top of page

Lancaster County Covered Bridges

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is one of the most visited clusters of wooden, covered bridges in the United States. The county offers quaint, rural settings for the bridges among Amish farms, all within an hour or two driving distance of Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. There are 26 total historic covered bridges. However, I have only been to 8 of them so far, so my general observations only apply to the bridges within a crescent extending from west, to north, to northeast of the city of Lancaster.

Having been to many covered bridge clusters throughout the US, it seems safe to say that the Lancaster County bridges I have seen are just as historic and interesting as those in other locations. However, the accessibility of the bridges for tourist visits leaves a little to be desired, when compared to other clusters. I made the mistake of visiting the Lancaster bridges just a few days before visiting a large number of covered bridges in New Hampshire, and there is a stark difference in accessibility.

In general, covered bridges in other clusters, including New Hampshire, are situated in parks, have dedicated parking lots, or at least have ample space for multiple cars to pull off the side of the road. This makes covered bridge tourism in other locations into a communal activity, with multiple people visiting at any one time, exchanging stories about their covered bridge adventures. The bridges I have seen in Lancaster generally do not have parking lots, and the shoulders of the roads are too narrow for safe parking. At best, maybe one carload of tourists can visit at a time.

Another issue is that the bridges cross very small streams, and the private land surrounding each is tightly fenced. This limits your ability to get distance from the bridge, which is necessary for capturing good bridge photos. Finally, there is little variety among the truss types in the county. Of 37 covered bridges listed in the 1959 inventory by Allen, 35 are Burr arch truss bridges. In person, almost all of them are red on the sides, with white ends. There are many locations where a cute, red-and-white, Burr arch covered bridge from the 1850s would be a major attraction. In Lancaster County, they all begin to look the same. A positive is that each bridge has an informative historic information placard on an end, but they are difficult to get to.

The nicest of the bridges that I saw was Shearer’s Bridge, constructed in 1855, but moved to its current location in Mannheim Park in 1971. Its preservation in a park is what makes this one special. There is plenty of parking, and lots of space to roam around it to get full photographs. The other seven bridges I visited largely looked similar to each other, had limited parking, and limited photo opportunities. But they are all in attractive, farm-like settings, and remain in something close to their original condition.

bottom of page