Hiking the Flume Gorge Trail: Adventure in New Hampshire

Flume Covered Bridge on trail in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire’s gorgeous White Mountains are a hiker's paradise. There are several enchanting state parks and captivating scenic hikes for adventures to explore. In particular, Franconia Notch State Park is a not-to-miss destination in not only the state but all of the East Coast. There are countless breathtaking trails here, but the Flume Gorge trail is perhaps the most spectacular. Within 2 miles there is a natural gorge with towering granite walls, powerful waterfalls, and picturesque covered bridges, it offers the best of New England hiking. It's a trail for avid hikers and novices alike. Below I'll explore everything you need to know for hiking the Flume Gorge trail. 

Last October, I finally made a road trip from NYC to New Hampshire that I had wanted to take for years. While the trip wasn't perfect with massive crowds and bad weather, it was still beautiful. One of the highlights of my visit was hiking the Flume Gorge. It exceeded all my expectations and is a place I long to return to. However, there was careful planning involved that made it a smooth hiking experience. In this post, I'll cover entry requirements, when to visit, the hike itself, and share tips for the best possible hike. 

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Need to Know Information

Where Is the Flume Gorge?

The gorgeous Flume Gorge Trail is located in Lincoln, New Hampshire. It's within Franconia Notch State Park, one of several state parks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains area. Franconia Notch State Park, including the Flume Gorge, is a stunning destination worth visiting and spending a few days exploring. Along with the Flume Gorge, there are plenty of other scenic trails to hike within this one area. It’s approximately a 5-and-a-half-hour drive from NYC and 2 hours from Boston. 

When Is the Best Time to Visit the Flume Gorge?

Most of the Flume Gorge trail is available to hike year-round. However, during winter, a portion of the trail is inaccessible. Facilities and boardwalks are closed in the off-season, and the trail isn't staffed. Although, the hike is lovely covered in snow, and there are minimal other visitors. 

The Flume Gorge is officially open from mid-May - late October. Summer and especially fall is peak time for visiting the Flume Gorge. While there are more crowds, there is no better time to visit than fall. Particularly in October when the weather is cool, and the foliage is on full display.

New Hampshire fall foliage.

Tip: If possible, visit on weekdays during peak season from summer through fall for a less crowded experience. Additionally, make reservations in advance to secure an entry time. 

Flume Gorge Entry Fees and Reservations

During the winter season, the Flume Gorge is free to enter. However, when the trail is open, you have to pay to hike Flume Gorge.  From May - October an admission fee is required. The price is lower online than at the window, so make advanced reservations to cut costs. On the plus side, you don't have to pay to park at Flume Gorge. There are no parking fees, only the admission fees. 

Reservations are necessary during peak season. While there is occasionally walk-in availability, it is not guaranteed. Entry reservations are for the specific day you visit and for an entrance hour time slot, such as 10 - 11 am. Reservations are required for anyone visiting, even children under 5. Flume Gorge reservations can be made here

2024 Flume Gorge Entry Rates:
Adults ages 13+: $18 booked online, $21 at ticket window
Children ages 6-12: $16 booked online, $19 at ticket window 
Children under 5: Free 

How Long Does It Take to Hike the Flume Gorge?

The Flume Gorge Trail is a 2-mile loop that should take approximately an hour and a half to complete. However, I would allocate at least two hours here to hike at a comfortable pace and time to stop to take photos. It's a spot you’ll want to enjoy every nook and cranny of, not rush to the finish line. 

Woman smiling at Flume Covered Bridge.

How Hard Is the Flume Gorge Hike?

The Flume Gorge is rated as moderate, but I would consider it on the easier side of moderate. This is a hike that almost everyone in the family can enjoy. Even young children and non-hikers can complete the Flume Gorge loop with ease. However, it is not handicap accessible and includes several uphill stair sections. There are a lot of steps and a few steep points during the hike, but overall it's not challenging, and handrails are there to assist you with climbing the stairs. 

How Was the Flume Gorge Formed?

Essentially, the gorge was formed through a combination of molten rock and erosion. During the Jurassic Period about 200 million years ago, volcanic activity caused molten basalt to move into cracks within the Conway granite. This created basalt dikes. Over the years, through the ice age and beyond, glaciers and then water erosion formed the spectacular chasm we see today. 

