New Hampshire is definitely one of my favorite states in the US because the nature and views are just gorgeous. To be totally fair, this state is stunning during all seasons, but I especially love the summers because we get to hike to some of the coolest spots.
This last summer, we revisited Flume Gorge, one of our favorite hikes/waterfalls in New Hampshire. And let me tell you: this waterfall is not to be missed!
This was my first time visiting the Flume Gorge in New Hampshire as a fully grown adult (though it was a favorite of mine during college) and it honestly gets better every time I see it.
The views are gorgeous and it’s a great workout. The hike is easy but still feels like you’re doing something cool and dangerous.
Flume Gorge is a natural wonder located in the Lincoln, NH area. This 800-foot gorge is packed with stunning waterfalls, making it the perfect destination for a day of sightseeing. If you’re visiting New Hampshire for the first time (or even if you’re a seasoned local), Flume Gorge is a must-see, offering historic covered bridges, cascading waterfalls, and an 800 ft-long gorge.
I’ve put together this guide to provide some detailed information that comes from firsthand experience. I hope this helps you enjoy your trip and get the most out of visiting the beautiful Flume Gorge!
What Is Flume Gorge In New Hampshire?
Flume is a narrow gorge covered with moss and towering granite walls. It’s insanely tall (over 90 feet in some places) and narrow, creating really dramatic views. It’s basically New Hampshire’s equivalent of a crater and is actually prehistoric!
Visitor boardwalks provide access to the narrowest sections of the gorge, which contain waterfalls, boulders, and pools.
Additionally, Flume Gorge offers two charming covered bridges, sections of tranquil forest trail, and incredible observation decks/viewpoints to check out the mountains.
You don’t have to be a mountaineer to enjoy Flume Gorge’s 2-mile loop. Just make sure to arrive early to avoid foot traffic, especially in the narrow gorge section.
When To Visit Flume Gorge:
If you want to see seriously dramatic waterfalls then consider visiting Flume Gorge during the spring or summer. Sometimes, the waterfalls dry up in the late summer/early autumn so you won’t get the full effect.
However, you can see great waterfalls depending on the rainfall. I recommend that you do some research if you really want to visit later in the year. We’ve been once in the autumn and the waterfall was still pretty mind-blowing!
While the falls are usually better in the earlier months, you may want to hike the trail during the fall to see the foliage. Once the leaves start turning the observation points are much more dramatic, especially once you’ve passed the waterfall area.
So it really depends on what you want to see. Are you more excited to check out insane waterfalls? Go in the spring/early summer. Want to see gorgeous New England foliage? Your best bet is to visit Flume Gorge in the fall.
While you technically can visit NH’s Flume Gorge in the winter (it’s open all year), I would recommend against it. There’s no staff on-site and the climb is at your own risk. And trust me: the stairs are slippery enough in the summer!
The flume gorge is open from May 10th to October 20th with staff. You definitely wouldn’t want to go in the winter anyways; those stairs would be insanely slippery.
- 5/10-6/30 8:30am-5pm
- 7/1-9/2 8:30am-5:30pm
- 9/3-10/20 8:30am-5pm
Around 1pm was the perfect time for us to arrive. The midday heat wasn’t a problem since the day was slightly cooler (high 70s).
Tickets & Prices:
As of right now, the ticket prices are:
- Ages 13+: $18
- Ages 6-12: $16
- 5 & Under: FREE w/ paid adult.
* All rates and dates are subject to change.
BTW, pets aren’t allowed in the Flume Gorge (past the ticket desk) but are allowed in nearby parks.
You’ll need to reserve tickets ahead of time, at least right now, through the New Hampshire State Parks.
If you don’t reserve tickets you may not be able to enter. They’re pretty strict due to the last few years, so you can’t just show up anymore. Make sure you book ahead since peak season fills up really quickly!
Flume Gorge Directions & Parking:
Flume Gorge is located near Lincoln, New Hampshire, along the Daniel Webster Highway.
It is located only 6 miles from nearby Artists Bluff, as well as 7 miles from the beginning and end of Kancamagus Highway.
Flume Gorge is really easy to find (it’s right off I-93). There’s plenty of parking available right outside the visitor center.
