8 Northeastern Hikes with Stunning Bridge Views

October 26, 2018
Ryan SmithThe bridge views from—and of—the passage over the Potomac River in Harpers Ferry are legendary.

Aesthetic, functional, or just plain fun, bridges give hikers better access to beautiful places, with an extra dose of history thrown in. And the bridge views? Those aren’t so bad, either. From footbridges to cantilevered trellises, abandoned infrastructures to geologic wonders, here are some of our favorite bridge hikes in the Northeast.

1. CUTTS ISLAND TRAIL | Kittery, Maine
Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is spread over 50 miles of southern Maine’s coastal ecosystem. Named for the naturalist and environmental activist Rachel Carson, the refuge protects some of Maine’s most picturesque and ecologically important habitat. More of a boardwalk than a true bridge hike, the refuge’s Cutts Island Trail offers unparalleled estuary views accessible only along this bridge-like walkway.

The trails are well-maintained, with an information kiosk and toilets for visitors at the Cutts Island trailhead. Follow the orange and silver markers to enjoy an ecosystem that inspired Carson: a unique migratory habitat with excellent birdwatching.

Distance: 2.1-mile loop
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast (AMC Books)

The most recent addition to Crawford Notch’s 6-mile Webster Cliff Trail, this 56-foot-long footbridge stands as a memorial to the late Albert Sargent Robertson and his wife, Priscilla—both pioneering members of AMC’s Four Thousand Footer Club. For an approachable but challenging day hike, start at the Webster Cliff trailhead on the east side of US 302, opposite Willey House Station Road. Following this section of the Appalachian Trail to the summit of Mt. Webster, you’ll come across the footbridge early on in your hike.

After appreciating a breathtaking panorama of the Presidential Range, descend along Webster-Jackson Trail. (Ambitious peakbaggers can continue on to Mount Jackson before heading down.) The trail ends across the road from AMC’s Highland Center. Hikers: Webster Cliff Trailhead and the Highland Center are both stops along AMC’s hiker shuttle, in season. Leave your car at the start of the hike and take the shuttle back for an easy point-to-point route.

Distance: 5.6 miles round trip; longer routes available
Info: White Mountain Guide (AMC Books)

Push yourself to the limits of acrophobia with this wobbly suspension bridge, which stretches 30 feet across a deep gorge of twisting water and glittering schist. The bridge offers gut-wrenching views and serves as the intersection of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and Vermont’s Long Trail.

Follow the overlap of the Appalachian and Long trails from the joint trailhead, just off Route 101. Walk south over Clarendon Gorge and continue along the trail for just under a mile. After a short but steep climb, the trail leads to the Airport Lookout. Aptly named, the overlook features a bird’s-eye view of the valley below, including Vermont’s Rutland State Airport. On warmer days, hikers can enjoy a dip in the Mill River swimming holes before returning to the parking lot.

Distance: 2 miles out and back
Info: cnyhiking.com

Visit this small Massachusetts park to witness the only natural marble arch in North America. The geologic wonder was formed by glacial meltwater 13,000 years ago and offers an awe-inspiring example of glacial erosion and the raw power of nature. Park at the lot off Route 8 and follow the park’s short Waterfall Trail, with various viewpoints of the unique rock structure. Take some time to explore the gorge below, which was carved into ivory layers of undulant marble by the same glacial force.

Distance: 0.5 mile out and back
Info: mass.gov

Connecticut’s Bull Bridge is steeped in the marvel and lore of American history. Although the current covered bridge was constructed in 1842, the original structure was built by Jacob and Isaac Bull before the end of the American Revolution. Popular legend suggests that George Washington crossed the original bridge with the Bulls themselves. Today’s bridge stands in the same spot as the original, spanning more than 100 feet across the Housatonic River.

The bridge is vehicle-accessible, but for a fun day hike, park at the AT trailhead on Bulls Bridge Road. Follow the AT through Bulls Bridge and south towards Ten Mile Hill. Enjoy the view of Bulls Bridge and the Housatonic River from this 984-foot-peak before returning down the same route.

Distance: 4.4 miles out and back
Info: hikethehudsonvalley.com

Bear Mountain Bridge carries the AT across New York’s Hudson River and over the famous trail’s lowest stretch. Accessible by both car and train, this hike offers a jam-packed day trip, complete with a walk across the 2,255-foot-long suspension bridge, a stroll through the wooded paths of Bear Mountain Zoo, and breathtaking mountain views from Engagement Rock.

Park at the Bear Mountain Inn lot or take the Metro-North Hudson Line to Manitou station. Follow the trail along the Hessian Lake shoreline, through Bear Mountain Zoo, and to the western end of Bear Mountain Bridge. Beware of New York Traffic: Stay on the pedestrian path until you reach the other side of the bridge and begin climbing the AT up Anthony’s Nose. At the intersection of the AT and Hudson River Trail, follow Hudson River Trail to the western face of Anthony’s Nose, where you can enjoy an aerial view of Bear Bridge and the Hudson River from Engagement Rock.

Distance: 4 miles out and back
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills & Hudson Valley (AMC Books)

This elevated feat of engineering runs nearly 1 mile, along one of the AT’s swampiest stretches. Follow the AT southbound for a gorgeous hike through wetlands and cow pasture, ending with panoramic views from Wawayanda Mountain’s Pinwheel Vista.

Begin your hike where the AT crosses County Route 517, following the Pochuck Boardwalk through tall marsh grass and vibrant wildflowers. Traverse Pochuck Creek along the intricate wooden Pochuck Bridge and continue along the AT for another 1.5 mile, passing over railroad tracks and through herds of cows. Cross Route 54 and begin your ascent up Wawayanda Mountain. Follow the signs for Pinwheel Vista—climbing up the AT’s famed “Stairway to Heaven” stretch—and enjoy one of the best mountain views in New Jersey. Grab some lunch and water before returning back the same way.

Distance: 7.4 miles out and back
Info: hikingproject.com

8. HARPERS FERRY BRIDGE | Potomac River, Md./W. Va.
Perhaps the most famous AT bridge, this railroad bridge carries hikers over the Potomac River. It’s a location many thru-hikers call the trail’s psychological midpoint, but even casual strollers can enjoy this beautiful and historic section of the AT.

For a challenging day hike, try hiking from downtown Harpers Ferry to Maryland Heights. Park at the National Park Service visitor center in Harpers Ferry and follow the AT through the waterfront town. Pause to take in the striking view of the Shenandoah River, as well as several national landmarks along the way. Cross the border into Maryland over the Harpers Ferry bridge and descend the spiraling steps onto the C&O Canal Towpath.

Continue along this trail 0.25 mile then turn right onto green-blazed Grant Conway Trail. After another 0.5 mile, turn left onto  blue-blazed Stone Fort Trail. The elevation gain here provides an exciting challenge for eager hikers and a breathtaking view of the valley below. Head back along the eastern side of Stone Fort Trail—no doubling back here!—and merge onto  Overlook Cliff Trail before meeting back up with the AT for the return leg to Harpers Ferry.

Distance: 7.6-mile round trip
Info: AMC’S Best Day Hikes Near Washington, D.C. (AMC Books); National Park Service



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Emily Hughes

Emily Hughes is AMC Outdoors' fall 2018 editorial intern.