Woman walking into the Flume Gorge.

Quick Facts: Screenshot for Later!

Entry Fee: Required during the open season. Cost is $16 - $18 online, and $19 - $21 at window
Reservations: Required during open season
2024 Open Dates: May 10 - October 27
Hours: 9 am - 5 pm
Parking: Available and free 
Pet Policy: No pets allowed on the trail
Restrooms: In the visitor center at the trailhead 
Trail Details:
Length: 2-mile loop 
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 482 feet 

Hiking the Flume Gorge Trail

Unless you're visiting during the winter season, the Flume Gorge hike begins with checking in at the front window. This is why reservations are so important as there are only so many designated spots per hour. Once your group is checked in you walk right onto the trail. 

If you visit during the fall, you're immediately immersed in a spectacular foliage wonderland. The surrounding trees and forest lining the trail are in bright autumn shades of red, orange, and yellow. In the spring and summer, you'll encounter lush green vegetation. The path is flat and even from the trailhead until reaching the gorge. It's a comfortable stroll to enjoy the natural surroundings. 

Glacial Boulder 

The first unique point I saw on the hike was a massive Glacial Boulder. These glacial boulders are found throughout the trail, but none quite as enormous as this. I now knew I would see some incredible wonders of nature along the next two miles. 

Glacial Boulder seen hiking the Flume Gorge Trail.

Flume Covered Bridge

Continuing on the path, I crossed a boardwalk to reach the Flume Covered Bridge. This is just one of many boardwalks on the trail. The structure is a charming bright red-covered bridge built in 1886. It is one of the most popular and famous covered bridges in New Hampshire due to its picturesque setting. The lovely Flume Covered Bridge spanning the Pemigewasset River and surrounded by the fallen leaves was a quintessential New England sight. Even in a steady drizzle,  I had to stop to take plenty of photos here. 

Woman hiking Flume Gorge Trail to covered bridge.

Table Rock 

At this point, the hike along the trail after passing the Flume Covered Bridge remained more of a gentle walk as opposed to a moderate hike. The landscape also continues to be incredibly scenic. Table Rock was the next notable point of interest, with a massive slab of Conway granite sitting in the center of a stream. It's a quick stop to see the geological granite formation. You can't miss it since there are signs posted. 

Table Rock in New Hampshire with fall foliage.

Flume Gorge 

Now the fun truly begins once you cross more boardwalks to reach the main highlight of the trail, the Flume Gorge. The boardwalk to enter the gorge is flat and long, still easy to traverse, but the landscape changes, becoming more lush and wild. Climbing a few short staircases the path slightly inclines as moss-covered granite walls border you. Between the ancient walls and beneath the path are large boulders with a heavy stream flowing throughout it. The experience is awe-inspiring to witness so many natural wonders in one place. 

Wide shot of the gore on the trail.

I marveled at the beauty surrounding me, enjoying taking in the sight of the gorge at a slow pace. As I had visited in the first time slot on a Monday morning, there were few other visitors, so I didn't feel rushed. The boardwalk ends in a high staircase to climb to get to the next part of the trail. It was steep and slippery from the rain, but I took my time and used the railing for support. I was only somewhat out of breath at the top and rewarded with the image of the gorge behind me and a waterfall before me. 

Avalanche Falls

A short distance away from the top of Flume Gorge and continuing along a boardwalk is Avalanche Falls. This powerful waterfall has a 45-foot drop and is another fantastic stop along the trail. Though the falls aren't the tallest, they are still dramatic. They are stunning, flowing over the unique granite rock and surrounded by the forest and moss. 

The hike from here has a slight ascent to reach the very top of the trail. There are a few short staircases and a gradual incline on the boardwalk, but it's nothing compared to the Flume Gorge climb. The scenery is breathtaking, with several streams and small waterfalls with designated space to enjoy it. From here, the path transitions from a boardwalk to a smooth forest surface. 

Streams surrounded by fall foliage on hike.

