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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And rockier…until you can begin to see water running down the trail over the rocks ahead of you.
Soon after, the slope gradient moves from horizontal to vertical requiring full on rock climbing skills to climb the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:
- Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide
- AMC White Mountain National Forest Map Set
- Exploring New Hampshire Map from the Wilderness Map Company
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