Flume Gorge is a beautiful and popular spot in the White Mountain National Forest. During the weekends, it can get quite crowded, so try going on the early or later end.
12pm is the worst time to try and park because it’s when all the families from the morning and the afternoon are hiking the trails. Ticket lines can also be longish on the weekends, so plan to wait for a bit.
You’ll need to go through the visitor center before beginning your hike. The Flume Gorge Visitor Center has a cafe that sells snacks and ice cream, a gift shop, an information center, and a variety of displays from the 1800’s that are fun to check out.
There are also (super clean) bathrooms available that you’ll need to hit before you actually go through the ticket line. Once you purchase tickets you’re through the center, so do all of your sightseeing before joining the ticket line.
The Hike On the Flume Trail:
- Distance: 2 miles
- Elevation: 500 ft gain
- Hike Type: Loop
- Hike Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
- Dogs/Pets: Not permitted
This is an easy loop hike – you go up the Gorge and then around, so your main views are towards the beginning of the hike.
First, it’ll look like you’re simply hiking a regular mountain with only a few small streams like this one.
The loop that leads to Flume Gorge NH isn’t really a hike since it’s not long. Flume trail has a total distance of about 2 miles and a lot of the trek is uphill, though it isn’t long enough to feel like a workout.
A lot of young kids made the trip on their own (without being carried). The hike would be difficult for anyone with a disability since the entire walk by the waterfall is wooded stairs. The hike is also not stroller-friendly.
Along the way, there are so many picturesque photo spots! Before you reach the falls, you’ll begin to hike uphill. At some point, you’ll start walking on wooden boards, then you’ll reach the wooden stairs. This is the main part of the falls where you’ll have the best views.
Watch out – the stairs get really slippery! I recommend treading carefully since the rapids and falls are extremely strong right below the staircase.
But I promise you, it’s totally worth it, even if you’re scared of heights. FYI, the boards are inspected yearly and look brand new – they’re completely safe to walk on.
I really enjoyed the hike. It felt much more rural than other hikes in the area, and we saw a lot of critters (luckily, no bears!). You definitely feel like you’re actually in the wilderness, even if there are a lot of people around during the weekends.
Once you see the falls, you’ll continue with the rest of the loop to come back down. The elevation goes up really quickly (though it’s only about 500 feet) and the waterfall views are all in the beginning, then you have the rest of the hike to check out the mountainous scenery. It’s a bit more leisurely after you get off the stairs.
The Flume Gorge New Hampshire Falls
You’ll start to see the falls once you walk past Table Rock (a massive granite structure from the last ice age).
The narrow path grows much narrower after the first part of the hike, and the walls on either side grow much taller. Right away, you may feel mist. In comparison to the temperature outside near the lodge, this part of the walk was insanely cool!
One huge piece of advice for anyone who wants to take photos (like me) is to hold on to your phone! Since I’ve lost my phone more times than I can count, this seemed like a perfect opportunity, especially while leaning over the railing to take photos.
For those of you who use professional cameras, you’ll definitely want to invest in some water-resistant equipment before seeing the Flume Gorge. There’s literally no avoiding the massive amounts of mist during this part of the climb
As you climb the stairs, you will see the largest part of the Flume (Avalanche Falls is 45 feet high!). It was cool to almost literally be a part of the falls while climbing the stairs, but I wish I had more time to stop and see it. If you go when the walk is busy then you’ll have to keep moving along during this part. Just another reason to try and see the Flume during the week!
Once you get to the top and go around the corner, the views aren’t as great, but you’ll be able to check out some of the smaller streams and waterfalls at your leisure – you can stop as much as you’d like.
There’s also an observation deck right around the corner that we spent a few minutes on. You can’t really see the falls from the observation deck (strangely enough) but the sounds and atmosphere are just so cool.
I recommend that you get a look as much as possible while you’re climbing the stairs because that’s definitely the best view of the falls. You can’t go back down after, so you may be disappointed if you hurry through and realize that was the main event.
Once you start to walk back, you’ll see the Liberty Gorge Cascade. These falls are smaller but do offer the opportunity to sit and observe the water. They’re really beautiful to see from above!
