What: Latourell Falls
Where: Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
When: Year round
Why: Beautiful sights with or without a hike
So funny story: on New Year’s Day of this year we thought we’d head to the Gorge. The weather was cold but the skies were clear and we wanted to get outside. We decided to hike Latourell Falls (based on our dear friend Becky’s recommendation). The lower falls are right by the parking lot—you can hop out of your car and see the falls in a minute. There’s a viewpoint if you walk up the stairs from the lot, and you can walk around the actual falls if you go down the stairs.
We were feeling eager to move so we decided to take the trail to the smaller-but-still-lovely upper falls. There is a 2.5-mile loop that takes you down to the other falls and back. The kids were happy and we were up for it—why not try it?
Well, it was January 1. Winter, folks. As we went along the trail following Henderson Creek, it got a bit narrow and covered with snow here and there. At first it was charming and beautiful, but then there was more and more snow and ice. When we reached the falls, it was truly breathtaking: the area was covered in ice. The falls were partially frozen, and the mist had coated everything with this incredible layer of ice. Every rock, every blade of grass, the bridge, the trail… everything!
I looked at our three kids, and thought, “Welp! That was cool. Let’s go back the way we came.” But no, my husband really, REALLY wanted to do the loop. So he went ahead and tried walking slowly down the trail, and he immediately fell down. Like, immediately (it’s okay to laugh, I sure did). Again, I thought that was it. But no, he somehow persuaded us all to scoot along down the icy trail and across the bridge sitting on our behinds. It was hilarious. We were all laughing, and my only regret is that there weren’t other hikers nearby at the time to enjoy the absurdity.
We ended up completing the loop, but not without some cold, tired little hikers. We loved what we saw, but I thought, “I can’t recommend hiking this in the winter on my blog! Somebody will sue!” We decided we really needed to come back and try it in the summer.
I’m happy to report we did. At least the lower falls. We came with my husband’s family last month, took the stairs to the bottom of the falls, and walked behind the water and all around the amazing rock formations. It was peaceful and lush and green, and nobody had to scoot on their butts.
The rocks were so fascinating that I ended up asking my uncle/retired professor/botanist/scientist extraordinaire about them. He replied:
“Look up BASALT COLUMNS. They form if you allow basalt to cool—and, from looking at the photos you just sent, it looks like you may have become distracted, walked off and let it do just that. (Actually, the whole Gorge is basalt with some spectacular examples of columns.)”
He’s smart. And hilarious.
So visit Latourell Falls for sure! But if you go in the winter, you didn’t hear it from me. ;)