After visiting Bridal Veil Falls, we hit Latourell Falls. I had seen photos from my friend Jessica Mabry of the incredible Latourell Falls and it was definitely on our wish list of waterfalls to see on our day trip to the Columbia River Gorge.
We got soaked at the enormous 249 foot waterfall!
It was a good thing we had given up trying to stay dry when it started raining during our Bridal Veil Falls hike, because after the short hike to the base of Latourell Falls and traversing the rocky floor to get as close to the falls as possible, we all were soaked from the mist.
Everyone visiting this extraordinary waterfall was in awe.
The majesty of the falls, the basalt cliffs, and the lush plant life surrounding it is gorgeous. And it doesn’t hurt that this natural beauty is only a walk from the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Surrounded by sheer cliffs and bright yellow lichen covered, columnar basalt formations, the 249 foot Latourell Falls is different than the majority of waterfalls you’ll see in the Columbia River Gorge. While most waterfalls cascade over rocks and tumble down mountainsides into some type of pool, Latourell Falls drops right off an overhanging basalt cliff and plunges straight down to the ground. This means you can walk all the way around the falls.
Of all of the waterfalls we visited during our Columbia River Gorge trip — Bridal Veil Falls, Shepperd’s Dell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Fairy Falls, Multnomah Falls, Horsetail Falls, and Latourell Falls — we spent the most time at this waterfall and took a ridiculous amount of photos, especially because there is a big rock positioned right in front of the falls that is perfect for pictures!
Hiking To Latourell Falls
At 249 feet, Latourell Falls is the third tallest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge, preceded only by 620 foot Multnomah Falls and 289 foot Elowah Falls. When you compare all waterfalls in Oregon, it is the fifth tallest, with 319 foot Munson Creek Falls and 286 foot Salt Creek Falls preceding it.
When talking about Latourell Falls, things can get a bit confusing because most people have no idea that there is an upper falls and lower falls. As a result, when talking about Latourell Falls, most people are referring to the spectacular plunge featured in this post, and most hiking websites are referring to to the Latourell Falls Loop Trail to the upper falls.
There are two trails, one to Lower Latourell Falls and one to Upper Latourell Falls:
- The 2.4 mile Latourell Falls Loop Trail climbs 540 feet in elevation and takes visitors to the upper falls.
- The other trail, to the lower falls, is a shorter, easier hike that is much more like a scenic walk — it’s also the waterfall most often seen in photos, with the bright yellow lichen to the side of the falls on the columnar basalt cliffs.
Because we only had one day in the Columbia River Gorge, we skipped the hike to the upper falls and just visited the lower falls. I say just and laugh a bit. Lower Latourell Falls is breathtaking. While much smaller than the famous Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls was our favorite waterfall of the day because we could get right up close to the falls and it wasn’t very crowded. In fact, there were only a few other people at the falls while we were there, so it felt almost as if we had the whole area to ourselves.
There are two paths, and you want to check out both of them:
- We first took the path to the left leads up a short but very steep hill, only about 300 feet, to a scenic observation point that looks out over the falls. The view is amazing! From there, we saw a few people down below, climbing on the rocks, at the very bottom of the waterfall and had to go check it out for ourselves.
- We then backtracked to the parking lot and took the other trail to the base of the falls.
- Right in front of the falls, there is a hairpin turn in the path that provides the PERFECT place to stand and snap photos of the waterfall basin, and a big rock right in front of the base of the falls that provides the PERFECT place to stand. I sent Brian and the kids down the trail, across a wooden footbridge, and then left to the falls to stand on the perfect rock so I photograph them, and then we traded places.
- In the rocky plunge pool, we also were able to climb up behind the waterfall to see the columnar basalt rock formations and the falls from a different angle.
- If you turn right at the end of the footbridge instead of left toward the falls, it will take you under Latourell Creek Bridge to a picnic area in Guy W. Talbot State Park, and then continue following the trail and an old set of stairs back to the Columbia River Highway.
Latourell Creek Bridge
Latourell Creek Bridge, built in 1914, spans Latourell Creek on the Columbia River Highway in Latourell, Multnomah County, Oregon. It is 316 feet long and 25 feet wide, including its 17 foot roadway and two 3 foot cantilevered sidewalks. The main piers are 97 feet high from stream bed to deck
Samuel Lancaster, with bridge engineers C.H. Purcell, K.P. Billner and L.W. Metzger, worked out the designs for the numerous bridges along the Columbia River Highway. They designed each bridge to conform to the unique topography that existed at the construction sates. These structures were designed to be light, graceful and durable as well as innovative in their construction technique for the period.
