About Latourell Falls
Latourell Falls was a gorgeous waterfall that had the distinction of being the closest major waterfall of the Columbia River Gorge to the City of Portland.
It possessed remarkable overhanging columnar basalt cliffs that allowed Latourell Creek to do a 249ft free-falling plunge with no contact with most of the underlying cliff, making it in one of the more unique waterfalls in the gorge.
Even the mighty Multnomah Falls made contact with its underlying cliff for most of its drop.
However, as you can see in the photos later on in this page, the drop of Latourell Falls was mostly a straight plunge before it smashed into the jumble of broken basalt rocks at its base.
Speaking of the basalt, the overhanging cliffs showed obvious hexagonal column formations (hence it was said to be an example of a columnar basalt waterfall).
Some of them were vertical while others seemed to have been bent and sheared off.
Whether its current form was the result some repeated violent episodes of massive lava flows and massive Ice Age floods, it seemed certain that this waterfall showed plenty of signs of a seemingly fiery and cataclysmic past.
And even though basalt columns and waterfalls weren’t all that rare around the world (as we’ve seen them at Svartifoss in Iceland and Browns Falls in Australia, for example), Latourell Falls could very well be one of the tallest and largest waterfalls of this kind in the world!
Experiencing Latourell Falls
Our visits to this waterfall were very straightforward.
From the fairly spacious parking lot (see directions below), we took a well-developed and short path descending towards then along Latourell Creek before reaching the base of the waterfall.
The trail continued to bend back away from the falls towards a footbridge spanning the creek.
The trail actually kept going, and it turned out to be part of a longer 2.1-mile loop hike that encompassed the Upper Latourell Falls (said to be 80-100ft tall).
I have a separate write-up for that particular waterfall since it can be treated as a separate excursion as opposed to an extension of a (Lower) Latourell Falls visit.
In addition, there was a paved ramp that ascended from the parking lot to an alternate view of Latourell Falls, which is shown at the top of this page.
This particular view was more distant, but it allowed us to experience the falls with more of context as the view was more elevated.
Unfortunately, the trees seemed to be in the process of obscuring the view as they would continue to grow.
Nevertheless, the trail on that side continued to ascend beyond this point as part of the other side of the 2.1-mile loop hike encompassing the Upper Latourell Falls.
After having my fill of the lookout of Latourell Falls, on the way back down to the parking lot, I had to be careful because the ramp was steep enough with enough loose gravel to cause the footing to be a bit slippery.
Latourell Falls resides in the Guy W. Talbot State Park, which is within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area near Portland in Multnomah County, Oregon. It is administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Latourell Falls was the westernmost of the major waterfalls along the Old Columbia River Highway.
Latourell Falls from Portland via Corbett
The shortest, most scenic, and potentially the fastest way to reach the waterfall was to drive about 19 miles on the eastbound I-84 from Portland to the exit 22 towards Corbett.
Once we got off the ramp, we then turned right at the stop sign and followed the NE Corbett Hill Rd for about 1.3 miles before turning left at the fork to go east on the Historic Columbia River Hwy for 5.2 miles to the Latourell Falls Parking Lot on the right.
Note that along this stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway, the Crown Point Vista House was about 2.8 miles on the way or 2.4 miles west of the parking lot for the Latourell Falls.
Latourell Falls from Portland via Bridal Veil
Alternately, we could drive on eastbound I-84 for 25 miles (30 minutes drive without traffic) to the Bridal Veil Exit (exit 28).
Then, we’d turn right to follow the Historic Columbia River Highway headed west for 2.8 miles before reaching the Latourell Falls Parking Lot on the left.
This exit is 26 miles (30 minutes drive) east of Portland.
Latourell Falls from Cascade Locks via Corbett
If you’re headed west on the I-84 then the best exit would be at exit 22 for Corbett.
This exit was about 22.5 miles (under 30 minutes drive) west of Cascade Locks.
Once on the Corbett exit, turn left and follow NE Corbett Hill Rd and follow the directions as above (for the Corbett exit and not the Bridal Veil exit).
For some geographical context, Portland was about 49 miles (over an hour drive) west of Cascade Locks, 75 miles (90 minutes drive) west of Hood River, 80 miles (1.5 hours drive) east of Cannon Beach, 112 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Eugene, 274 miles (over 4 hours drive) north of Medford, 173 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) south of Seattle, Washington, 440 miles (7 hours drive) west of Boise, Idaho, and 423 miles (6.5 hours drive) north of Redding, California.
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