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.
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.
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.
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.
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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