valley local. Holland has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about the valley’s history, geography and viticulture. The Lewis Clark Wine Region is relatively small with only 16 vineyards that grow 20 different varietals. You’ll visit a selection of the valley’s nine wineries, with opportunities to meet the winemakers, find out what inspires them and learn about the terroir of this unique wine region.
Holland will do either a predesigned tour, sometimes focused on a particular varietal, or a customized tour to include what you want to experience. Tours include a catered lunch and tastings of award-winning wines at the wineries, all accompanied by Holland’s fascinating narration about the valley, its history, its First Peoples and much more. You can book a Twisted Vine tour that lasts a half day or a full day.
If you take a half-day tour with some extra time on hour hands, book a tee-time at one of the valley’s golf courses or rent a bike and explore the 19-mile Clearwater and Snake River National Recreation Trail. If you’d prefer a less active pastime, visit the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center, located in Hells Gate State Park, to learn about Lewis and Clark’s journey. You can also visit the Nez Perce National Historical Park Visitor Center to learn about the Indigenous peoples of the Lewis Clark Valley.
Today will be an adventure. Board the jetboat at Snake Dancer Excursions or one of the other jetboat operators for a scenic tour up the Snake River into the famed Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Snake Dancer operates a 5.5-hour tour halfway up the Canyon (120 miles, round trip) or an 11-hour tour through the entire canyon (225 miles round trip). Both are breathtakingly scenic, but the longer tour explores more wilderness in the deepest sections of the gorge.
Hells Canyon—the deepest river gorge in America—was carved out by the nearly 1,100-mile-long Snake River. Spring is an ideal season to tour the canyon as rains and snow melt awaken the rugged landscape with spring blooms. Summer tours will be hot and dry with opportunities for refreshing yourself with a dip in the Snake River.
Whichever length of tour you choose, be on the lookout for wildlife, such as bighorn sheep, bear, elk and more. Human presence in Hells Canyon dates back 15,000 years, and the canyon is also home to important Nez Perce archaeological sites, including ancient petroglyphs and pictographs.
Getting to Lewis Clark Valley
United Airlines and Delta Airlines fly in and out of the Lewiston Nez Perce County Airport.
- From Seattle: 312 miles
- From Portland: 338 miles
- From Boise: 269 miles
- From Spokane: 106 miles
When You Go
- Visit Lewis Clark Valley com
- Twisted Vine Wine Tours com
- Snake Dancer Excursions com
- Lewis & Clark Discovery Center idaho.gov/parks/hells-gate/lewis-clark
- Nez Perce National Historical Park gov/nepe/planyourvisit/nez-perce-nhp-visitor-center.htm