tourists posing for pictures in front of the bridge entrance

Discovering the Iconic Covered Bridges of Northern Vermont

Vermont Covered Bridges – A Storied History

You’ve likely seen Vermont covered bridges on postcards or calendars, treasured for their rustic look and merging of wooden artistry and practical function, connecting roadways across bumbling brooks and rushing rivers. With over 7,000 miles of river in our state, these bridges allow passage between far-flung towns from the northern reaches of Vermont bordering Canada to the southern border with Massachusetts. There were once 800 such bridges, built in varying styles depending on the lumber available, which truss (the wooden support design) the bridge builder preferred, and how wide the water crossing was. Due to natural decay and the effects of river flooding on these cherished structures, some 90% of these bridges have disappeared, but 100 remain in use today, spread throughout different regions of Vermont. Within a short drive of our Waterbury bed and breakfast, you’ll have easy access to several of them, perfect for planning scenic drives to see the bridges up close and drive across them, admiring their unique beauty and historical relevance.

red vermont covered bridges
Two Distinctive Vermont Covered Bridges Near Waterbury, One Red-Colored and the Other Haunted

Start your covered bridge tour just 10 miles north of downtown Waterbury off Vermont Route 100, where you’ll turn onto Gold Brook Road. Traditionally, this area was home to sugar shacks, where local families harvested the sap from maple trees during the “sugaring season” in late winter, one of the most magical times to visit Vermont. And while only the remnants of an old sugar shack remain (plenty of other still-active maple syrup-making shacks are nearby), the covered bridge crossing Gold Brook is preserved and still in use. Gold Brook Bridge is one of the most unique in the state and rare for its use of the Howe truss, whose intricate lattice was new and unproven at the time. When you drive through the bridge, you’ll see the Howe criss-cross wooden layout exposed, still holding strong 180 years after its construction. If you’re one for ghost stories, it’s also known by another name, “Emily’s Bridge,” for a young woman named Emily who supposedly died at the bridge in the late 1800s and still haunts it today.

Heading another 15 minutes north, passing Stowe along the way (easily incorporated into an alpine or cross-country skiing day trip at the resort), head to the Red Covered Bridge on Sterling Valley Rd. Living up to its name, its rich red-hued wooden sides and metal roof are distinctive, looking even more vibrant against a snowy backdrop during the winter months. Like most of Vermont’s covered bridges still in use, it has undergone numerous repairs over the years, reinforcing its wooden trusses with iron and replacing the wooden roadway with concrete. But even with these modern updates, it still maintains its original character.

Montgomery – An Unassuming Town With Bridges Around Every Turn in the River

An hour north of Waterbury, the tiny town of Montgomery, with its population of just over 1,000, holds the unique distinction of having the most covered bridges of any city in the state. The Jewett brothers – industrious in their many endeavors, including running a family farm and lumber mill – left an indelible mark on Montgomery with no less than six covered bridges they built together. Using their trademark “town lattice” style for the trusses, they quickly constructed these picturesque bridges in the early 1880s.

Start by visiting the Comstock Bridge, which crosses the Trout River (one of the two primary rivers in far northern Vermont, along with the Missisquoi) and spans an impressive 69 feet across, with “windows” on the side revealing the interior wooden latticework. Next, head in to the center of town to see the Fuller Bridge, spanning Black Falls Brook and the last of the bridges constructed by the Jewetts. Note its original roof and pristine white paint. Then check out the Longley Bridge. Although the current bridge is a replica of the original, engineers built it in the spirit of the Jewett’s style, reopening to traffic in 2017 after five years of rehabilitation. On the way back to Waterbury, stop at the Hutchins Bridge with its stylish green roof; at 77 feet across, it’s one of the longer covered bridges still standing. As you get closer to town on Vermont Route 100, make sure to stop at Ben and Jerry’s for a tour and sampling – their one-of-a-kind ice cream flavors, along with our covered bridges, are the quintessential Vermont-themed pairing.

coburn vermont covered bridges

The Southeast Loop - Eight Bridges and Three Quaint Vermont Towns

Head south from Waterbury on Route 100 to the town of Waitsfield. Just prior to entering town, stop at Pine Brook Bridge. Built in 1855, it remains unaltered and fully operational, the epitome of Vermont’s traditional simple, yet functional, small bridges. Then head into the heart of Waitsfield to the Great Eddy Bridge, spanning the Mad River right above a favorite local swimming hole. Built in 1833, the Great Eddy is the oldest operating bridge in Vermont and also has the longest clear span of any Burr truss bridge in Vermont. While in Waitsfield, stop by Vermont Artisans’ Gallery and explore the fabulous and diverse talents of over 150 Vermont artists.
 
Continue south on Route 100 to Warren to view the Warren Bridge, another example of utilitarian yet eminently functional Vermont bridge construction. Built in 1879, it features a single span supported by queen post trusses and to date has not required any reinforcement. As you drive through town, make sure to check out the Warren Store, a quintessential Vermont general store.
 
Head east from Warren toward the town of Northfield, home to five covered bridges and Norwich University. The first bridge you’ll come to is the Stony Brook Bridge, built in 1899 and one of two remaining 19th-century king post truss bridges in Vermont. Continue through to the north side of town where you’ll find the remaining four bridges all within about half a mile of each other: Slaughterhouse Bridge, Northfield Falls Bridge, Lower Cox Bridge, and Upper Cox Bridge. Don’t leave town without stopping by Good Measure Pub & Brewery. Try a flight of four of their rotating craft brews, with an emphasis on nostalgic beer styles, and indulge in their delicious pub menu.

One of Vermont’s Oldest Covered Bridges, Right Outside the State Capital

Plan to visit the Coburn Covered Bridge in East Montpelier on a different day, just a 30-minute drive from our front door. Although one of the older bridges in the state, built in 1851, it has held up remarkably well ever since, retaining its original “queen post” truss design. It provides passage across the Winooski River, a connector between surrounding towns, flowing through the center of Waterbury and Montpelier, the state capital. After seeing the Coburn Bridge, follow the Winooski into Montpelier, where you can get a distillery tour and gin or vodka tasting on the banks of the river at Bar Hill by Caledonia Spirits, one of our favorite local distilleries.

Stay with us and discover the quaint and rustic charm of Vermont’s covered bridges!