One of eight deck arch bridges on the Columbia River Highway between 1913 and 1921, Latourell Creek Bridge is a three-span reinforced concrete braced-spandrel deck arch. The braced spandrel framing is usually found only in steel deck arch construction, and is unique to this structure.
A light bridge was important at this sight because of difficulty in securing a firm foundation. The underlying bedrock is covered with a layer of silt and boulders to an average depth of 25 feet on the western shore. On the east side of the creek, there is a deposit of drift sand 50 feet deep. At the time of its construction, it was one of the lightest concrete bridges, relative to its dimensions, in the country. This bridge established the essential form of the concrete arch that would be used in Oregon and other sections of the United States.
The bridge, designed by K.P. Billner, is now located in the 220 acre Guy W. Talbot State Park, which was given to the state of Oregon in early 1929 by the Talbot family.
Signs near the falls tell the tale of Joseph Latourell, founder of the once-thriving community of Latourell, Oregon:
The town was named for Joseph “French” Latourell who arrived in Oregon during the 1850s. He married Grace Ough, an American Indian, in 1859 and together they raised eight children. Frenchy ran a mercantile, served as postmaster in 1887, operated a fishwheel, and worked as a boatman on the Columbia River. The Latourells were known to their neighbors as both industrious and “colorful.”
Industry aside, it was their zest for life, music, and hospitality that endeared the Latourells to their neighbors. Frenchy was a fiddler who loved to play, sing, dance, and dine with friends until the wee hours. Several Latourell children also played musical instruments. Word spread quickly, and visitors from Portland flocked to town by steamboat. Soon, Latourell boasted five saloons and a well-tuned brass band.”
Guy W. Talbot State Park
Although the main feature of the 378 acre Guy W. Talbot State Park is Latourell Falls, the parkland stretches west to the Crown Point State Scenic Corridor. Here the Historic Columbia River Highway descends from Crown Point through the Figure-Eight Loops, a series of horseshoe curves that “develop distance” and thus keep the grade to a minimum.
Guy Webster Talbot and his wife Geraldine originally came to Portland in 1906. Talbot was successful in the railroad industry and Guy, Geraldine, and their three children used this property as their summer estate. In 1929, Guy and Geraldine Talbot gave the original 125 acres of this Oregon State Park. Multnomah County gave additional land in 1935, and sold further acreage to the state in 1952. Lands also were given by the Eva Larson Estate. The balance of the property was purchased from various owners up to 1984. Some of the park’s early development was carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1933 and 1935.
Today, Guy W. Talbot State Park is a beautiful park bordering the tiny town of Latoruell that has a covered picnic area available for rent. While the park is popular for family picnics and get togethers, it is usually uncrowded because of its secluded location.
Know Before You Go
- Latourell Falls is a waterfall located on the Historic Columbia River Highway in Corbett, Oregon 97019, Multnomah County
- Traveling west from the Latourell Falls parking lot, it is 2.5 miles to Vista House and 3.5 miles to the Portland Women’s Forum Scenic Viewpoint. Traveling west, it is 1 mile to Shepperd’s Dell Falls, 2.5 miles to Bridal Veil Falls, 5.5 miles to Wahkeena Falls and Fairy Falls, 6 miles to Multnomah Falls, 8 miles to Oneonta Falls, 9 miles to Horsetail Falls, and 13 miles to Elowah Falls.
- Sitting within Guy W. Talbot State Park in Multnomah County, Latourell Falls is the closest Columbia River Gorge waterfall to Portland.
- Download a Columbia River Highway Waterfall Map, documenting the waterfalls between Corbett and Dodson.
- Visiting the park is free. There is a small parking lot, picnic tables, bathrooms, and a scenic overlook with a great view of the falls that is up a short but steep hill.
- Be sure to wear sturdy shoes. The trail is wet from the falls and after rains, it can get slippery. Also some portions of the trail are in disrepair. If hiking to the upper falls, the path can get very muddy.
- We parked at the small parking area for Latourell Falls. If it is full, you can also park at the Guy W. Talbot State Park parking lot on the opposite side of the highway. From the park follow the paved path for about a quarter mile to the left under the bridge to view the lower falls.