The National Forest Covered Bridge Scenic Byway follows State Route 26 from Woodsfield to Marietta, Ohio. For most of its length, it goes through a portion of the Wayne National Forest, as it follows the course of the Little Muskingum River.
Begin in Woodsfield, Ohio, the seat of Monroe County, founded in 1813. At the center of town is the handsome domed Monroe County Courthouse, and a charming central square. Buenos Amigos and Ida’s are among the dining options in town. The Victorian Rose offers B and B’s lodging. Before you begin your drive, make plans to bring along a picnic that you can enjoy in a setting of your choice.
Head south on Main Street (OH 26) toward Graysville. As you do, you will see many interesting circa 1900 houses with porches and gables. Soon you are in the country, with views of farms and fields, woods, and in the distance, the ridges of rolling hills. This is not a heavily traveled road, but even so, if you find that the traffic behind you is pushing you along, be sure to pull off and let them pass by, so you can slow down and savor the scenery. Don’t miss the turn to the right where OH 26 meets OH 800 (800 goes straight, you don’t want that route).
After you turn, you are descending into the the valley of the Little Muskingum River. You’ll find yourself relaxing and enjoying the intimate changing views, reminding you of jigsaw puzzle and calendar photos of beautiful countryside. You will pass cornfields and rocky outcrops. Mostly, you will have the river at your left, and you will be tempted to stop to photograph the scenery; by all means, do. Particularly, the barn with the historic “Chew Mail Pouch” advertisement painted it. Every barn painted with this sign has been designated a National Landmark.
The sense you get during this portion of the drive is rural but not remote, as there are farmsteads within view of each other as the road undulates before you. The high rocky banks show the work of the water over the ages. At some point in the drive you will noticed that there are no longer telephone poles alongside the road, making it look much as it would have in the 1800s. Several ridges provide dramatic climbs and descents, one offers a horseshoe curve that can be stunning in fair weather.
Tiny Graysville seems practically urban, with the homes clustered closed to the road. Many of them look exactly like what every child draws when someone says, “Draw a house.” When you pass the red brick school on the right, you know you are leaving Graysville. This portion of the road is still following the ridge line, so the views drop away on both sides. And then you descend into Cooper Hollow, and then Joy Hollow. In Joy Hollow there’s another Mail Pouch barn to photograph. A bit further along is Adams Hollow.
Soon you will come to a sign for the Knowlton Covered Bridge. Take route 384 (gravel) to the end, and you will see it. Built in 1887, it is a three-span and one of the two longest covered bridges in the state. At 192 feet long, it is impressive. That’s what gives it its other name, Long Bridge. (Photo is shown below for reference purposes).
At Rinard Mills, there are a cluster of houses and an iron bridge across the river. As you continue through the Little Muskingum Valley, you will pass the pretty Mt Vernon Church, perched on the hillside. As the river bends, so does the road with some stunning curves. through Bloomfield and Haught Run.
Then you will come to the Rinard Covered Bridge, easily visible from the road. If you turn on to County Route 406 you can have a view of its long side, and then stroll to take some photos of the 130-foot-long structure, dating back to 1875. In 2004 this bridge was swept off its piers due to hurricane Ivan flooding; it was rebuilt in 2006.
Enjoy the countryside scenes as your drive continues. The you will come to the Hune Covered Bridge, off to the left. This is a164-foot-long bridge, built in 1879. You can actually drive across this one as long as your vehicle meets the posted restrictions.
Love this picture of Hune Bridge by @sarahsueanna, who helped repair this bridge and spent many hours playing on it as a kid. One of nine of our historic covered bridges in Washington County! #livelovemov #mariettaohio #midohiovalley #coveredbridge #ohioexplored #myohioadventure #hunebridge
A photo posted by Clutch MOV (@clutchmov) on
Soon you will come to another charming white painted church, the Lawrence Baptist Church. Continue on through Dart, Moss Run, and Lane Farm. Go left at county road 333 to reach the Hills / Hildreth Covered Bridge. It was built in 1878, and is 122 feet long.
Return to 26 and continue on to Marietta. There are some great S curves in this next stretch, and a dramatic hairpin as you pass the Hidden Hills Orchard.
Your drive concludes in Marietta, a charming riverside city, founded in 1788. The downtown shops and restaurants are great for strolling. Make a trip to the Mound Cemetery; take time to read about and climb up the mound, dating to sometime between 800 BC and 700 AD. For a look at the town from the water, ride the “Valley Gem”; their Willow Lock Cruise includes dinner. Prefer antiquing? The Norwood Antique Mall, River City Antique Emporium, and Antique Mall of Marietta await your visit. For a meal, try Buckley House, and Marietta Brewing.
If this drive has peeked your interest in covered bridges, you are in luck because Ohio has over 125 historic wooden covered bridges scattered all across the state. Why not make a plan to see as many of them as you are able!