Hop into your car and head to one of the country’s five most scenic bridges, each a crown jewel of American architecture. These bridges demonstrate imaginative uses of engineering — overcoming nature’s road-blocks with arches and suspensions that go beyond getting you from point A to point B.
Bear Mountain Bridge (Stony Point, New York)
Just an hour north of New York City, the Bear Mountain Bridge is a Hudson River landmark, straddling Rockland and Westchester counties. Completed in 1924, this 2,255-foot-long suspension bridge continues the Appalachian Trail and New York State Bicycle Route 9 throughout the Hudson Valley. For the most scenic views, hikers (and bikers who walk their bikes) are welcomed on the bridge’s walkway with incredible views of the Hudson River and the surrounding valley. Take note that eastbound cars pay a toll of $1.50.
New River Gorge Bridge (Fayetteville, West Virginia)
Fayette County’s New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia is a stunning steel arch bridge that attracts visitors year-round for its achievement in architecture. Spanning 1,700 feet, the bridge takes an average of 16,200 motor vehicles over the New River daily on Route 19. The bridge’s pedestrian walkway and waist-high barriers provide a complete 360-degree view of West Virginia’s forest and rapids of the New River. Attracting the truly daring, New River Gorge Bridge is the centerpiece to the county’s annual Bridge Day, a celebration that features rappelling, ascending, and base jumping.
Sachs Bridge (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)
An historical landmark that remains in pristine condition, Gettysburg’s Sachs Bridge is one of the finest covered bridges in the country. Constructed originally in 1854, the bridge was used by both the Union and Confederate armies during the Battle of Gettysburg to cross the Marsh Creek. Though cars are unable to cross, pedestrians are encouraged to explore the intricate woodwork and marvel at the early-American engineering. To connect to the fabled history of the bridge, seek out one of the town’s many ghost tours.
Bixby Creek Bridge (Big Sur, California)
California’s State Route 1 brings drivers to the ocean’s edge with views that can be so distracting it’s hard to pay attention to the road. There’s no question that one of the most famous views is the Bixby Creek Bridge (pictured above) in Big Sur: an open-spandrel arch bridge that spans 714 feet adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. In operation since 1932, the bridge is one of the most photographed sites on the West Coast, as the reinforced concrete arch sets the perfect frame for the ocean. Be mindful that there’s no real pedestrian walkway and the two-lane crossing can get tight, so seek out the best vantage points around the bridge, instead.
Royal Gorge Bridge (Canon City, CO)
America’s highest suspension bridge, the Royal Gorge Bridge measuring 956 feet above the Arkansas River and 1,270 feet in length, is home base to a fledgling amusement park built around the thrill of defying gravity. The suspension bridge itself is a wonder with its two towering structures supporting the bridge with long stretched cables. Enjoy the views of Colorado’s canyon terrain with a stroll across — or get an adrenaline rush with a ride on the Royal Rush Skycoaster, a swinging pendulum ride that sends the brave over the cliff. A soon-to-be-completed gondola ride, along with a zipline make the bridge a popular destination.