Waterfalls of The Flume

Grafton County / Franconia Notch State Park / Lincoln, New Hampshire, USA

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 2.5
Avalanche Falls in the popular Flume-Pool Loop Hike (aka 'The Flume')

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The waterfalls of The Flume (or more formally the Flume-Pool Loop) were really more of an excuse to talk about what we had read in the literature to be perhaps the most popular hike in New Hampshire. And from how busy this place was during our visit, we definitely concurred with the assessment that it was popular. The roughly 2-mile loop hike possessed more than the waterfalls, however, as we also noticed a bear cave, a wolf den, a pair of covered bridges, glacial boulders, gorges, and even vistas that were further accentuated by the peak of the Fall colors. Indeed, there was a lot of diversity in such a reasonably short day hike that I guess it shouldn't have been surpising that it was popular!

We counted three fairly significant waterfalls (maybe even four, which you'll see for reasons later on in this page). While none of the waterfalls blew us away individually, it was the cumulative experience of all the waterfalls taken together along with the other features the hike had to offer that really made this a pretty fun experience for Julie, Tahia, and I.

Even though the hike was modestly long in terms of its length, there was some elevation gain and loss of about 250ft in both directions, plus I was carrying our daughter on my back in a carrier. So we bumped up the difficulty score as a result though I could easily imagine someone not as encumbered as I was would have an easier time than I did. Anyways, we did the loop hike in a counterclockwise manner, which began from a fairly large visitor center that featured some historic displays as well as some stuffed life-sized animals as well. There was also a greasy cafe here that was convenient for us when we finished our hike. The admission fee to do this hike was a steep $15 per adult. Fortunately, Tahia got to go in free as she was well under 5 years of age.

One of the historical artifacts on display inside the Flume Visitor Center Once we got past the entrance window, we then went out through the back of the visitor center where there was also a nice view of the Autumn colors with Mt Liberty and Mt Flume backing the scene. We had a choice of hiking to the left along a trail or going down to a little cul-de-sac where a shuttle would periodically come and go. We opted to keep left and do the hike instead of taking the shuttle, which didn't seem to go far anyways in hindsight.

We hiked gently uphill through a wooded area that provided some welcome relief from the sun on a day that promised to be unseasonably warm. Not long thereafter, we made it to a junction where there was a large glacial boulder that seemed to be a popular photo op. This junction was the start and end of the loop. So we headed downhill on the right to do the loop counterclockwise, and the trail eventually descended towards the attractive red-colored Flume Covered Bridge spanning the Pemigewasset River.

A short distance beyond the bridge, we noticed a building that seemed to be a souvenir shop or snack bar at the end of the shuttle route that we opted not to take. And it was beyond this building that the trail then climbed alongside the Flume Brook. During this stretch of the trail that we saw a sliding cascade over the Table Rock. I guess this cascade would marginally count as a waterfall in my mind, but we were well aware of how slippery and deceptively dangerous it could get given the smooth surfaces here. Yet that didn't stop some people from putting rocks in the brook further upstream, which made some interesting patterns in the waterflow.

There were many cascades seen on this hike, such as this series just upstream from The Flume Next, the trail then became a narrow boardwalk (where it was easy to clog traffic whenever I stopped to take photos) clinging onto the gorge walls as the trail entered into the section known as the Flume Gorge, which I'd imagine was the very reason the hike got its name. With the walls closing in on us as we proceeded further along the gorge, the sounds of rushing water echoed loudly in this attractive part of the hike. We could see up near the head of the gorge was a waterfall that ran alongside some steps that would leave this narrow section.

Then, after getting through this section, we saw more cascades as the scenery opened up a little before going through a less taller gorge where the narrow trail went right in front of the Avalanche Falls. This waterfall was said to be 40ft tall and it was at about 3/4-mile from the visitor center. We noticed that the best photographs of waterfalls this close to the trail were at an angle, but with the constant traffic combined with the awkward viewing angle on the boardwalk, the best we could do was the photo you see at the top of this page.

