Friday, August 23, 2013

Butt Burner in the White Mountains - Mt. Flume and Mt. Liberty Loop

Approaching Summit - Mt. Flume

Last weekend, Matt and I decided to take advantage of the great weather and head for the Whites.  When we lived in Maine, the closest areas to us were the hikes along the Kancamangus Highway and the North Conway area.  As a result, we stuck to that area.  Now, as residents of Southern New Hampshire, we are actually closer to the Franconia Notch side of the forest.

Views on our Flume/Liberty hike
This is a treat since Franconia boasts some of the best hikes in the Whites - including Franconia Ridge peaks like Lafayette, Lincoln, Liberty, and Flume.  On this beautiful day, we decided to tackle two of these peaks - Mt. Liberty and Mt. Flume.

This adventure included scrambling over boulders, absorbing stunning 360ยบ views, and feeling "the burn" in every muscle of your body.

Here is how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  The Mt. Flume/Mt. Liberty Loop

Getting there:  We drove up I-93 N to Franconia Notch State Park.  We parked at "The Basin" exit and walked south about a mile down the bike trail until it met up at the junction with the Liberty Spring Trail/AT.   *Many visitors also exit at the Flume Visitor Center and walk north up this bike trail a mile to the same junction.  Either way, you'll get there!

Matt uses a tree for support up the Flume Slide Trail
Trail:  We tackled these two peaks with a loop.  We headed up the gradual Liberty Spring Trail/AT for  0.6 miles and took a right onto the Flume Slide Trail.  This traversed through hardwood forest for a couple miles and had a few easy stream crossings of Flume Brook.  After 2 miles on the Flume Slide Trail, we reached...the "slide" portion.  The trail suddenly got very rocky, steep, slabby, and wet.  It was a "White Mountain Special" - forcing us to grab trees as support, dig our boots into rock cracks for a foothold, and grunt our way the last mile to the summit.  It's definitely challenging, exciting, and only suited for fit, skilled hikers.

I do not recommend trying to go down the Flume Slide Trail as part of the loop.  It would be very dangerous and even more difficult.  In total, the Flume Slide Trail is 3.3 miles from the junction to the summit.

At the top of Mt. Flume, we had beautiful views of Franconia Ridge, Franconia Notch, and the Pemigewasset Wilderness east of our spot.  We took a long break and then headed north along the Franconia Ridge Trail 1.2 miles to the summit of Mt. Liberty.  This trail takes to down into the trees and then emerges onto another beautiful 360˚ peak.

After drinking in the view again, we headed 0.3 miles further until we reached the Liberty Spring Trail junction.  We turned left, hiked 2.9 miles down a moderate trail to the bike path, and then the parking lot.  This included hiking through the Liberty Spring Campsite - a popular AT stop for thru-hikers and weekend warriors.

Summit of Mt. Liberty

Difficulty:  As I mentioned above, the Flume Slide Trail is very challenging -steep, rocky, slabby, and damp.  That - combined with the extensive mileage, makes this a challenging/difficult peak.

Distance:  Our total loop including the bike paths from The Basin parking lot was 10 miles.

Gear:  Bring at least 2 L of water per person, snacks, sturdy shoes, AMC Franconia Notch Map, First Aid Kit, Rain Gear, Warm Layer for cold summit, sun protection, and an adventurous spirit.  I also traveled with trekking poles.  This was vital for my descent, but actually got more in the way on the Flume Slide trail ascent because I needed my hands to grab handholds.

Hiking up to the summit of Mt. Flume
More Advice:  Only do this when there is good weather, you have plenty of time, strength, and ability.  I do not really recommend the Flume Slide Trail for families with small children or dogs.  The slide is very steep and had was challenging for me (a very experienced hiker) and Matt (an experienced climber).  Franconia Notch is highly accessible to the Boston area via I-93.  As a result, parking lots fill fast in the summer.  Get there early to avoid parking frustration, congested trails, and crowded peaks.  These peaks are definitely work the trek if you are able.  I'd love to do it again soon.

The perfect way to end the adventure...

After our butt-burning hike, Matt and I rewarded ourselves with a tasty meal and refreshing beverage at the Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery.  This respected watering hole is located off Exit 32 on I-93 in North Woodstock, NH.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect hiking day.

Please leave comments and questions below...