Hiking The Flume Gorge At Franconia Notch State Park
On my latest road trip with “the boys”, it lead us along New Hampshire I-93 for Lincoln. Along the scenic drive we entered Franconia Notch State Park and noticed all the road signs for the attractions. I didn’t have anything planned, rather we were heading for Lincoln Woods trails. A last minute decision to take the off-ramp for Route 3 for the Flume Gorge turned out to be a great decision.
Getting There Early
As you can imagine, this area of the White Mountains in October can be quite busy. We arrived at the Flume visitor center to an empty parking lot before 9am. Once we were done the hike, the lot was full. The visitor center had lots of local history of the area along with the usual rest rooms & gift shop.
Buying Tickets and The Flow
It is 16$ per adult to enter the flume gorge. The ticket booth is your entrance and exit point as crowds are directed through the doors. Once you reach the outdoors again, you can start the hike by going uphill along your left. You might see the small tour bus on the right. Pets are not allowed.
Moderate Uphill and Slow Climb
The posted 2 mile loop trail up to the flume is moderate uphill that’s bound to get the heart rate going. But don’t worry, once you pass the table rock it slowly levels to an easy climb a short distance later once the stairs start to Avalanche Falls. There are plenty of stops along the way to learn about the ecosystem to catch your breath.
Crossing the covered bridge and past the old lodge (I’ll call it a lodge). The gorge portion is absolutely fantastic as you walk along the stairs in between this 800 foot gorge 70-90 foot tall walls which narrows between 12-20 feet.
Downhill To The Gorge
Once you reach the top of the Flume, you can take the quick way back to the covered bridge or loop around Liberty Gorge where you can spot a few lookouts of the notch and Mount Liberty where the Appalachian Trail hikers need to pass.
The trail up to this point is wide and well worn, but I’d still would wear good shoes with traction such as trail running shows, or light hikers. Most of the uphill is now past us.
Liberty Gorge, Sentinel Pine Bridge and The Pool
The next money shot is Liberty Gorge, a tight hairpin turn overlooking a 100 foot drop water fall. Take the side trail after the bridge to get a better view. Did I mention the rain shelters along the way? These are three sided shelters with benches, accommodating about 8-10 people.
Almost next to this great sight is the first sight of Sentinel Pine Bridge and the Pool. When framed within the fall colors, an absolutely amazing view. Take time at the two lookouts to admire the pool and the pine bridge before taking a walk along the bridge itself. For the adventurous bunch, try the Wolf’s Den which is a narrow trench in between a few boulders. Expect to get your hands and knees dirty.
The last bit of the trail will take us past glacial boulders which reminds me a lot of the hiking trails at Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia where you’d be running into these enormous boulders in the middle of the woods.
As promised, our final track file was 3.4km after a leisurely 90min tour. As mentioned at the start, we got in just in time to beat out the many tour & school buses, it got busy pretty quick! When exiting, we noticed a tour bike shuttle station next to the pay phone, I’ll have to look this up as the recreational trail passes nearby. If you know more about it, leave your comments!