The trail then went up some steps to climb out of the depths of the mini-gorge. That was when we noticed a little bear cave that was an interesting little photo op. And not much further beyond the cave, the trail curved back around over a bridge and deviated towards the top of Avalanche Falls.

Idyllic scenes like this seemed to be the norm.  This was taken from within the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge Continuing on the loop trail, we then traversed what was called the Liberty Ridge section of the trail, which passed through what a sign called the Flume Woods. Not surprisingly, the hike went through a much quieter wooded section which was a nice change of scenery from the loud sounds and the drama of the Flume Gorge. So this part of the hike persisted for the next half-mile or so before the trail went over a bridge by a shelter that was above the Liberty Cascade. Just beyond the shelter, we took a short spur trail down some steps leading to an overlook above the Liberty Gorge with a much better frontal view of the 70ft Liberty Cascade.

Back on the main trail, the trail then swung around towards an overlook of the Pool. From the vantage point here, it seemed like this was basically a large gorge with what appeared to be a dark and deep pool beneath us. While the views here were nice, we quickly continued on the trail which now descended towards the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge spanning the gorge that gave rise to the Pool. We could hear rushing water below us, but it didn't appear that there was a waterfall from the views we were able to get so far.

On the other side of the bridge, we then passed by a Wolf's Den, which was a very narrow slot in the rock where apparently wolves used to reside. Now, it was a detour of the trail where we could've tried to squeeze our way in and then go up some stairs on the other side. But since we were carrying Tahia with us and she was starting to get a little bit cranky at this time, we decided not to go through the trouble of going through it.

So continuing on the main trail, we then reached another junction where we saw another spur path that descended to another lookout for the Pool. If it weren't for the signs here showing drawings of a waterfall fronting the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge, I wouldn't have bothered to come down here. But when we finally made it down to the lookout point (knowing full well that I'd have to climb back up with Tahia on my back), I was pleasantly surprised to see the real thing was almost as romantic as the drawing we had seen earlier. It also dawned on me that this waterfall that we couldn't see until now was probably the very reason why the rushing water sound was as loud as it was.

With the Pool being the third (or fourth if you count Table Rock) and last waterfall on this hike, the rest of the excursion was pretty much a mad dash to get back to the visitor center to have lunch. However, the trail had to climb at first, which I definitely felt at this stage of the hike. But then we found ourselves at a very nice overlook with more Autumn colors fronting Mt Liberty and Mt Flume all juxtaposed against clear blue skies. Then, the trail descended amongst more glacial boulders before returning to the trail junction by the first glacial boulder we saw.

In the end, the overall hike took us about 2.5 hours, which was very slow for a two-mile hike. However, that just gives you an idea of how long this hike would take if you were to go at a very relaxed pace while carrying a child.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

This was the namesake section of the hike known as The FlumeThis was the namesake section of the hike known as The Flume
The Liberty Cascade, which was one of three or four main waterfall features of The Flume-Pool Loop hikeThe Liberty Cascade, which was one of three or four main waterfall features of The Flume-Pool Loop hike
This idyllic scene of a waterfall fronting the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge was known as The Pool, and it was the last of the waterfall features we saw on the Flume-Pool Loop hikeThis idyllic scene of a waterfall fronting the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge was known as The Pool, and it was the last of the waterfall features we saw on the Flume-Pool Loop hike
An explosion of Autumn colors fronting Mt Liberty (left) and Mt Flume (right)An explosion of Autumn colors fronting Mt Liberty (left) and Mt Flume (right)
This was the car park for the Flume Visitor Center, which was very busy on the day we showed upThis was the car park for the Flume Visitor Center, which was very busy on the day we showed up

About to enter the Flume Visitor CenterAbout to enter the Flume Visitor Center

Inside the roomy interior of the Flume Visitor CenterInside the roomy interior of the Flume Visitor Center

This was the view from the back of the Visitor CenterThis was the view from the back of the Visitor Center

The initial section of trail was through a forest that provided some shade from the sunThe initial section of the trail was through a forest that provided some shade from the sun

