Fishing, hiking, swimming, birding—Eastern Washington has it all
The secret’s out. Moses Lake and Grant County are go-to destinations for outdoor recreation and year-round family fun.
Located in eastern Washington’s Columbia Basin, the city of Moses Lake and Grant County boast more than 140 lakes and reservoirs combined, plus a landscape that feels like another world. This land of natural wonders is a three-hour drive from Seattle or about 90 minutes from Spokane, making it an ideal getaway for Northwest travelers.
Wondering where to begin? Read on for inspiration.
Explore Moses Lake and Grant County
1. Capture majestic views at Dry Falls
One of the most stunning natural wonders in the country, Dry Falls is a 3.5-mile-wide chasm of basalt rock that drops about 400 feet. Created during the Ice Age, this waterfall has been high —and dry — for thousands of years. Bring your camera to capture the stunning views from an outlook where you can venture out over the chasm. You won’t see anything else like it in the world.
Tip: Did you know you can save on hotels with your AAA membership? Find member deals here.
2. Drop a line. Go fishing!
Did you know many Moses Lake and Grant County lakes are open for fishing throughout the year? The region is an angler’s dream. Depending on the time of year, you can fish for walleye, trout, bass, perch, crappie, catfish, and more. Be sure to plan ahead, locate a boat launch, and check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife license requirements and catch limits.
Fishing with Kids: Kids ages 14 and under fish for free in Washington State. They don’t need a fishing license. However, they do need catch record card for certain species. The card is also free. Youth aged 15 must have an annual freshwater/saltwater combo pass, which is $8.05 during the 2022-2023 season.
Tip: Adults ages 70 and up enjoy a discount on fishing licenses in Washington State. For example, the 2022-2023 combo is $19.05 if you’ve celebrated your 70th trip (or more) around the sun.
3. Take a free tour of the Grand Coulee Dam and catch the light show
The drive to the Grand Coulee Dam at sunset is spectacular. If you’re in the area for just a day or two, include a sunset drive to the dam in your plans.
Curious about the dam, which produces the largest amount of hydropower in the country? A free tour is a must.
Planning your visit: While the dam operates year-round, tours are only available from late May through the end of October. Stay a little later and see the “One River, Many Voices” free outdoor laser light show, which is projected onto the dam. Start times vary depending on the time of year. You can catch the show at 10 p.m. from late May through July 31; at 9:30 p.m. in August; and at 8:30 pm. in September.
4. Surf ‘n Slide in the Sun
Moses Lake is home to a fantastic water park called Surf ‘n Slide. The park and aquatic center, operated by the City of Moses Lake, has activities for swimmers of all ages and abilities. It’s open from the Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
5. Go swimming and waterskiing at Potholes State Park
Summer is a glorious season in Moses Lake and Grant County, and there’s no better time to go swimming and waterskiing at a state park. One local favorite is Potholes State Park.
But don’t let the name “Potholes” fool you. Its name wasn’t inspired by the roads but by geology.
Potholes State Park features hundreds of tiny islands surrounded by “pothole” lakes within the O’Sullivan Reservoir. Water skiers can avoid the potholes by heading to deeper water on the other side of the park.
Tip: If you’re planning on putting your own boat in the water, review your boat insurance, and check to make sure you have the correct boat launch permit before heading out.
6. Have a “Big Year”
Sandhill cranes, raptors, egrets, lark sparrows, owls, herons, sandpipers, stilts, plovers and curlews: These are just a few of the beautiful birds you can spot (and photograph) around Moses Lake and Grant County. Whether you’re new to birdwatching or an experienced birder, this region will not disappoint. During the fall, more than 100,000 birds visit the area. In addition, the nearby Columbia National Wildlife Refuge boasts more than 200 species. It’s a must for all birders.
What’s a Big Year? It’s a personal challenge to spot (or hear) as many different birds as possible in one year.