There are also some great spots to grab a group photo up near the observation deck. Seriously – the views of the mountains are insanely gorgeous!
If you continue along the Flume trail after visiting the falls, you will be able to see the pool from hundreds of feet above.
It is surrounded by massive cliffs (which you’ll be standing on) and can reach a depth of 40 feet in some places! This pool was created during the Ice Age and is extremely cold (not that we’ve ever swum in it).
Since you are so high up, this is a small area with some cool views. If you are looking to take a break from the sun, this area is a great place to hang out.
The Covered Bridge
What New Englander doesn’t love a good old covered bridge? Flume Gorge has two gorgeous covered bridges. The largest red bridge can even accommodate large trucks and buses!
We also enjoyed seeing the smaller covered bridge. It’s only for foot traffic and is walkable, or you can choose to find this observation point (also on the loop) and take photos.
Don’t worry about missing anything – you’ll come across every interesting point on the loop! It’s super self-explanatory once you get past the falls.
The Wolf & Bear Dens
As soon as you reach the top of the stairs, you’ll find the bear den. If it isn’t too crowded, it is actually pretty cool to check out, especially because you can hear the waterfall right behind you. This used to be a bear den, but it’s now more of a tourist attraction.
You’ll come across a wolf den later on during your hike (after crossing the covered bridge). Checking it out is more challenging. While most of it can be walked through, at some point you will need to crawl on your hands and knees.
You can continue on the path around the wolf den to meet up with your group if you don’t like tight spaces. I highly recommend checking it out if you aren’t claustrophobic: it was really cool!
If you do not want to hike the Flume trail the entire way up, you can take a shuttle up part of the way to see the waterfall. Keep in mind that you will still need to climb the stairs – nothing can be done about it.
If you need to, you can skip the beginning and end of the hike with the shuttle. Although we didn’t take it, it would be a great idea for those with trouble traveling or for families with young children.
Where to Swim:
There are very strict rules about not swimming during the 2-mile loop, and for good reason: the rapids are insane! There isn’t a good spot for swimming during the self-guided tour, which is why the signs were up. So no, you can’t swim at Flume Gorge (sadly).
But, there are lots of great swimming spots right near this area! After driving across the street we found a swimming spot literally right off the road in the Basin. Parking is easy (it’s right off the highway) and you only have to walk about 20 yards to get to the swimming hole.
Remember that the water is freezing! Taking a quick dip in this clean and refreshing body of water on a hot day is definitely worth the trip, even if you don’t plan to stay in it for a long time. Plus, it’s good for your hair!
Here are our two favorite spots for swimming near Flume Gorge in New Hampshire:
A large pothole of the Pemigewasset River, The Basin is located in Franconia Notch State Park. It measures 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep. Henry David Thoreau stood in 1839 watching the water cascade into the pool created over 25,000 years ago, when glaciers melted during the last Ice Age.
The swimming hole that’s adjacent to the Basin can now be accessed by a short hike (really more like a few yards). During a hot summer day, the water is always clear and refreshing.
You can park right across the street from Flume Gorge and walk out to the Basin. This is our favorite little swimming spot in the afternoons because it’s usually very private.
Lincoln’s Georgiaiana Falls is a little-known hiking and swimming hole near Hanson Farm Road. 1.6 miles of dirt trails surround this relatively easy hike.
At the base of the 30-foot waterfall, you’ll find a cool swimming hole. In the middle of the summer, the water might not be deep enough to actually go swimming, but it’s perfect for dipping your feet in while enjoying a picnic in the park.
History of Flume Gorge
Aunt Jess Guernsey discovered the Flume Gorge in 1808 (apparently she was there with her nieces and nephews), but it was actually formed around 200 million years ago during the Jurassic Period.
During the formation of the Gorge, the rocks were molten and liquid, but hardened and eroded over time to form the Gorge. Today, the Gorge is still getting deeper.
Despite its creation of the Pool and Table Rock, the Ice Age did little to alter the Gorge itself.
That should give you a decent idea of what a day at Flume Gorge would be like! Please feel free to ask any questions!