{hiking: the flume gorge}

New Hampshirites… did you know that the Flume Gorge is open in winter for hiking?

As a native, I must admit that I have steadfastly avoided essentially all NH tourist traps simply because they’re always SO busy. But I was amazed to find out recently that the trails around the Flume are accessible in winter, with the appropriate gear (ie: apparel, footwear, microspikes, snowshoes, poles, etc.), of course. The best part? Well… two reasons:

  1. It’s free!
  2. No crowds

I joined a small women’s hiking group that I found on Meetup.com for a short, two-ish mile hike. The temps were low – I’d say it was around zero degrees. But for some reason, it just didn’t feel that cold.

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For the record, I wore two fleece-lined tops, a winter parka, fleece-lined leggings, spandex shorts, shell pants, wool ski socks, light mittens, a fleece ear band, and men’s Merrell Moab Polar 400-gram insulated winter hiking boots. I was pretty comfortable, although with multiple stops for selfies, my toes were cold when we started. Once we really got moving, my toes warmed up.

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The visitor’s center isn’t open during winter months, but we did have access to indoor facilities for a pre-hike pee break. Microspikes, or any footwear that could damage the floors, is not permitted indoors. The same goes for any shelters that you might encounter along the trails.

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If you’ve ever been to the Flume during the “on” season, there are wooden walkways that enable you to walk right through the gorge. According to NH State Parks, “The Flume is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. The walls of Conway granite rise to a height of 70 to 90 feet and are 12 to 20 feet apart.” In the winter months, those walkways are covered in snow, and sections of them are closed to hikers. However, the Flume Gorge is a popular place for ice climbers. When I was there, I was able to see a small group of climbers set up ropes and do a bit of climbing.

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Despite the trail closures in winter, you still have a good deal of access to get a closer look at the ice formations on the rock walls. However, some of the walkways have a lot of snow piled on them, and as a result, they’re quite narrow. We had to hug the wall as closely as possible to avoid slipping through holes in the snow and falling into the water.

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For those who aren’t comfortable with the riskier path, there is a path that enables hikers to access the gorge for views from the middle and from the top. All in all, I think we probably did about two miles of hiking.

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After the hike we headed to Black Mountain Burger for lunch which was just about 10 minutes away.

10/10 recommend this hike.

PROS

  • Free
  • Not crowded
  • Easy for beginners

CONS

  • Can be a long drive for such a short hike
  • Lots of snowmobile trailers in the parking lot (get there early)

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