7. Go on a prehistoric hike into Lake Lenore Caves
Take a step back in time as you hike to Lake Lenore Caves. You’ll have a chance to explore 12,000 years of history along the short trail. Located within the Lake Lenore State Park Heritage Site, the caves were created during the Great Missoula flood at the end of the last Ice Age. Take time exploring each of the seven caves, which are sacred ground for Native Americans. And, if it happens to rain during your visit, the smell of sage is awesome.
Tip: It’s very hot in summer and there is no shade on the trail. Consider visiting in the early morning. Remember to wear a hat, bring plenty of water, and wear hiking shoes or boots.
8. Send shivers down your spine: road trip to a Washington ghost town.
Love a good ghost story? Visit the ghost town of Govan in nearby Lincoln County. Once home to more than 100 people, it’s now a desolate relic of another time. Plan a daytime visit to the old schoolhouse and other abandoned structures. Or, visit in the evening for an eerie tour of one of Washington’s most notorious ghost towns.
9. Take a dip at Steamboat Rock State Park
With 50,000 feet of freshwater shoreline, Steamboat Rock State Park is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day. And thanks to its unique geological features, Steamboat Rock also draws visitors and photographers year-round. The 800-foot-tall basaltic rock has a surface area of close to 600 acres. With a shape that resembles a steamboat, this is one Instagram-worthy rock.
Tip: Get ready for your road trip with a AAA Membership. Get peace-of-mind on the road plus member discounts on hotels, rental cars, movie tickets and more.
10. Go on a mountain biking adventure
Moses Hole, Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, Beezley Hills Preserve, Sand Spit and the Odessa Lake Trail are just a sampling of local mountain biking trails. Whether you’re searching for elevation gain or a short ride, you’ll find many great options in Moses Lake and throughout Grant County.
After your adventures, discover Grant County’s restaurants and bakeries
After exploring Moses Lake and Grant County, plan to recharge your batteries at one of the area’s locally-owned restaurants. Here are a handful of suggestions to get you stared. If you have a local favorite, please let us know!
- Plan a pit shop in Soap Lake. Check out the treats at Cloudview Kitchen bakery and café. If you’re in the mood for pizza and salad, visit La cucina di Sophia, which offers Italian-Brazilian fusion cooking.
- Make a day of it in Ephrata. Find a great book at The Bookery bookstore and café. Then, combine a love of movies and pizza at Lee Theater, which serves your pizza directly to your theater seat.
- During your time in Moses Lake, you’ll be spoiled for choice. From Michae’s Market and Bistro to state-of-the-art breweries including Ten Pin Brewing and Squirrel Fight Artisan Brewing, foodies will easily find new dishes and drinks to savor.
Don’t forget to check opening hours and call ahead—many restaurants change their hours with the seasons.
Discover Pass Parking
Plan ahead for your visit to the Washington State Parks mentioned above and buy a Discover Pass. The annual motor vehicle permit pass is $30 ($35 with online processing fee) in 2022-2023. You’ll get unlimited parking at more than 100 state parks, 350 recreation sites, 700 water-access points, and more. Because the pass is transferable between two cars, it’s easy to share it between friends and family. If your visit to the region is brief, you can buy a one-day pass for $10 in most state parks. (There are 12 free days per year. Here’s a list.)
Washington Residents: Use your library card to park for free: Many library systems allow you to check out a Discover Pass for a week—for free. Click here for a list of participating libraries.
Explore Moses Lake and Grant County
The sky’s the limit when it comes to fun things to do in Moses Lake and Grant County. In addition to the activities mentioned here, you’ll find dozens of opportunities to enjoy the majestic landscape, experience local history, and savor tasty treats along the road. This beautiful region of Washington State is guaranteed to surprise and inspire you.
Road Trip Tips
Before you go: Get ready for your road trip with a AAA Membership. Get peace-of-mind on the road plus travel and insurance services and much more.
Save on car insurance: AAA members save up to 8% on car insurance.
Get battery service: AAA Mobile Battery Service uses state-of-the-art technology to accurately diagnose battery-related problems. We’ll even replace your battery with a brand-new one if necessary, at a special member price.
Save with AAA member discounts: AAA membership gives you access to exclusive entertainment discounts nationwide.
—Written by AAA Staff