Summit Overlook 

After walking the trail through the New Hampshire forest for a few minutes, I reached the summit overlook. The vista here showcases the gorgeous White Mountains with colorful hills extending as far as the eye can see. Even on an overcast day when I had visited, the view was epic. I took in the beauty from above for a few minutes before starting the descent down. 

Woman smiling at overlook with background of foliage.

As I made my way down the loop, I stopped at another lovely stream and a small overlook for a waterfall. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the waterfall's name, but it was spectacular and powerful. It's a clearly marked slight detour off the trail, and worth taking a few minutes to experience. 

Waterfall from detour on flume gorge trail

Sentinel Covered Bridge and Pool

In the distance, I spotted the next point of interest on the trail, the Sentinel Covered Bridge, but first I took in the deep pool from above. The pool is a natural wonder and basin in the Pemigewasset River at 40 feet deep and 150 feet in diameter. There are plenty of places to view the pool along the trail, but I thought the best view was from the Sentinel Covered Bridge. 

The Pool on the Flume Gorge Trail.

At first glance, the covered bridge wasn't particularly special, I thought it was somewhat dull with its uniform brown wooden appearance. However, as I got closer to the covered bridge built in 1939, I was enchanted by the entire scene. This was one of the best foliage viewing locations on the trail, as the trees above were in a myriad of autumn tones. Once I walked inside to cross the river, I immediately paused to take in the landscape on each side. Both images were similar to a painting with a vibrant fall forest and a view of the flowing river or the natural pool. The views were incredible to take in throughout the bridge walk. 

Wolf Den

Once off the bridge and back on the trail, there's a narrow opening to the side for those looking to explore the Wolf Den. Visitors can climb on their hands and knees on a one-way path to enter a cave. Admittedly, I took a peek and turned around as the rocks were slippery from the misty rain. However, some kids in front seemed excited to go inside. 

Wolf Den at the end of the trail.

The remainder of the loop trail was short and pleasant. With colored leaves falling to the ground, bright trees around me, and a crisp breeze. At the end, I stopped inside the visitor center to see unique antique items on display and learn about the history of the Flume Gorge before returning to my car. 

So, Is Flume Gorge Worth It?

Yes, absolutely the Flume Gorge Trail is worth it. This is a not to miss hike in New Hampshire. It's my favorite hike in the state so far. While there are other nearby trails with breathtaking views, Flume Gorge is still incredibly scenic and on the less challenging side. There's a beautiful sight at every turn, including powerful waterfalls, charming covered bridges, and a spectacular gorge. At 2 miles, it's a great bang for your buck hike that's worth the entry fee during peak season. I highly recommend taking this hike in the fall with the stunning foliage. 

Foliage seen hiking the Flume Gorge Trail.

Where to Stay Near Flume Gorge 

Woodwards White Mountain Resort: Less than 2 miles from Flume Gorge is a comfortable resort filled with amenities. Stays include complimentary breakfast, an on-site restaurant, and some pet-friendly rooms. 

Indian Head Resort: Located a mile from Flume Gorge, this resort nestled in the White Mountains overlooking a lake offers a relaxing New Hampshire stay. There are a variety of rooms to choose from including cottages and bungalows and an on-site restaurant for dining. 

The Kancamagus Lodge: This lodge offers affordable and cozy lodging a little over 5 miles from the Flume Gorge. Rooms are simple but quaint with modern amenities and an on-site restaurant.  

The Franconia Inn: Though this inn is located the furthest from Flume Gorge at 11 miles, it's a lovely place to stay. It's still near several attractions, has an on-site restaurant, and stables for horseback riding. I opted to stay here during my visit and enjoyed the cozy room and warm staff. 

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  • Maggie says:

    This is perfect timing! I'm actually going to the White Mountains over Labor Day weekend with a friend and it's my first time visiting there. We're both avid hikers, so this sounds like a great trail to add to the agenda. Thanks!

    • Jillian says:

      That's wonderful! I'd love to visit the White Mountains the next time in spring/summer with all that greenery! Definitely recommend adding Flume Gorge to the agenda, it's a not to miss hike!

  • Cris says:

    What a gorgeous hike! I'd definitely need more than 2 hours to take photos of absolutely everything.

    • Jillian says:

      Absolutely! I could have spent at least another 40 minutes taking photos but we had a drizzle so two hours was enough!