Undoubtedly one of the top attractions in the White Mountains region of New Hampshire is Flume Gorge, and if you’re planning a trip to this area, chances are, this is on your list of things to do.
Because it’s so popular, you may be wondering if Flume Gorge is worth visiting, and based on the price, the crowds it can bring, and its location, I’m here to help you decide! I’ve done the Flume Gorge three times, now, and have also visited parts of the trail in the winter season, and can tell you everything on what to expect for your visit, as well as my honest opinion on this attraction.
So, let’s get into it!
So, Is Flume Gorge Worth Visiting?
My overall opinion is that yes, Flume Gorge is worth a visit. That said, this will depend largely on what you’re hoping to get our of your experience, as well as your budget for the trip.
Why do I think it’s worth seeing? Well, because of the beautiful covered bridges, scenic trails through the woods, stunning fall foliage (if you happen to visit this time of the year), the very impressive glacier boulders along the path, and of course, the main attraction – the actual gorge and waterfalls. There’s so much to see on the hike that really makes your entrance ticket worth it.
The gorge on the trail is a very cool experience on its own, and as a naturally-made granite gorge that reaches heights of over 90 feet, it’s a really fun experience to actually walk through it in person. Since New Hampshire is the Granite State, this makes it especially noteworthy to visit, too.
And as mentioned, along the path, you’ll also see some huge glacier boulders, and it’s fascinating to contemplate how the earth’s landscapes have come to be over hundreds of years.
Lastly, I especially love the overlooks throughout the trail, and find that many of them offer incredible views of the mountains and surrounding scenery.
The biggest downside to visiting Flume Gorge is the price. As of 2023, you could pay up to $21 per adult ticket, and if you’re traveling with a group, this could add up quite a bit, and become a large expense on your trip. If you’re solo traveling, or paying for your own ticket, I think it’s well worth the cost. However, if you’re paying for an entire group or family, this is something to consider. Whether or not it will be worth the group cost is entirely based on your budget and preference. Hopefully, the rest of this post will help you decide 😉
The last downside I’ll touch on, which I also get more into later in the post, is the crowds. As with many scenic places, platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok have made it even more famous, and you’ll find lots of people stopping to take pictures, and congregating around the top things to see along the trail, like the beautiful red covered bridge. For some, this can be a turn-off, and I completely understand why. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on this!
13 Things To Know Before Visiting Flume Gorge
1. You Save Money By Booking In Advance
One of the biggest tips I can share with you about visiting Flume Gorge is booking your tickets in advance online, which saves you $3 per ticket (as of 2023). This includes both adult and child entry tickets. If you’re traveling as a group or family, this savings can add up, and is a nice incentive to booking before you arrive.
While you can buy your admission tickets at the door, they’ll cost more, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be tickets available. If you plan to visit on a weekend, especially during foliage season, you should absolutely plan to buy tickets in advance online through the park’s website, as peak times do sell out.
2. Tickets Are For Timed Entry
In addition to buying your tickets online in advance, you should also know that you have to select a time to visit, and are generally given a 1-hour window. For example, if you book your ticket for 10am, you’ll be able to enter the trail any time between 10-11am.
The parks department can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to enter the trail if you arrive after the time listed on your ticket, so it’s best to plan your day around it to make sure you arrive within your window.
3. Expect Crowds & Consider The First Or Last Time Slots
Since this is one of the most popular things to do in the White Mountains, you’ll want to anticipate lots of people during your visit. This is especially true if you visit during fall foliage season. While the summer months can also bring crowds, the trail is most definitely the busiest the first two weeks in October when foliage has peaked throughout the region.
To avoid as many crowds as possible, it’s a good idea to book the first time slot of the day, which is 9am, or the last one. While you’ll still run into a decent amount of people, you’ll have the best chance at avoiding crowds with these time slots.
On the trail, you tend to find the most crowds at Flume Covered Bridge, and the actual boardwalk through the gorge. Once you exit the gorge and continue on the trail through the woods, the crowds often disperse, and it feels a lot more quiet. So even if you visit at a peak time for crowds, there are always parts on the second part of the trail after the gorge where it feels more peaceful.
