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: -122.21796

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.

Latourell_Falls_17_059_08162017 - Latourell Falls in low late Summer flow
Latourell Falls in low late Summer flow

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.

Columbia_River_Gorge_023_03282009 - Looking at the base of Latourell Falls from a footbridge just downstream as seen on our first visit here back in March 2009
Looking at the base of Latourell Falls from a footbridge just downstream as seen on our first visit here back in March 2009

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.

Columbia_River_Gorge_015_03282009 - Mossy trees flanked the easy and paved trail leading to the base of Latourell Falls in the wet Spring season
Mossy trees flanked the easy and paved trail leading to the base of Latourell Falls in the wet Spring season

The trail continued to bend back away from the falls towards a footbridge spanning the creek.

That bridge gave me 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 on a future visit.

Latourell_Falls_17_011_08162017 - Context of people approaching the plunge pool at the base of the 249ft Latourell Falls in low late Summer flow
Context of people approaching the plunge pool at the base of the 249ft Latourell Falls in low late Summer flow

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.

Latourell_Falls_17_061_08162017 - The steep and potentially slippery ramp leading back down from the overlook of Latourell Falls to the parking lot
The steep and potentially slippery ramp leading back down from the overlook of Latourell Falls to the parking lot

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.

Authorities

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.

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_007_08162017 - Approaching the bottom of Latourell Falls during our visit in August 2017
Latourell_Falls_17_018_08162017 - More focused and angled look at the freefall of Latourell Falls in late Summer flow on August 2017
Latourell_Falls_17_023_08162017 - Descending to the footbridge traversing Latourell Creek during our August 2017 visit
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. This picture was taken during our August 2017 visit
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 ascend a steep ramp to get up to the overlook for this view. This picture was taken in our August 2017 visit
Latourell_Falls_17_034_08162017 - Julie and Tahia getting closer to Latourell Falls when they decided to go down to the bottom during our August 2017 visit
Latourell_Falls_17_037_08162017 - Context of the Latourell Falls and the bridge over Latourell Creek as seen during our August 2017 visit
Latourell_Falls_17_044_08162017 - Examining more closely the sheared and bent basalt columns behind the Latourell Falls during our August 2017 visit
Latourell_Falls_17_046_08162017 - After having our fill of the bottom of Latourell Falls in August 2017, we walked back the way we came, but we easily could have crossed the bridge and do a 2.4-mile loop hike that would have taken in the Upper Latourell Falls
Latourell_Falls_17_052_08162017 - After making it back to the parking lot on our August 2017 visit, I then briefly ascended this ramp up to an alternate view of Latourell Falls
Latourell_Falls_002_jx_03282009 - Sign at the parking lot for Latourell Falls during our March 2009 visit
Columbia_River_Gorge_001_03282009 - Path leading to the base of the falls as seen on a rainy day in March 2009
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
Columbia_River_Gorge_012_03282009 - Centered look at Latourell Falls in the rain as we approached it on the paved walkway in March 2009
Columbia_River_Gorge_021_03282009 - Direct frontal look at the Latourell Falls in high volume during our late March 2009 visit
Columbia_River_Gorge_436_03302009 - This was the Latourell Falls in high flow when we came back later in the day on our soggy visit in late March 2009
Columbia_River_Gorge_438_03302009 - Fast exposure look at Latourell Falls in high volume during our late March 2009 visit
Columbia_River_Gorge_441_03302009 - This person wonders whether it's a good idea to go closer and get seriously sprayed by the Latourell Falls during our late March 2009 visit
Columbia_River_Gorge_443_03302009 - Fast exposure look at the Latourell Falls in high volume framed by trees from further down the walkway during our late March 2009 visit
Columbia_River_Gorge_444_03302009 - People headed to the base of the towering Latourell Falls in high flow as of March 2009

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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.

Vista_House_17_003_08162017 - The Vista House at Crown Point was along the Historic Columbia River Highway between Corbett and Latourell Falls
The Vista House at Crown Point was along the Historic Columbia River Highway between Corbett and Latourell Falls

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.

Latourell_Falls_17_003_08162017 - The parking lot for Latourell Falls at Guy W. Talbot State Park
The parking lot for Latourell Falls at Guy W. Talbot State Park

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

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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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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