Seeing incredible works of architecture within nature? Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. Parks are known for many things: hiking paths, dog play areas, ponds, and beyond, but an unsung hero of the ambience of local park exploration and activity is the incredible bridges. Whether wood, steel, truss or arch, covered or uncovered, the intricate and impeccably crafted bridges close by are just another reason why your local parks are so special. In fact, according to the Department of Transportation, PA is home to the most covered bridges in the country, with approximately 219 of these architectural gems. Looking for the best of the best to visit? Or want to know which has the best background for a selfie? How about an intimate marriage proposal? What about the most historic? The following are some of the bridges you won’t want to burn.
The Hassenplug Covered Bridge
Located in Mifflinburg and constructed in 1825, the Hassenplug is the oldest existing covered bridge in PA and believed to be the second (or sometimes first) oldest covered bridge in the U.S. Despite undergoing multiple restorations (one in 1959 and the other in 2001), the Hassenplug boasts an old-fashioned feel, with bright red outer wood planks and a quaint triangular rooftop. The bridge was even listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The Koons Trail right next door is a perfect opportunity for a day of hiking and sightseeing. Not to mention, the trail comes with a parking lot!
Knoebel’s Grove Bridge
One look at the reviews for this bridge in Columbia County will tell you that it is like stepping back in time. Despite being built in 1975, its planks are hand-hewn timbers from the 19th century Berninger grist mill, giving the bridge a rustic and antique feel. Plus, stopping at this bridge is the cherry on top of a full day of sightseeing. It stretches over a portion of the Roaring Creek and sits within the famous Knoebel’s Amusement Park, filled to the brim with old-school rides and carnival games. Be sure to visit at the beginning of October to join in the Covered Bridge and Arts Festival, which features a craft fair, live entertainment, and a bus tour.
Little Toby Rail Trail Bridge
Take a swing! While covered bridges can be fun, a swinging bridge can be even more exciting. Located in Jefferson County, the Little Toby bridge was built in the ‘90s, along with the Little Toby Trail itself. While the bridge uses two historic bridge supports on both ends, the rails along the middle are sparse, meaning this bridge is not for the faint of heart. Risk-takers and daredevils will revel in crossing this one. When it swings, it really swings! The bridge sits only around 100 feet from the trail, so if you’re looking to take an adventurous break from your Little Toby hike or bike ride – this could be the place!
Phoenixville Iron Bridge
This is the first steel bridge to make the list! The Phoenixville Iron Bridge, located on the Schuylkill River Trail and next to the historic site of Phoenixville Ironworks, features incredibly ornate details and has been masterfully preserved. The Schuylkill River Heritage Center claims that this bridge was a “show bridge” created by the Phoenixville Ironworks, with all the bells and whistles of bridge construction thrown in. It was designed to illustrate the kinds of bridges the company could produce. A visit could also include a hike on the Schuylkill River Trail, an educational stop at the Ironworks museum, and much more. Just don’t get too mesmerized by the incredibly trapezoidal swirling structure of the bridge.
Panther Hollow Bridge
The Panther Hollow Bridge is located in Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, and is the tallest bridge on the list at around 120 feet. Despite its imposing height, the steel bridge features one long arch underneath, which is soft and picturesque. This bridge has an almost identical twin – the nearby Schenley Bridge, which features much of the same details. The only difference is that Panther Hollow is also home to four gorgeous bronze panther sculptures that make the bridge unique and worth the trip. Looking to make a day of it? A trail system runs underneath the stone arches, making it a perfect spot to get a grand look at the bridge while on a walk along the exquisite Panther Hollow Lake. Perfect for a selfie or two!
This list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the incredible pedestrian bridges of PA. A quick look at the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website will give you an in-depth list of (specifically) covered bridges to see on walking trails in the state. While bridges are only a small portion of a park experience, they offer an incredible look into the history, artistry, and environmental architecture of our state. Next time you’re looking for a park to visit, consider picking one that features a walk over the water on one of our state’s noteworthy covered bridges.