That said, the crowds during peak times can be rather … annoying, and this is something you really have to set yourself up for before your visit. The worst part tends to be the walk through the gorge because it’s one-way foot traffic only. Therefore, if there are a lot of people stopping to take pictures, it can move at a slower pace than you may like. However, I don’t mind this as it kind of forces me to stop and take it all in, rather than rushing through it.
The park also only allows a certain number of people in per hour, per day, so it’s not as horrendous as you may be thinking. I just wanted to paint a realistic picture of what you could possibly expect, depending on when you visit, so you weren’t blindsided by the crowds.
For example, I most recently visited Flume Gorge on a Wednesday the second week of October 2023 at 9am, and I didn’t feel like it was overly crowded (and I tend to be overwhelmed by crowds). On a weekend in October, however, that could be a different story!
Pro Tip: If you book the first time slot of the day at 9am, and want to be the first one to enter the park, you’ll want to arrive around 8:30am and get right in line. If you already purchased your ticket online, the queue to enter the trail begins at the two little log booths to the left of the Visitor’s Center. For my fall 2023 visit, I arrived at 8:50am thinking I would be first in line, and the queue was already about 10-15 people deep at that point.
The benefit to being the first one in the park is having a better chance of enjoying the first half of the trail with as few crowds as possible (which is also better for taking photos).
4. Children Under 5 Are Free
If you’re traveling with younger children, great news! Kids under 5 are free. So be sure to keep this in mind as you’re planning your visit and budgeting for the excursion.
Pro Tip: The Flume Gorge trail isn’t stroller-friendly, so you’ll want to plan appropriately for that.
5. There Is Plenty Of Parking
When you arrive, you’ll see that there is ample parking, but you’ll still want to make sure you arrive a few minutes early to find a spot. On busy weekends, and peak foliage season, you won’t have an issue getting a spot, but because the parking area is quite large, you may have to park further away, and walk a bit to the entrance.
Even the furthest spots aren’t that far from the entrance, but this is something to keep in mind.
6. There Is A Visitor’s Center With Bathrooms, A Gift Shop & Café
If you’re anything like me and need to use the bathroom before you leave for just about anything 😂, it’s probably good for you to know that there are flush-toilet bathrooms inside the visitor’s center at the entrance to Flume Gorge.
In fact, the entire visitor’s center makes it a lot easier to plan your excursion because of the nice bathroom facilities, as also access to their café, which offers limited snacks and drinks (but perfect for fueling up before your walk!), and also a gift shop, and more information about the gorge.
There are no bathrooms along the trail, so be sure to stop here before entering the park.
7. Be Prepared To Get A Little Wet
While most of the trail is pretty dry (unless there’s been a lot of rain right before your visit), you’ll still want to prepare to get a little wet when you walk through the actual gorge. The boardwalk that takes you through the gorge can be misty, and I’ve walked away a tiny bit damp during each of my visits.
In the same vein, you’ll want to come prepared with proper footwear. While I’ve seen people on the trail in everything from Crocs to Ked’s sneakers, I honestly highly recommend hiking boots. Or, at the very least, a sturdy pair of sneakers. While the trail itself isn’t difficult, it’s still a trail through the woods with inclines, tree roots, and other typical nature-y things. I’m always so happy I wear my hiking boots when I visit.
If you’re visiting in the summer on a hot day, moisture-wicking athletic wear is perfect, as it’ll dry super fast after your walk through the gorge. If you visit in the fall, I’d recommend a waterproof or water-resistant jacket and waterproof shoes, if you have them.
However, if you do happen to show up without any of these things, you’ll still be fine 😉 All these recommendations will just make you a bit more comfortable on the hike.
8. Pets Are Not Allowed On The Trail
Plain and simple, the parks department doesn’t allow pets on the trail, even leashed dogs. You’ll want to leave your furry friends at home, unfortunately.
