When it comes to iconic waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls tends to get most of the glory. At over 600 feet tall, it’s certainly an impressive sight. However, there’s another waterfall in the Gorge that gives Multnomah a run for its money – Latourell Falls. While not as tall, Latourell Falls has a stunning beauty and character all its own that makes it well worth a visit for any waterfall lover.


Latourell Falls and the tiny town it’s named after have a rich history dating back to the 1850s when a French immigrant named Joseph “Frenchy” Latourell settled in the area. Latourell operated a mercantile, fish wheel, and worked as a boatman on the Columbia River. In its heyday, the town of Latourell had five saloons and was known for its brass band.

Commercial logging didn’t come to the area until the 1880s. Before that, residents made a living cutting cordwood to fuel the steamships traversing the Columbia. One of Latourell’s early entrepreneurs was a woman known as Mrs. Henderson or “Bidy” who opened the Latourell Falls Chalet in 1914 (though it burned down just three months later).

Why is it better than Multnomah?

So what makes Latourell Falls so special? For starters, its stunning drop is incredibly photogenic. The falls cascade 290 feet from several layers of gorgeous basalt cliffs decorated with an almost neon green Lichen.

One of the best aspects of Latourell Falls is that you can experience it from multiple vantage points up close. You can even go right under and feel the waterfalling on you! An easy 2.4-mile loop trail winds through the forest, crossing numerous footbridges over the creek that feeds the falls and along the way you’ll go right by another amazing upper falls. The trail then arrives at an amphitheater-like setting revealing the full glory of Latourell. 

So is Latourell really better than the famous Multnomah Falls just a few miles away? That’s a matter of opinion, but Latourell certainly gives Multnomah a run for its money in the beauty department. And because it’s less popular, you’re more likely to be able to enjoy Latourell in relative solitude compared to the crowds at Multnomah.

The biggest factor that may make Latourell superior is the ability to experience it from multiple angles up close. At Multnomah, you’re primarily limited to viewing from the trail, bridge, and falls overlook which are all relatively distant from the actual waterfall. Latourell allows you to surround yourself with the beauty of the falls.


Another consideration is timing – in late summer and fall, Multnomah Falls can run very low and diminish in grandeur. Latourell tends to maintain better flow thanks to its lower elevation and dense forest surroundings providing constant runoff into the creek that sources it.

Whether Latourell definitively takes the crown or not, there’s no question it’s a must-see for any waterfall enthusiast visiting the Columbia River Gorge. Between its history, brilliant scenery, and multiple perspectives, Latourell packs a whole lot of punch into a relatively short hike. Don’t miss the chance to decide for yourself which iconic Gorge waterfall reigns supreme and book a tour to see all the falls today

Author – Taylor Marean