Latourell Falls Loop Hike – The Gorge

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My son Ryan and I headed out to the Columbia Gorge early. It was a Saturday and we knew it would be crowded as the day wore on. Our hikes had all been on weekdays but the Gorge seemed crowded even then.

The Latourell Falls loop trail was only 2.4 miles but got steep at places, rocky and rutted. There’s several precipices along the way so if hikers feel compelled to wander out to the edge to look over, be forewarned it’s a vertical drop of about 600 feet. The top of the falls was visible without venturing to the end.

We saw a guy with his dog carelessly getting close to the edge (the oblivious puppy had his front toes hanging half off the tufty ledge). I sort of warned the guy and he grudging told me he had lived here for 20 years. I simply wanted him to have at least another 20.

We began the hike east of the falls where the trailhead was clearly marked. The first leg of the journey involved a steep trek but the reward was a view of Latourell Falls through the trees and foliage. The trail followed the creek which was full of its share of cascading water creating a musical sound, accompanied by the various birds that call this home.

After a while we reached Upper Latourell Falls. It gushed over the canyon wall dropping 120 feet and began its cascade down the hill. A wooden bridge crossed the creek at the base of the falls and a more adventurous person could gingerly navigate the slippery rocks to get somewhat behind the falls.

There was a family with six children and four of the boys eagerly did just that. They were wearing tennis shoes and hopping around barely staying upright, taking risks to get out close to the falls. Ahh youth. And, yes, that would have been me at that age. The mother called warnings but they heeded them not.

From here the trail traveled through dense foliage to an overlook, then headed uphill for a short way before making a sharp turn and heading down the hill to the scenic highway.

Be sure and cross the highway and walk through Guy W. Talbot State Park. There’s picnic tables and grills, so a good place to have lunch. We ate here by the woods. There was also a clean restroom.

From here, we headed toward the creek to the east and picked up the trail again. It followed high above a canyon. Be sure and look back after crossing under the highway for an impressive view of the bridge.

Now the trail took us to the base of Latourell Falls – a mouth-gaping wonder. By this time, the crowds had gathered and many were lined up simply staring at the 249 foot falls (one of my favorites along the Gorge) with mossy basalt cliffs that appeared to be a work of art.

Children loved to play in the creek by the bridge and hikers waded near the falls to be misted. My son proclaimed it was like a spiritual experience and he felt almost euphoric. He kept enthusiastically mentioning it so I figured something must have happened, he not an effusive guy. It must have been all that oxygenated air created from the negative ions.

We did venture over the water-slicked rocks to get behind the falls. There’s a trail but, again, caution is called for because the rocks are unforgiving with pointed tips if ever a person should fall. Ouch!

If you want some serenity go early in the morning because by the time we left at 1 PM the traffic was jammed and lined up a ways down the scenic highway. Luckily we were headed the opposite direction.

When visiting the Gorge, driving along to enjoy the roadside waterfalls is lovely, to be sure, but venture further in on the multitude of trails – the rewards and wonderment are limitless. Take a hike!


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