9. There Are Some Steep Parts Of The Trail
As mentioned earlier in the post, the Flume Gorge trail isn’t at all difficult, and I’ve seen all kinds of skill levels on this trail. That said, you should know there are some steeper parts. Nothing crazy that most people can’t handle, but it’s not entirely flat, either.
If you have minor mobility issues, you’ll want to plan some extra time on the trail to take it slow (plus, this allows you more time to enjoy the scenery!).
10. The Trail Is 2 Miles Long
One other important thing to know about the trail is that it’s a 2-mile long loop trail, so you’ll end at the same place you started.
On average, it takes about 1.5 hours to walk the entire trail, leaving some time to stop and admire the scenery. I generally take between 1.5-2 hours just because I love to stop and take lots of photos, and between parking, using the bathroom and visiting the gift shop after, I would say budget about 2 hours in total for your visit. Some folks will spend less time here, too – it just depends on how quickly you move through it.
11. Flume Covered Bridge Is The First Stop On The Trail
That famous red covered bridge you see in photos? That’s Flume Covered Bridge, and it’s almost worth visiting Flume Gorge just to see it. It really is as beautiful in person as it looks in the photos since it’s in an idyllic location right in the woods.
It’s also the first noteworthy thing you’ll see on the trail!
Well, actually, you do get to see a glacier boulder before the bridge, but I still think it’s the first really exciting thing you see on the trail 😉
To get to the bridge, you do have to walk down a pretty steep hill. Before you start your descent down, I recommend taking in views of the bridge from the overlook (keep an eye out for it on your right), which offers a unique perspective of it from above.
Since the bridge is also one of the most photogenic parts of the trail, this is one spot where you can expect a lot of crowds because lots of people stop and take pictures (myself included). If you want a great photo of the bridge without people, you’ll want to plan and wait a bit – you can usually find quick moments where you can sneak in a photo without a lot of people in the background.
12. You’ll See Not One, But Two Covered Bridges
Yep, two covered bridges! The red Flume Covered Bridge is the one featured in most of the photos of the trail, but toward the end of the trail, you’ll also get to cross Sentinel Covered Bridge, which is equally as beautiful, and offers gorgeous views of the river with the mountains in the background.
Be sure to stop on the bridge and look out in either direction to admire the scenery. There are also some great overlooks where you can enjoy views of the bridge from a distance, too, so keep your eyes peeled for those.
13. Once You Exit The Trail, You Can’t Re-Enter
The entire trail is one-way, but where it really counts is when you’re back at the visitor’s center because once you go through the turnstiles inside the building, you can’t re-enter the trail. You’ll want to make sure you’re definitely done and ready to leave before you make your way through those turnstiles.
I always like to recommend that you take your time going through each part of the trail and really admire everything, while exploring all the little overlooks and small detours on the trail. That way, once you arrive back at the visitor’s center, you’ll feel confident that you’re ready to leave.
While technically the trail is one-way, the only time this really rings true is through the actual gorge because the boardwalk truly can only accommodate one-way traffic. However, the rest of the trail does allow you some flexibility to go back and see things again.
If you think you may want to do this, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve seen everything you want to see before entering the gorge (because you really can’t turn back once you’ve gone through), and then same goes for everything after the gorge, but before the visitor’s center.
Pro Tip: Before you enter the visitor’s center at the end of the trail, there are actually some really nice views of the mountains to see before you head inside. Take a moment to enjoy those before heading inside – it’s a great way to end your experience on the trail!
Flume Gorge FAQ
Can You Hike Flume Gorge For Free?
No, there is an admission fee for anyone looking to hike the Flume Gorge trail. The only exception is kids 5 and under, which are free.
What Does Admission To Flume Gorge Include?
Access to the entire 2-mile trail through the woods, the walk through the granite gorge, multiple scenic overlooks along the trail that include gorge, river, and mountains views, access to the trail’s two covered bridges, ability to get up close to glacier boulders, and access to the trail’s visitor’s center.
Is Flume Gorge Open If It Rains?
Yes, Flume Gorge is open rain or shine, so if rain is forecasted during your timed entry slot, you’ll want to come prepared. The park does not offer refunds if there’s rain – the only thing they may be able to do if change your ticket to another time or a different day. But during the busy season, they may not be able to accommodate you.
