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Irene’s Path and the Waterville Flume

Winter view of Mad River Notch from Irene's Path
Winter view of Mad River Notch from Irene’s Path

Irene was not a lady. She was a force of nature. A hurricane, actually, did a significant amount of damage to the White Mountain National Forest trail system, particularly in Waterville Valley.

Irene’s Path is a new trail in the Waterville Valley area, cobbled together from several trails that were washed away by the flooding that Irene caused. The old Flume Brook Trail, the Scaur Trail, and Kettles Path are no more. They’ve been replaced by Irene’s Path, which provides access to the same areas as before, but is routed to be more resilient to future flooding.

The cross-country conditions were bony so I went hiking instead
The cross-country conditions were bony so I went hiking instead

I hiked Irene’s Path on a winter day when the XC Ski conditions on the nearby ski trails were poor, when “loose granular” turned out to be “gravel showing,” a non-starter for my waxless skis. I’d half expected that, so I’d brought my hiking gear on this trip north just in case.

Irene’s Path begins and ends on Livermore Road, a multi-use trail (ski, bike, hike) that provides access to the Tripyramid mountains (north, middle, south) and Livermore Pass. Several miles of Livermore Road are groomed by the Waterville Valley Ski Resort, but still free to use since Livermore Road is part of the National Forest. The grooming ends at the junction between Livermore Road and the southern end of the Mt Tripyramid Loop Trail and is all natural snow up to Livermore Pass and back down to the Kancamagus Highway, something to keep in mind if you want to do a little backcountry XC skiing.

It's a short scramble to the viewpoint at the Scaur
It’s a short scramble to the viewpoint at the Scaur

Irene’s Path leaves the north end of Livermore Road 0.9 miles from the Livermore Parking Lot, a major trailhead in the Waterville Valley area.

At 1.1 miles, the trail comes to a prow-shaped knob called the Scaur, with south-facing views of nearby Sandwich Dome up a short side path. A large glacial erratic guards another ledgey edifice before the trail climbs east.

At 1.7 miles the trail begins to descend steeply by sharp switchbacks to the banks of Flume Brook. The snow was about a foot deep here, and I’d wished I’d brought my snowshoes since I was postholing in fluffy powder.

At 1.8 miles, there’s a fantastic view of Mad River Notch (top photo), before the trail bottoms out along Flume Brook’s banks.

The Waterville Flume - a stream passing through a narrow ravine
The Waterville Flume – a stream passing through a narrow ravine

At 2.1 miles, Irene’s Path ends at the trail junction with the Old Skidder Path. Another short side trail, marked “Waterville Flume” leads to a narrow gorge in the river. Climb up a debris pile for a view of the brook as it pours through narrow cliffs.

Retracing my steps back to the Old Skidder Trail, I started climbing back out of the ravine passing a large ice waterfall to my left. Maybe 30 yards wide, it looked perfect for ice climbing, with good top anchorages in the trees overhead. If you’re interested, I’ll send you a photo of it.

From there it was about a mile walk back to the north end of Livermore Road, some 3.5 miles further along than where I’d entered the woods. Then a fast walk back along Livermore Road, which would have been even faster had I brought my XC skis with me. This is the ungroomed section of the road and it was all downhill and nice and powdery for miles. Next time.

Irene's Path

Approximately 8.5 miles w/ 2000 feet of elevation gain

Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:

Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:

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  1. Interesting hike. Hope the “resilient to future flooding” proves out. I had to laugh at the description of glacial kettles as “dry”. In Wisconsin’s glaciated areas, kettles tend to be wet year round, and prolific mosquito breeders.

    • Dry winter. I assume they’ll become breeding grounds when it warms up.

      This is really a beautiful area with a lot of “untracked” ground worth exploring and what looks like some good backcountry fishing too. I’ll probably, actually I know, I’ll be back here later in the year.

  2. I hope we have a “normal” snowfall this upcoming winter, this looks promising. Thanks so much for posting.

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