About Upper Latourell Falls
Upper Latourell Falls was kind of like the sibling waterfall to the much larger and well-visited Latourell Falls further downstream on Latourell Creek.
It featured a pair of drops that twisted away from the alcove that it dropped into with a cumulative height of around 75-100ft.
So compared to its bigger downstream neighbor, the Upper Latourell Falls was modest in size even.
That said, I’ve seen plenty of situations where waterfalls of this size would get more dedicated tourism infrastructure devoted to it, and some even get their own reserve!
Indeed, it just goes to show you how waterfall-rich the Columbia River Gorge is that a year-round waterfall of this size can feel neglected.
Nevertheless, I found that its relative obscurity (especially since it required a hike to reach) meant that this excursion offered a far more peaceful experience, which was especially important for social distancing.
In my mind, that tranquility and chance to be more intimate with the lush surroundings were the main appeal of pursuing the Upper Latourell Falls.
Hiking to the Upper Latourell Falls
Technically, visiting the Upper Latourell Falls can require as little as 2.6 miles round-trip in an out-and-back hike or as much as a 3.6 miles in a loop hike.
Since I did this hike in a clockwise loop (which is the direction I recommend for reasons that will be apparent later), this is the manner in which I’ll describe the experience in this section.
So starting off from the Guy W Talbot State Park parking lot (the same one for Latourell Falls; see directions below), I immediately went up a sloping path instead of the trail going down to Latourell Falls’ base.
After a few paces, I encountered an elevated lookout that allowed me to experience the “Lower” Latourell Falls in its entirety.
Often times, since this waterfall would get a lot of visitors, I tend to use them as photo subjects to convey the scale of its sheer drop.
Next, I continued uphill on the trail as it offered unusual views of Latourell Falls the further up the gorge that I went, especially where there was a rest bench.
Eventually after roughly a quarter-mile from the elevated lookout (or perhaps 0.3-mile from the parking lot), I reached another lookout with a partial view back towards the Columbia River Gorge.
Then, the trail veered upstream alongside the east bank of Latourell Creek as the path flattened out and gently undulated for the next 0.6-mile or so before reaching the Upper Latourell Falls.
Along the way, there was a path leading to Latourell Creek that seemed to go nowhere (just upstream from the lookout at the end of the initial climb), but I suspect there was a bridge washout.
My old trail maps suggested that had the bridge been there, it could have been a shorter loop hike though cutting the longer loop here would mean not visiting the Upper Latourell Falls.
At roughly a quarter-mile from the aforementioned spur trail to the bridge washout, I noticed that there was an intermediate cascade on Latourell Creek, which was referred to as “Clara Falls” on GoogleMaps.
Anyways, on the final approach to the Upper Latourell Falls, I was able to see most of both of its twisting drops.
As I got closer to the base of the waterfall, the upper tier became more hidden from view.
And when I made it to the footbridge fronting the base of the lower tier of the falls, the upper drop was completely hidden from view.
It’s for this reason that I recommend doing this loop hike in a clockwise manner so that you don’t have to look over your shoulder to notice that upper tier (possibly making you miss it entirely if you don’t keep your eyes peeled for it).
At this point, I had the option of turning back and making this the 2.6-mile out-and-back hike, but I opted to continue on past the footbridge to finish the loop.
By the way, there was also some informal use-trails just beyond the west side of the bridge leading into the alcove behind the lower drop of Upper Latourell Falls for a somewhat unusual view of this falls.
Completing the Upper Latourell Falls Loop
Continuing downstream along the west side of Latourell Creek, the trail made minor undulations though it generally seemed to be climbing on this side.
It got close to “Clara Falls” after around 0.4-mile from the footbridge, and it reached an unsigned fork right when the trail made another short climb roughly another quarter-mile further.
At this unsigned junction, the narrower lower path descended over some basalt columns towards a precarious bluff overlooking the brink of Latourell Falls, its associated trails and parking lot, and the Columbia River Gorge.
Since the dropoffs here were sheer vertical plunges, I had to be very careful not to make a misstep.
Continuing on with the loop trail, at another 0.1-mile, the trail reached its apex at a lookout right next to a sharp bend.
Again, this lookout with a bench yielded partially-overgrown views over the Columbia River Gorge, but it was high enough to reveal the wide Columbia River itself.
Then, the trail made a fairly lengthy descent over a run of about 0.5-mile as it surprisingly took me back to the Historic Columbia River Highway.
While I could choose to walk the road east directly back to the parking lot, the loop trail continued to descend on the other side of this road.
From there, the trail then skirted by a tranquil-looking picnic area before swinging back towards Latourell Creek underneath the arched bridge holding up the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Finally, the trail then followed the west side of Latourell Creek for the final quarter-mile or so before reaching the base of Latourell Falls from the other side of its fronting footbridge.
Not surprisingly, at this point, I saw many more people (more than the one hiker that I saw the entire time I did the rest of the Upper Latourell Falls Loop) as all that was left was the short jaunt beyond the footbridge back to the parking lot.
Overall, I spent a little under 2 hours doing this loop hike logging about 3.6 miles.
Upper 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.
Upper Latourell Falls shares the same trailhead as Latourell Falls, and is one of the westernmost of the major waterfalls along the Old Columbia River Highway.
You can see that page for detailed driving directions, but I’ve also reproduced it here for convenience.
Latourell Falls from Portland via Corbett
The shortest, most scenic, and potentially the fastest way to reach Guy W Talbot State Park 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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