Date Traveled, October 2009
Flume Gorge, or just simply, the Flume is exactly what its name says it is. It is a flume or a narrow channel of water, a stream that goes through a gorge. Flume Gorge does have a nice ring to it so I guess the name stuck but I wonder if it had any other name before that. But that aside why is this Flume in New Hampshire famous?
A covered bridge in the flume gorge trail
Well for one it is an interesting natural formation. The natural and extremely narrow rock passageway extends several hundred feet and the stream runs its course through the rocks. Second, it is also a fully commercialized tourist attraction with a very pretty 2 mile loop beyond just the gorge full of wooden ridges, stairways, narrow passages between rocks and the occasional cave or two which you can try squeezing into (might as well while you are there). There are also some interesting covered bridges along the trail and the ones further into the loop includes some pretty nice views of the forest and the streams flowing it. The gorge itself has a boardwalk constructed across the entirety of its length which allows you to get really close to the rock formations and stream. It is essentially a beautifully landscaped park complementing a lot of beautiful natural features and it comes with a visitor center complete with food, drink and souvenirs. The 2 mile walk is also completely optional and there are shuttle buses to take you right up to the gorge directly. Of course, all of this comes with an entrance fee, I don't recall exactly how much it cost then but it was maybe $10-15.
Along the scenic trail
The boardwalk gets you close to the gorge
Along the scenic trail
That part about Flume Gorge I did not like. Yes it is pretty and yes someone's got to take care of it and no one forced me to go but it was raining heavily which literally damped my plans to hike the peaks around Franconia Notch and I had heard a lot about the flume so I figured why not? I enjoyed the walk, it was very scenic especially since it was in the fall when I visited and the fall foliage was beautiful, but then that wasn't flume gorge in particular, all of New Hampshire is pretty in the fall. I was with friends and had a good time but I kept thinking to myself, any of the trails around the White Mountains are just as pretty and have spectacular sights and can be enjoyed for free. And the trails, popular as they are nowhere nearly as crowded as the number of people visiting Flume Gorge, especially if you go on a weekend. So no I do not believe I would go back. Even if you don't mind the token entrance fee, there are much more interesting things to do while you are there, starting with Franconia Notch State park where the Flume Gorge is located.
More scenic crossings
Streams and fall colors
There are many such narrow passages along the trail
So should you go? I know I just made it clear I do not believe it was worth the fee and I would personally pick something else to do but let me make it very clear...if you do go its not like some of the many over hyped tourist traps you probably have been to somewhere around the world. It actually is a pretty walk and an interesting gorge. My advice, if you have a couple of hours to spare, go see it and then you can make the judgment yourself on whether or not you will go back or go back soon. The other advice I would give is to avoid the weekends and holidays if possible and you can then avoid the large crowds, especially on the boardwalk by the gorge. Besides avoiding the crowds, you will also avoid the awkwardness that comes with holding people behind you while you take pictures and also getting held up by people posing for their own pictures :-)
So once you have completed your circuit of Flume Gorge, there is another might as well thing to do very close by, the Basin. It too is a natural formation, essentially a smoothly eroded rock pool with little streams of water flowing in. This is perhaps underwhelming but it is free and you can scratch it off your New Hampshire things to see list.