A Surprising (and Safe) Spring Drive If You’re Stir Crazy

With warm weather coming more steadily, it’s easy to get excited about exploring the Monadnock Region. Budding plants and blooming flowers are just a cherry on top of each scenic, Granite-State view. There’s so much nature to show off during these pleasant spring days.

But how can we all enjoy the outdoors while keeping a safe distance? We’ve got you covered with a great local adventure that will get you out and about while sticking with proper protocol.

Carlton Covered Bridge with beautiful blue sky with cumulus clouds (Swanzey, New Hampshire)

Carlton Covered Bridge, one of seven worth visiting in the Monadnock Region

Break out the motorcycle or open up the sunroof!

Did you know an amazing itinerary of historically vibrant and quaint covered bridges is right at your fingertips here in southwestern New Hampshire? With a leisurely ride, you can get the best of both worlds: a wonderful view that’s new to you and the comfort of knowing you’re practicing safe social distancing. Plus, with fewer cars on the road, it’s an excellent time for motorcyclists in particular, to take advantage.

Each bridge you come upon has a story behind it, with century-old memories built into the walls. You’ll find several all within an hour of each other, so it’s easy to pack a lunch and make a day trip out of it.

Once you venture down the winding back roads, roll down the windows and soak in the fresh spring air. There’s nothing like getting a feel for what it was like when New Hampshire was just rolling hills and roaring rivers.

View from the Ashuelot Covered Bridge during the 2016 Dinner (photo by Eight Beth Pelton, Cattails Imagery)

View from the Ashuelot Covered Bridge, Photo by Beth Pelton, Eight Cattails Imagery

Here’s your itinerary:

Your first stop should be the Ashuelot Bridge in Winchester. It is considered one of the most ornately crafted bridges in the region and was originally used for transporting wood across the water for railroad-building purposes.

Ashuelot Covered Bridge in Winchester New Hampshire - one of the state's prettiest

Ashuelot Covered Bridge – also shown on banner at top of page

In recent years, locals have gathered together in September for an exclusive dining experience right on the bridge itself, seated family-style beneath paper lanterns and fairy lights. Followed by live music, the annual dinner has quickly become one of the area’s best-loved traditions to usher in autumn.

Dinner in the Ashuelot Bridge, family-style beneath paper lanterns and fairy lightsAnnual dinner in the Ashuelot Covered Bridge, photo by Beth Pelton of Eight Cattails Imagery Band playing at the annual dinner in the Ashuelot Covered Bridge, photo by Beth Pelton of Eight Cattails Imagery

Photos by Beth Pelton of Eight Cattails Imagery

About six miles down the road in northern Winchester lies the Coombs Bridge, another historically crucial piece to the commercial development of the Monadnock Region. Spanning the Ashuelot River with its lattice-style sides, crossing this bridge feels like going through a secret tunnel.

Coombs Covered Bridge (Winchester, New Hampshire)

Coombs Covered Bridge

A little farther down the road leads to the Slate Bridge in Swanzey. This rustic-style structure also crosses the Ashuelot River, but it is much newer than the others. After the original burned down in 1993, the bridge was rebuilt in 2001 while still preserving its historic character, using funds raised by the Slate Covered Bridge Committee.

In the same town lies the Carlton (Carleton) Bridge, which spans the Southern Branch of the Ashuelot River. This historic structure was built by local farmers, who fitted it to accommodate wagons that transported bales of hay. It is slightly wider than most of the other bridges, a unique, historical touch.

Another must-see spot in Swanzey is the Cresson (Sawyers Crossing) Bridge, which once again takes you over the Ashuelot’s rushing waters. This awesome piece of history was known for the infamous party that took place on it during the 19th century, when the bridge was finished.

Guests ate, drank and danced the night away, with a four-piece orchestra playing and food served in the middle of the night. It just goes to show that the Monadnock Region has known how to have a good time for centuries!

Last but not least, a sixth covered bridge in the same area makes for a great finale. The Thompson (West Swanzey) Bridge rests above the Ashuelot River and is considered quite possibly one of the most beautiful covered bridges in the state. Not only is it a sight to behold, but it is also one of the oldest operating bridges, having been built in 1832.

Thompson Covered Bridge, West Swanzey, New Hampshire

Thompson Covered Bridge

Don’t want the adventure to end?

If you’re up for it, there’s one bridge definitely worth adding to your day-trip extravaganza, but this will take you on a jaunt to Hancock and Greenfield! The remarkable, rustic County (Hancock-Greenfield) Bridge is about a 40-minute drive from the Thompson Bridge and spans the entire Contoocook River between both towns. It is considered a piece of hidden treasure nestled in the forest.

There you have it! These incredible landmarks can keep you occupied all day, encapsulating the New England character our state is known for. Once you’re hooked, you may even find yourself on the hunt for more. So grab your bike, hit the road, and find yourself temporarily lost in a moment of time.

Additional information on the local covered bridges can be found on the newly released Covered Bridges page on the Monadnock Travel Council website [https://www.monadnocktravel.com / PLAY menu / COVERED BRIDGES].

Editor’s note: The links to the covered bridges connect to the official New Hampshire Department of Transportation’s website, which provides a wealth of information on the history and architecture of the covered bridges. However, the website appears not to have been updated for over 20 years and some of the information is outdated. For example, the website says that the “town of Swanzey has expressed the intention to replace the [Slate Bridge]” after being destroyed by fire in 1993 — it was rebuilt in 2001. The Thompson Covered Bridge has been repaired and is open to traffic despite the claim that it “has been closed to vehicular traffic since the fall of 1990.” All the covered bridges listed in this blog are safe, structurally sound, and well maintained.

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