The heyday of America’s covered bridges spanned the 19th century, and during that time, somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 covered bridges were built in Maine. Today, just nine of the picturesque symbols of a bygone era of transportation remain, the rest lost to fires and floods or rendered obsolete by modern highways and removed. Here’s a look at three of these precious covered bridges paired with a scenic hike in the vicinity, a fine combination for a day’s adventure on the back roads of western Maine.

Hemlock Bridge & Mt. Tom

Located on Hemlock Bridge Road in Fryeburg about three miles north of US Route 302, the Hemlock Bridge spans an old channel of the Saco River not far from Kezar Pond. Built on granite abutments in 1857, the 109-foot Paddleford truss design features laminated wooden arches. In 1988, the bridge was reinforced to carry local traffic.

Back at US Route 302, continue toward Fryeburg, then turn north on Menotomy Road to the Mt. Tom Preserve, 995 acres owned by The Nature Conservancy. Follow the West Ridge Trail for just under two miles to the wooded summit of the 1,073-foot peak for views east over the valley of the Saco River to long ridgeline of Pleasant Mountain.

Lovejoy Bridge & Rumford Whitecap

The 752-acre Rumford Whitecap Preserve in Rumford protects the bare summit ridge and southerly slopes of Rumford Whitecap Mountain. From East Andover Road, just over three miles north of US Route 2 by way of Route 5, combine the Starr Trail and Red/Orange Trail for a 5-mile circuit and huge views of the high peaks of the Mahoosuc Range and White Mountains.

Post-hike, continue north on East Andover Road about three miles to Covered Bridge Road and the Lovejoy Bridge over the Ellis River. Constructed in 1867, Maine’s shortest covered bridge is a Paddleford truss design and just 70 feet in length. The bridge was reinforced in 1984 to carry local traffic. The big pool on the south side of the bridge is a popular swimming hole.

Sunday River Bridge (Artist’s Bridge) & Goose Eye Mountain

From US Route 2 in Bethel at the Sunday River Brewing Company, drive north on Sunday River Road for about four miles (follow signs) to the Sunday River Bridge. Built in 1872, the bridge is also as known as Artist’s Bridge for its reputation as the most photographed and painted of Maine’s covered bridges. The 87-foot Paddleford truss bridge was closed to vehicles in 1958.

For Goose Eye, continue north on Sunday River Road for four miles, then turn onto Bull Branch Road and follow this another 2 ½ miles or so to the trail head soon after Goose Eye Brook. The Wright Trail ascends along the brook to a tent site, then climbs steeply to join the Mahoosuc Trail in the saddle between Goose Eye’s east and west peaks, each reached by short side trips.

Covered Bridges Trivia

The primary function of covered bridges was to protect the structure from the elements. Exposed to rain, snow, ice and sun, wooden bridges might fail in 20 years, but last 100 years if covered. It’s also speculated that covered bridges made it easier to drive cattle across, hiding from sight the rushing water below, which could frighten the animals and cause them to stampede. From an engineering perspective, it’s thought that the roof and walls helped strengthen the covered bridge.

Carey Kish is a freelance writer living in Mount Desert Island, and is the author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast.


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