Home / White Mountains / 4000 Footers / Mount Flume and Mount Liberty via the Flume Slide Trail

Mount Flume and Mount Liberty via the Flume Slide Trail

Mt Liberty (foreground) and Mt Flume
Mt Liberty (foreground) and Mt Flume

Mt Liberty and Mt Flume are two 4000 footers in the Franconia Notch region of the White Mountains that are usually climbed together because they’re 1.2 miles apart along the same connecting ridge. Hiking them together is so common that people often refer to the hike as climbing “Fliberty“.

The most easiest way to climb Liberty and Flume is hike to up the Liberty Spring Trail from the Franconia State Park Bike Path. While steep, this is a moderate hike that intermediate hikers can easily complete. Once up Liberty, hikers continue south along the Franconia Ridge Trail to the summit of Flume, reverse direction, resummit Liberty, and then hike back down the Liberty Spring Trail to Franconia Notch.

An alternative but strenuous route is to climb the Flume Slide Trail first, then hike north to Mt Liberty, and down the Liberty Spring Trail. As the name implies, a Slide is an avalanche path or land-slide. These trails (others in the White Mountains include the North Tripyramid Slide Trail, the Owlshead Slide Path, the Mt Washington Headwall, etc.) are generally quite steep and treacherous with loose rock that can shift under you as you climb.

Liberty-Flume Loop
Liberty-Flume Loop

The Flume Slide Trail is particularly dangerous because the trail climbs up steep rock faces that are wet and have small streams running down them. Great care should be taken when hiking up this trail, especially if accompanied by children or a dog. The climbing is really quite strenuous and you need to grasp onto adjacent trees and roots to pull yourself up over the worst sections.

Flume Slide Trail Sign
Flume Slide Trail Sign

The Flume Slide Trail is so treacherous that you should only climb it going uphill. Climbing down this trail is strongly discouraged. Either hike north to the Liberty Spring Trail and descend to Franconia Notch, or hike down the Osseo Trail from the summit of Flume to the Lincoln Woods trailhead.

Summit of Mt Flume (right) and Mt Liberty, 1.2 miles north
Summit of Mt Flume (right) and Mt Liberty, 1.2 miles north

What many people don’t realize, is that the Flume Slide is a gorgeous trail well worth hiking even if you don’t climb up the wet slabs to the summit. After branching off from the Liberty Spring Trail, the Flume Slide Trail continues 2.6 miles to the base of the slide passing several streams through fairly open woods.

There are wonderful dispersed camping opportunities along this stretch, as long as you camp 200 feet from the trail in order to leave no trace. Dispersed camping opportunities soon dry up as you get closer to the beginning of the slide because the slope gradient is too steep to pitch a tent on, but lower down, there are ample opportunities available by hiking down the old logging roads (now grown-in, but still detectable) that crisscross the trail.

Numerous Streams Cross the Lower Part of the Flume Slide Trail
Numerous Streams Cross the Lower Part of the Flume Slide Trail

While the beginning of the Flume Slide Trail is fairly easy walking, at least by White Mountain standards, you’ll know you’re getting closer to the slide when the trail gets rockier.

Lower Part of the Avalanche Slide is Still Easy Hiking
Lower Part of the Avalanche Slide is Still Easy Hiking

And rockier…until you can begin to see water running down the trail over the rocks ahead of you.

You can begin to see wet rocks ahead
You begin to see wet rocks ahead

Soon after, the slope gradient moves from horizontal to vertical requiring full on rock climbing skills to climb the wet slabs.

Dangerous wet slabs on the Flume Slde Trail
Dangerous wet slabs on the Flume Slide Trail
More wet slabs
More wet slabs

For good or ill, hikers have created side trails that run up through the woods on either side of the dangerous slabs. An eyesore and source of trail erosion, they provide a strenuous bail out route if you can’t hack climbing the slides without them.

