8.6ish miles round trip
Difficulty: Weekend Warriors; equivalent to five hours on a stair master
If the Old Bridle Path and Falling Waters Trail in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, have a younger sibling, the type eager to prove it’s every bit as sweat inducing with equally dazzling views, then without question the Liberty Springs Trail is it. Almost literally in the shadows of it’s 5,000+ foot neighbors Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Liberty might not measure up to its bigger siblings, but it’s no slouch of a mountain either at 4,459 feet. The Liberty Springs Trail, which is also part of the Appalachian Trail, offers a challenging climb with a reward at the end well worth the effort in all seasons.
The hike begins from the parking lot found just up the road from the Flume Visitor Center. Start by taking the Whitehouse Trail for a short distance over a couple rolling hills to where it connects with the bike path. Turn left and follow the bike path (you won’t be pavement peddling for long) until you cross a bridge and come to the Liberty Springs trailhead on the right. The trail begins by gradually winding its way toward the meat of the mountain with some steady but not overly difficult climbing. At 0.6 miles in from the trailhead is the junction with the Flume Slide Trail on the right, which can be taken to turn your trek from this point on into a 7.4 mile loop.
Roughly a half mile after the Flume Slide Trail split the Liberty Springs Trail crosses Spring Brook—a fairly pedestrian rock hop in most seasons, it’s possible that your boots might be getting wet in early spring or after periods of sustained rainfall. The steep bank on the far side of the brook signifies that the kiddie hike is over and the real climbing is about to begin. Take your Aleve if you’ve got ’em, because from here on out the trail sneers at any notion of switch backing, presenting a steep and continuous rock staircase climb for nearly two miles.
Being that the Liberty Springs Trail is also part of the Appalachian Trail within Franconia Notch State Park, the rock staircases and the trail in general is well maintained. The trail is a popular hike in all seasons (I met as many people on the trail on a Saturday in February as I did in September); as a result the snow was packed into a hard crust making for a relatively smooth climb. During both seasons there was a good half hour where I kept telling myself that I must be close to the Liberty Spring Campsite before I actually reached this waypoint. The campsite features several tenting platforms and a water source.
Moving on from the campsite brings a bout of déjà vu with 0.3 miles of steep staircase climbing. The Liberty Springs Trail then ends at the intersection of the Franconia Ridge Trail. Take a right at the connection and follow the Franconia Ridge Trail 0.3 miles to the summit of Mt. Liberty. Unlike the wide open ridgewalk found on Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette, the first half of the trail on Mt. Liberty is under cover of interesting alpine tree growths. Mt. Liberty’s true identifiable birthmark, however, is the final scramble to the summit over a rock formation easily recognizable from Interstate 93.
Take I-93 in New Hampshire to Franconia Notch and take the exit for the Flume Visitor Center. The trailhead parking is 0.2 miles north of the visitor center lot. You can park in the visitor center lot, you’ll just have to start out on and walk further on the bike path.
The trail can be tiring for Sherpas and passengers alike.
The forest along the Franconia Ridge Trail just might be my favorite part of this hike.
Remember the hard packed trail? All bets are off once on the Franconia Ridge Trail. The wind quickly replenishes snow drifts.
The last push to the top.
The view of Franconia Notch from the summit.
Same view, just add snow.
Look who’s awake.
Camo hat, hunter orange face mask and blue jacket…oh yeah, that’s how I roll. View of the Mt. Flume slide in the background.