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Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Flume Gorge - Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

There's a little saying that I have to repeat to myself as we head to some of the busier attractions that tend to be a bit more beginner (and in my case kid) friendly. When the crowds start to assemble and I have to use a bit more patience and a few more forced smiles I remind myself of this: 

"Popular places are popular for a reason". I also remind myself there are ways to get around the busiest times and that usually involves weekdays and early mornings, something my flexible schedule and early risers typically allow. 

Flume Gorge in the fall
Flume Gorge in the fall

While we've been to The White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire many times, this was our first time visiting the entirety of the Flume Gorge. We stopped by once in the winter on our way back from Santa's Village but the boardwalks are removed to a point and the entire loop impassable. We had yet to visit during the operating season as dogs aren't allowed and we almost always have the dogs, I knew it was a busy popular attraction, and with so many amazing hikes in The Whites, I didn't feel the need to pay an admission fee for a hike. When we visited New Hampshire this past weekend in October, we had our infant and toddler and the opportunity to leave the dogs behind and decided to check out the gorge. Spoiler: it was worth the crowds and the admission fee (that supports the park system) and it was popular for a reason. 

Flume Gorge covered bridge
Flume Gorge covered bridge

Flume Gorge Pemi River
Flume Gorge in the Fall

Why visit

The Flume Gorge extends 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. You can walk over boardwalks through the gorge to see the walls of granite rise 70 to 90 feet above a narrow opening, about 12 to 20 feet apart. The Flume Trail hike that takes you through the gorge and loops back around to the start is a 2.5 ish mile loop and typically takes about 1.5 hours with the crowds and photo stops. While I would rate this beginner friendly, there is some elevation and there are a decent amount of stairs. There are a lot of scenic spots and vistas which include a covered bridge, pools, waterfalls, and of course the gorge itself. While anytime is a good time to visit, the leaves in the park were beyond picture perfect and the first week in October was a stunning time to visit the gorge. We were glad we visited early in the morning as the nearly empty parking lot during our early morning arrival was jam packed by the time we left. We had a great hike and I would gladly visit again in the future. 

Flume Gorge Entrance
Flume Gorge Entrance

Need To Know

Operating season

The park is not open year round and in 2023, was open May 12 to October 9. Dates and times are weather dependent and can change without notice. It's best to call before you go if the weather looks iffy. 603-745-8391. In the "off season" (after October 22nd) the park is typically not staffed, comfort stations are not available and gates may be closed. In the winter, the Flume Gorge Trail is accessible but the gorge is closed to hikers and the boardwalk is removed. 

Flume Gorge boardwalk
Flume Gorge boardwalk


**Booking online in advance ensures your reservation and saves $3 per ticket -you will reserve an hour window for admission. 
Adults (13+) $18 online/$21 window
Children (6-12) $16 online/$19 window
Five and under are free 

Flume Gorge with kids
Flume Gorge with kids


I thought this was the perfect kid-friendly hike. You will have to help them along the boardwalk and the stairway but the shorter distance and easy to follow trail makes this great for kids. We also loved stopping to crawl through the caves on the way. Whitney is usually good for atleast a mile and I highly recommend bringing some kind of carrier for young kids who may not be able to complete the entire loop. 


Pets are pretty welcomed in The White Mountain National Forest. However this is one of those spots they are not. Pets are not permitted in the Flume Gorge or on this trail (only allowed in the designated dog walk areas of the Flume & Tramway parking lots). 

Flume Gorge with kids

Keep it Clean

This goes without saying but practicing leave no trace principles, following the rules and signage, and just being a decent human is imperative to keeping these gorgeous spaces open for everyone to enjoy. Follow the rules, pack out your garbage, and try to be courteous of those around you. Places like this require extra patience and for all the adults to be on their best behavior. Do not leave your trash, toilet paper, or garbage on the trail. There are bathrooms and garbage cans located throughout the park. 

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