Location: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Land Agency: Oregon State Parks
Roundtrip: 2.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 540 feet
Green Trails Map: Columbia River Gorge- West no. 428S
Contact: Guy Talbot State Park
Access: From Portland follow I-84 east to Exit 28. Then follow the Historic Columbia Highway west 2.6 miles to trailhead.
Notes: Dogs must be leashed.
Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, historic, exceptional waterfalls
Closest Columbia River Gorge waterfalls to Portland, Latourell is not the most popular thanks to nearby Multnomah Falls siphoning away thousands of sightseers. But this pair of falls is never-the-less one of the prettiest in the entire gorge rivaling Oregon’s most famous cascading attraction. One of the first areas to be protected in what would eventually become the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area; the family of Guy Webster Talbot donated the land surrounding this pair of waterfalls back in 1929. Located just outside of the tiny town of Latourell with a population hovering in the teens— you’ll feel much farther in both time and distance from bustling Portland.
The hike makes a delightful loop though an emerald ravine to a pair of impressive falls roaring over steep basalt cliffs. The lower falls—immediately viewed from the trailhead, plunges nearly 250 feet making it a remarkable sight and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state. After viewing it, continue to the upper falls by taking a good trail that climbs above and behind the lower falls first.
Once above the lower falls, the trail brushes along Latourell Creek through small groves of big firs and moss-draped big leaf maples. Cross over numerous side creeks and amble through attractive cedar groves too along the way. Just shy of one mile, come to a spray-blasted bridge beneath the 120-foot horsetail-like upper falls. You may want to savor the mist in warm weather, and make a hasty retreat in chilly autumn!
The trail then continues along Latourell Creek’s west bank traversing steep slopes. After passing a vista of the lower falls, the trail descends reaching the Historic Columbia River Highway. Carefully cross it continuing now on a paved path through picnic grounds; and then beneath one of the last remaining concrete arched bridges on the historic highway. Arrive at the base of the Lower Falls, one of the most glorious places in the Gorge. Stare at streams of silver water plummeting over an amphitheatre of columnar basalt. Return to the trailhead when content.
For more information on this hike and 99 others within the region in both Oregon and Washington, check out my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book (Mountaineers Books).
For great family friendly information on where to stay and play in the Portland reas, check out Northwest TripFinder.