The glacial boulder at the start and stop of the loop section of the Flume-Pool Loop hikeThe glacial boulder at the start and stop of the loop section of the Flume-Pool Loop hike

This was the attractive Flume Covered Bridge over the Pemigewasset RiverThis was the attractive Flume Covered Bridge over the Pemigewasset River

Table Rock and its sliding cascadeTable Rock and its sliding cascade

Beyond Table Rock, the trail continued to follow the Flume BrookBeyond Table Rock, the trail continued to follow the Flume Brook

The trail then started to enter the narrow walls of The FlumeThe trail then started to enter the narrow walls of The Flume

The walls of the Flume got narrower the further we wentThe walls of the Flume got narrower the further we went

The narrow trail inside The Flume seemed to be clinging onto the gorge wallsThe narrow trail inside The Flume seemed to be clinging onto the gorge walls

This was the attractive waterfall at the head of The Flume GorgeThis was the attractive waterfall at the head of The Flume Gorge

More attractive waterfalls could be seen as we continued to climb out of The Flume GorgeMore attractive waterfalls could be seen as we continued to climb out of The Flume Gorge

The bear cave near Avalanche FallsThe bear cave near Avalanche Falls

Looking down into the gorge from the top of Avalanche FallsLooking down into the gorge from the top of Avalanche Falls

Looking down at the brink of Avalanche FallsLooking down at the brink of Avalanche Falls

Julie choosing to stay right and follow the Ridge TrailJulie choosing to stay right and follow the Ridge Trail

Julie walking down to the steps to the Liberty Cascade lookoutJulie walking down the steps to the Liberty Cascade lookout

Julie continuing on the trail beyond the Liberty CascadeJulie continuing on the trail beyond the Liberty Cascade

Looking down at the lookout high up above the gorge for The PoolLooking down at the lookout high up above the gorge for The Pool

Looking down at the full depth of the gorge leading down to The PoolLooking down at the full depth of the gorge leading down to The Pool

Looking towards the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge, which was the second covered bridge we encountered on this loop hikeLooking towards the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge, which was the second covered bridge we encountered on this loop hike

Crossing the Sentinel Pine Covered BridgeCrossing the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge

The front side of the Wolf's DenThe front side of the Wolf's Den

Looking back at the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge from the other sideLooking back at the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge from the other side

Finally, the waterfall at The PoolFinally, the waterfall at The Pool

Just out of curiosity, I went to see what the other side of the Wolf Den looked like.  Clearly, there was no way I would do it without taking my daughter off my backJust out of curiosity, I went to see what the other side of the Wolf Den looked like. Clearly, there was no way I would do it without taking my daughter off my back

Passing by more giant glacial boulders towards the end of the loop hikePassing by more giant glacial boulders towards the end of the loop hike

We finally made it back to the first glacial boulder we saw at the junctionWe finally made it back to the first glacial boulder we saw at the junction

And, we finally made it back to the car park for the Flume Visitor CenterAnd, we finally made it back to the car park for the Flume Visitor Center


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Top down sweep of the sliding cascade flowing on the rounded bedrocks of Table Rock


Bottom up sweep of the narrow gorge


Zoomed in on the Avalanche Falls before sweeping downstream to the narrow gorge


Looking up and down the Liberty Cascade from the lookout


Right to left sweep of the Pool leading up to the waterfall and bridge above it


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We drove to the Flume as part of a long drive from Stowe, VT to North Conway, NH. The Flume Gorge Visitor Center was about 4 miles north of the town of Lincoln (where the I-93, Hwy 3, and Hwy 112 [Kancamagus Hwy] all meet).

As we were driving south along the I-93, signs directed us to take the Exit 34A towards the Flume Visitor Center. This was about a two-hour (about 85-mile) drive east of Stowe, VT.

To provide you with a sense of geographical context, Lincoln was the narest town to The Flume hike and it was 92 miles (2 hours drive) east of Stowe, VT, 42 miles (about an hour drive) west of North Conway, 130 miles (2 hours drive) north of Boston, MA, and 190 miles (3 hours drive) southeast of Montreal, QC, Canada.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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