Latourell Falls

Columbia River Gorge / Guy W. Talbot State Park / Portland, Oregon, USA

About Latourell Falls

Hiking Distance: 1/4-mile round trip
Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Date first visited: 2009-03-28
Date last visited: 2017-08-16

Waterfall Latitude: 45.53706
Waterfall Longitude: -122.21948

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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 such waterfalls in the gorge. Even the mighty Multnomah Falls made contact with its underlying cliff for most of its drop, but 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 cataclysmic past. And even though basalt columns and waterfalls weren’t all that rare around the world (Svartifoss in Iceland and Browns Falls in Australia came to mind as examples of such waterfalls with pronounced basalt columns around it), Latourell Falls could very well be one of the tallest and largest waterfalls of this kind in the world!

Our visits to this waterfall were very straightforward. From the fairly spacious parking lot, 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 for an opportunity to use its railings to steady the camera and take that silky long exposure shot (assuming you didn’t bother bringing a tripod down here). 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). Since I didn’t do that hike, I can’t really say much more about it though I am keen to give that hike a go when the opportunity presents itself.

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 though the trees seemed to be in the process of obscuring the view as they would continue to grow. The trail continued to ascend beyond this point as part of the other side of the 2.1-mile loop hike encompassing the Upper 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.

Vista_House_17_002_08162017 - Just to the west of Latourell Falls was the Vista House, where we were able to get commanding views in both directions towards the Columbia River
Latourell_Falls_17_003_08162017 - The parking lot for the Latourell Falls
Latourell_Falls_17_029_08162017 - The view of Latourell Falls from the parking lot left a lot to be desired so it was natural to want to descend on the paved path leading closer to it
Latourell_Falls_17_007_08162017 - On the path leading to the base of Latourell Falls
Columbia_River_Gorge_001_03282009 - Path leading to the base of the falls as seen on a rainy day in March 2009
Latourell_Falls_17_026_08162017 - Looking up at some of the cliffs adjacent to the trail hinting at the geology involved in the formation of Latourell Falls
Columbia_River_Gorge_012_03282009 - Centered look at Latourell Falls in the rain as we approached it on the paved walkway in March 2009
Latourell_Falls_17_034_08162017 - Julie and Tahia getting closer to Latourell Falls
Columbia_River_Gorge_444_03302009 - People headed to the base of the towering Latourell Falls in high flow as of March 2009
Latourell_Falls_17_023_08162017 - Descending to the footbridge traversing Latourell Creek
Latourell_Falls_17_018_08162017 - More focused and angled look at the freefall of Latourell Falls in late Summer flow on August 2017
Columbia_River_Gorge_436_03302009 - This was the Latourell Falls in high flow as seen back in late March 2009
Latourell_Falls_17_037_08162017 - Context of the Latourell Falls and the bridge over Latourell Creek
Latourell_Falls_17_044_08162017 - Examining more closely the sheared and bent basalt columns behind the Latourell Falls
Latourell_Falls_17_052_08162017 - Ascending this ramp up to an alternate view of Latourell Falls
Columbia_River_Gorge_007_03282009 - This was the view of Latourell Falls in high flow from the alternate lookout near the parking lot in late March 2009
Latourell_Falls_17_061_08162017 - Descending the steep ramp from the alternate view of Latourell Falls to the parking lot below


Latourell Falls was the westernmost of the major waterfalls along the Old Columbia River Highway. 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 the Vista House was about 2.8 miles on the way or 2.4 miles west of the parking lot for the falls).

Alternately, we could drive on eastbound I-84 for 25 miles (30 minutes drive without traffic) to the Bridal Veil Exit (exit 28), then 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.
You can find this waterfall a little over 3 miles due west along the Historic Columbia River Highway from the Bridal Veil Exit off the I-84. This exit is 26 miles (30 minutes drive) east of Portland.

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.

Sweep around the base of the falls

Checking out the falls from the alternate lookout near the parking lot

Bottom up sweep from the upper viewing area under heavy rain

Bottom up sweep from the footbridge before its base

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Tagged with: columbia river gorge, portland, oregon, multnomah, waterfall, pacific northwest, mt hood, mount hood, guy w talbot, state park, basalt

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