I’ve done the entire trail during a light rainfall, and because you’re in the woods and covered by trees most of the time, I barely noticed it. A heavy rainfall, however, would definitely require the proper attire and gear.
Is Flume Gorge Better Than Lost River Gorge?
Having been to both, I slightly prefer Flume Gorge over Lost River Gorge because I found the general scenery more beautiful at Flume Gorge.
That said, Lost River Gorge is very fun, and I’m glad I’ve done both!
Both of these attractions are similar, but a bit different. The Gorge at Lost River isn’t as dramatic as Flume Gorge, but Lost River has some very dramatic and cool glacier caves you can crawl into, which makes for an exciting trip (and fun memories!).
The Lost River Gorge also has a covered bridge, so you can see those at either attraction, and Lost River also has a cool suspension bridge, and a giant bird’s nest, which makes for a cool photo opp.
So while my preference for Flume Gorge is slight, I do recommend both if you can make it work with your budget and itinerary.
Is Flume Gorge Open In The Winter?
Some parts of the trail are open in the winter, and this time of the year, it’s free to visit! However, parts of the trail are closed, in the winter, too. The actual walk through the gorge is only open mid-May through late October, and is off limits in the winter.
However, Flume Covered Bridge is open in the winter, and it’s absolutely beautiful to see surrounded in a white blanket of snow. While the trails aren’t always groomed in the winter, it’s worth stopping by to see how much snow there is, and take a walk around.
It’s good to know that there are seasonal maintenance closures, one in the spring, and one in the late fall, and no parts of the trail are open to the public during these times. Be sure to check the Flume Gorge’s website here to check and make sure this isn’t the case during your planned visit.
What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Flume Gorge?
Personally, I think fall foliage season is the best time to visit, and even though it’s definitely the most crowded time, I think it’s the most beautiful.
The White Mountains region is known for its world-class fall foliage and you’ll see tons of it along the trail, making it easy to enjoy some of the most picturesque scenery in the area surrounded by stunning fall color.
But really, there’s no bad time to visit Flume Gorge, as long as you visit when the gorge is actually open between May and October, as mentioned.
How Far Is Flume Gorge From North Conway & Jackson?
Flume Gorge is just over an hour from both Jackson and North Conway. From North Conway, Google will likely take you along the famous Kancamagus Highway, which is one of the best fall foliage drives in the Northeast.
The Kanc, as the locals call it, runs along Route 112, and connects the towns of Lincoln and Conway. If you see Google Maps taking you this way, especially in the fall season, you’ll want to add extra time to get to Flume Gorge, as The Kanc can get congested with traffic. You’ll also want to plan some time to enjoy the stops along this route, too (whether it’s before or after your visit to Flume Gorge).
Coming from Jackson, Google Maps will likely take you along Route 302, which runs through Crawford Notch State Park. This is also a scenic drive that’s especially gorgeous in the fall season, and you’ll want to add extra time to get there on this route as well. It’s not as popular and crowded at The Kanc, but it’s still a well-known route in the fall for foliage views.
More Things To Do Near Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge is in such a great location within Franconia Notch State Park, and is close to other notable attractions like the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, the Artist Bluff Trail, Echo Lake Beach, The Basin, and the charming town of Littleton. If you get an early enough start, you can easily see and do all of these in one day!
More posts you may find helpful:
- Is The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway Worth Visiting?
- Where To Stay In New Hampshire In The Fall
- Fall In New Hampshire: All The Best Foliage Spots & Things To Do
- Gorgeous New Hampshire Covered Bridges To See On Your Trip
- The Perfect New England Fall Foliage Road Trip Itinerary
That’s A Wrap On If Flume Gorge Is Worth Visiting
I hope this post helped you decide if Flume Gorge is worth visiting! I’ve absolutely loved each and every visit I’ve made to Flume Gorge, and think it’s definitely worth while on your trip to the White Mountains – if only just do experience it once and decide for yourself. Happy planning!