US 12 provides an enjoyable drive through the Palouse region, and Dayton provides a great excuse to get out of the car. A short walking tour allows you to see the Columbia County courthouse, and Dayton’s historic rail depot.
After driving for miles and miles through the picturesque rolling landscape of the Palouse region on US 12, you come to a picturesque little town, with a few interesting places to see.
This is downtown Dayton, Washington. The business district is only a few blocks long, and is lined up along US 12, Main Street.
The Liberty Theater has been upgraded to digital, and is still showing movies. The theater opened in 1910 as the Dreamland, then received its current name in 1917.
The Columbia County Courthouse was built in 1887. It’s the oldest continuously-used courthouse in the state. Informational signs in front of the courthouse explain Dayton’s location along the old Nez Perce trade corridor. Lewis and Clark passed through the future townsite in 1806, on their return from the Pacific Ocean.
Dayton’s train depot also deserves some historic recognition. Built in 1881, it is the oldest train depot in Washington. Now, you’ll find a museum inside.
A statue of the Union Pacific station agent stands watch over the old tracks.
You can have some fun exploring Dayton’s alleys.
Be sure to look for this old painted ghost sign for baking powder, on an old brick wall, hidden somewhere in town.
On either side of town, you’ll drive for a mile or two, then come upon a scene like this one. Grain elevators are everywhere, so photograph them to your heart’s content!
The Bottom Line
The drive through the Palouse is slow-paced and enjoyable, and a stop in Dayton will reveal some of the area’s rich history. If you’re not in a hurry, do a little exploring here.
Dayton is located in the Palouse region of southwestern Washington. The only major road into and out of town is US Highway 12.
Dayton is 30 miles northeast of Walla Walla via US 12, and 66 miles from the Idaho border at Clarkston, Washington.
Dayton is the nearest town to the Bluewood ski area, which is 21 miles south of town on Touchet Road.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Waitsburg, through Dayton, to Pomeroy: