At the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers and on the state line between Idaho and Washington, this working city has an economy driven by the timber, paper and ammunition industries.
The mighty Snake River is navigable here, and Lewiston has the distinction of being the farthest inland port east of the west coast, as well as the only seaport in the state of Idaho.
Traditionally these lands are the home of the Nez Perce people, who lived at the future site of the city when Lewis and Clark came through in October 1805 on their famous expedition.
Lewiston is also the point of departure for the deepest river gorge in the United States at Hells Canyon, only accessible by water, while the Lewis-Clark Valley is making waves in the wine industry and has recently been given an AVA.
1. Hells Gate State Park
A short way up the Snake River on the south side of Lewiston is a gorgeous 960-acre parcel of riverside nature for camping, hiking, mountain biking, fishing and kayaking.
Hells Gate State Park is on mostly level terrain carved out by Ice Age floods some 15,000 years ago.
This was also the site of a village for the Perce Nez people, evidence of which can be found at the depressions left behind by pit houses just south of the campground.
Also be sure to travel to the south end of the park to the phenomenal curved basalt formations on the cliffs facing the river.
Back towards the north end you can rent a kayak in summer from the Hells Gate Marina, which is also the embarkation point for jet boat adventures to Hells Canyon, which we’ll talk about next.
2. Hells Canyon
Lewiston is one of the closest major settlements to the breathtaking but extremely remote Hells Canyon, found about fifty miles up the Snake River.
This is the deepest river gorge in the United States, at almost 8,000 feet, and road access is impossible for almost the entire length of the canyon.
There’s a choice of operators ready to take you up the Snake River for a voyage that will live long in the memory.
These are Snake River Adventures, Beamers Hells Canyon Tours and Snake Dancer Excursions. To shorten the journey time, these companies use jet boats, speeding up the river through white water, as you marvel at some of the Northwest’s least traveled landscapes.
On a full-day or half-day tour there will be plenty of opportunity to rest, hike, swim, soak up the scenery, spot wildlife and go fishing.
3. Clearwater and Snake River National Recreation Trail
Almost 20 miles of riverbank is accessible to walkers and cyclists along the Snake and Clearwater Rivers.
The Clearwater and Snake River National Recreation Trail includes a section of the Hells Gate State Park, via the Lewiston Levee Parkway Trail, and crosses three bridges, continues into Asotin on the Washington bank and traces six miles of the Clearwater River.
On your journey you’ll get fabulous vistas of the rolling palouse landscape enveloping Lewiston, glimpses of wildlife including lots of Canada geese.
And when you want a break you’ll never be far from a picnic bench or a spot where you can dip your feet in the water.
4. Lewis-Clark Valley Wine Region
With sandy soils, rolling hills, crisp winters and a long, warm ripening season, this corner of the Northwest has everything you need to make world-class wine.
The first vines were planted in the Lewis-Clark Valley in 1872 and there was a robust little wine industry for a few decades before it was all forgotten.
The wonderful potential of the region was unrealized until the turn of the new millennium, and now vineyards have started sprouting across the area, on both the Idaho and Washington side of the Snake River.
In 2016 the Lewis-Clark Valley Region picked up AVA (American Viticultural Area), and is just about to take off.
You can head into the countryside to visit individual estates or take a tour with Lewiston-based companies like Twisted Vine Wine Tours.
A handful of brands also have tasting rooms right in Lewiston and Clarkston, so you won’t even have to leave the city to enjoy great local wine.
5. Downtown Lewiston
Lewiston has put a lot of love into its downtown area, which is replete with local stores that you won’t find anywhere else.
The historic facades, rows of trees, flower beds and sidewalk tables along Main Street entice you to leave your car behind and go on a little stroll to see what you can find.
Every now and again the lofty hills framing Lewiston will hove into view between the buildings. You’ll happen upon pretty storefronts with old-time awnings, and some fine pieces of heritage like the Liberty Theatre, dating back to 1921. If you take your coffee seriously, the Blue Lantern Coffee House is a must.
For ultra-fresh local produce, the Lewiston Farmers’ Market can be found at the corner of Main and Mill Street on Sundays. July to September the market coincides with a weekly concert series.
6. Lindsay Creek Vineyards
A fine starting point for your Lewis-Clark Valley wine odyssey is Lindsay Creek Vineyards, out in the open countryside a few miles east of Lewiston.
Lindsay Creek’s winemakers had a background in wheat farming before transferring their knowhow to the production of high-quality wines, after gaining certificates at Washington State University.
Since 2007 the vineyard on this soaring dry ridge has grown to more than 15 acres, and you can swing by their wonderfully scenic terrace on Fridays and Saturdays to try a lineup that includes a Riesling, GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre), Malbec, Merlot and more of Lindsay Creek’s creative red blends.
7. Nez Perce County Historical Society & Museum
Nez Perce County has plenty of interesting facets to its history, and if you want to know more you can head for this museum not far from the Snake River-Clearwater River confluence.
The museum has exhibits on the area’s volcanic geology, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the story of navigation on the Snake River, the Nez Perce people, the Camas Prairie Railroad and the early origins of Lewiston as a settlement.
As well as enthralling artifacts, specimens and detailed interpretive signs, there’s a surprising amount of interactivity for kids in the form of puzzles and old appliances like a 19th-century typewriter.
8. Basalt Cellars Winery
Over in Clarkston a little industrial park backdropped by the impressive north bank of the Snake River is the venue for an award-winning winery.
Founded in 2003, Basalt Cellars sources its grapes from Washington State’s most prestigious vineyards, as well as its own estate in the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA.
The tasting room is open Monday to Saturday, and seasonally on Sundays, and you can sample red varietals like Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as perfectly pitched red blends.
As for whites there’s Riesling, Cabernet Blanc and a Viognier, while the rosés include a Dolcetto and a GSM.
9. Locomotive Park
A worthwhile detour off Main Street (US 12), Locomotive Park catches the eye right away for the sizable steam locomotive that has a permanent home on the west side.
This is Engine 92, the last logging locomotive to be employed by the Potlatch Forest Industries, which now goes by PotlatchDeltic.
The logging company bought Engine 92 in 1942, some 18 years after it was built, and when it was retired it was purchased by the city to be displayed at this park. Kids are free to climb on this antique machine and can ring the bell.
Locomotive Park brings in the crowds during the holiday season for its imaginative Christmas light displays. During this event the entire park is aglow, and you can take pictures at special installations and warm up at the enormous fireplace.
10. Lewis and Clark Discovery Center
This small attraction opened at Hells Gate State Park in 2005 on the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
There you can check out indoor and outdoor exhibits documenting Lewis and Clark’s trailblazing journey and their progress through what is now north central Idaho and the Nez Perce lands.
Inside you can watch an informative 30-minute film, Lewis & Clark: From the Mountains to the Sea, screened on the hour all day from 9 am.
Outside there’s an immersive, two-acre interpretive plaza by the Snake River, with a wonderful installation by artist Rip Carswell.
11. Asotin County Family Aquatic Center
Cross the Snake River and the Idaho-Washington state line for this pirate-themed aquatic center in Clarkston.
The big draw in summer is the outdoor water park, which has several slides, a lazy river, a large adventure pool, a zero-depth wave pool and lots of space to unwind in the sunshine.
Inside there’s a 25-yard, eight-lane lap pool, next to a space with play features to keep children occupied.
This is all combined with a high-capacity hot tub, therapy pool, concessions and a fitness room with weights and cardio machines.
12. Chief Looking Glass Park
Opposite Hells Gate State Park on the Asotin bank of the Snake River is another peaceful place to linger by the water, at the southern end of the Clearwater-Snake National Recreational Trail.
Fronted by a little clapboard church, Chief Looking Glass Park commands beautiful views of the pale rolling hills on the Idaho side of the river.
There’s a large expanse of grass, plenty of big mature trees, facilities for tennis and basketball, a boat launch and a little beach area if you’d like to take a dip in the Snake River in summer.
This can be a little rocky underfoot, so swimming shoes or flip-flops are a good idea.
13. Clearwater Canyon Cellars
A recent winner of Idaho Winery of the Year from Wine Press Northwest, Clearwater Canyon Cellars has a tasting room at their estate in the peaceful Lewiston Orchards area to the southeast of the city.
The grapes for Clearwater Canyon’s wines come from six vineyards dotted around the region, and none more than 20 miles from the city.
In the range are varietal wines like a Carménère, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Albariño and Chardonnay, all ready to be tasted at the winery.
There you chat with the winemakers about the process and take a little walk among the tanks and barrels.
14. Riverport Brewing Co
Right next door to Basalt Cellars in Clarkston you’ll find a much-loved and thriving craft brewery.
Riverport Brewing Co has been around since 2008, and couldn’t have a better location thanks to the grain-rich hills of the Palouse.
There’s a convivial taproom and deck where you can fill growlers, order a pint or a flight if you’d like to sample more of the brewery’s range.
There’s always a large selection of IPAs, lagers, porters and blondes on tap, including seasonal brews, as well as wine from the neighboring Basalt Cellars. Riverport also partners with local food trucks and books regular live music.
15. Dogwood Festival
Every spring Lewiston’s hundreds of dogwood trees burst into flower with fragrant pink blossoms.
During the month of April these blossoms fall from their branches and create a drifting pink carpet on the city streets.
Since 1985 Lewiston has marked this event with a month-long festival in April, bringing tens of thousands of visitors to the city.
On the schedule at various locations around Lewiston are an AKC dog show, a river run, concerts, plays, exhibitions, wine and beer tastings, sports tournaments, an artisans’ fair with 100+ vendors, an auto show and a lot more besides.