Three way interscetion at the top of the Flume Slide Trail
Three way intersection at the top of the Flume Slide Trail

Surprisingly, you don’t actually summit the mountain after you clear the wet slabs. There’s still about 500 feet of rough trail above them which continues until you reach the intersection of the Osseo Trail and the Franconia Ridge Trail.

Mt Flume summit, seen from Mt Liberty
Mt Flume summit, seen from Mt Liberty

To summit Flume, turn left (north) and hike a short distance to the open exposed summit with its distinctive avalanche scars. The top of the mountain is bare rock and provides a good place to rest, before proceeding to Mt Liberty.

The open summit of Mt Liberty
The open summit of Mt Liberty

To reach Mt Liberty, continue hiking north on the Franconia Ridge Trial. Initially, the trail descends from the Flume summit to a low point between the two peaks, called a “col“. From there, the trail climbs gradually over a rock strewn trail through dense forest until you reach the final scramble to the open summit of Mt Liberty.

Looking north to Little Haystack Mountaiin
Looking north to Little Haystack Mountain

The views from the top of Liberty are excellent, with a clear view of North and South Kinsman and Mt Cannon’s sheer east cliff, Owlshead Mountain and the peaks of the Pemigewasset Wilderness to the west, and Little Haystack mountain to the north.

To descend Mt Liberty, continue north a short distance to the intersection with the Liberty Spring Trail (turn left). Water is available 0.3 tenths of a mile below the trail junction from a natural spring located at the Liberty Spring Tentsite. A water filter or purification method is recommended.

Of course, you can also climb Flume or Liberty individually and still have a great outing with a little less effort.

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17 comments

  1. A favorite route, as I love side climbs. It’s really not as tough as a lot of people make it out to be. Just take your time going up and you’ll be fine, there are plenty of handholds and footholds. Also, in reference to “Mt. Washington Headwall”, there is no such feature. There are the headwalls of the major ravines on the mountain such as Tuckerman and Huntington, but those are glacial cirques, not slides.

    • I climbed an avalanche slide up mt Washington last July which is commonly referred to as the head wall, even though its not technically a head wall. It starts just past Spaulding pond. The interesting thing about the Flume slide is that there are much harder slide routes to the summit, off trail. The slides you see from a distance are not the one you hike and climb up.

  2. Interesting write up. I’ve done Liberty and the Flume, but never through the slide trail.

    It’s certainly intriguing. I really enjoy a good rock scramble, but sometimes I stop and think about where I am and what I’m doing and start picturing myself on the evening news. Whats nice about this route is, I wouldn’t have to go down the slide, which I find far more treacherous than going up.

  3. I did this “trail” way back in 1996. This would not be a trail in Colorado; we would call it class 3 scrambling :)

  4. This brings back memories, as my Husband thought we should do Liberty and Flume on vacation. I had only climbed Mt. Hale and Cannon. We did the loop, but it downpoured while we were on the upper slide area. Very scary. We completed the hike, I could hardly walk for 3 days. I have since climbed 21 4K’s, and will vacation in Lincoln again in August – can’t wait !

  5. It makes a great low angle ice climb route in fall/winter too, although my strap-on crampons weren’t quite cutting it. An ice axe would have been very helpful too!

  6. as a 68 year old hiker with 5 4000 ftrs my dog and i headed for Mt llberty up the liberty spring -but is was 70 and very hot climb we turned around realizing liberty would be there this weekend and Ozzie my four footed pal and i are going back this weekend to complete

  7. Mr. Werner. How far would you say the good camping is on the Flume Slide Trail?

  8. Climbed this twice, both on very rainy days. The first time it was terrifying and I had to grab onto a lot of trees (sorry, trees!)

    The second time, I had more rock climbing experience and had brought a cheapo pair of aqua shoes with me and wore those for the steep bit. It was challenging class 3 scrambling but the exposure wasn’t too bad. (The aqua shoes were also handy for fording streams that were too high to cross by rock-hopping.)

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