Covered Bridges in the Woods - OH Route 26
Story & Photos by Matt Bayman
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There are very few places in the world where you can camp next to an historic covered bridge that also happens to be in the middle of a national forest and connected to miles of hiking trails – for free! This, however, is one of many treasures found along Ohio Route 26 in Southeast Ohio.
Designated as a “National Forest Scenic Byway,” and also known as the “Covered Bridge Scenic Byway,” Route 26 follows the Little Muskingum River through Wayne National Forest from Marietta to the south to the small village of Jerusalem to the north. In between, travelers can visit four covered bridges, camp at four rustic campgrounds free of charge – including Hune (Covered) Bridge Campground – and hike to and from the Ohio River on a number of scenic trails, one of which visits a rare natural bridge.
The longest hiking trail in the area is the North Trail, which covers 20 miles of the Appalachian foothills in Wayne National Forest and ends at the Ohio River at the Leith Run Recreation Area. It is open for hiking, backcountry camping, and, by permit only, mountain biking.
The Hune Bridge Campground is ideal for hikers. It offers a safe place to park your vehicle, and camp, while providing direct access to the diverse hiking trails in the area. The Ohio River is eight-miles-hike from the campground, and the famous Irish Run Natural Bridge is even closer. (For quicker access to the natural bridge, use the Arches Fork Trailhead off of rural road 34). The campground is also not far from groceries and restaurants. However, plan to bring in all of the food and water you’ll need for your stay. This campground, nor any other mentioned here, does not have running water or electricity, and only six campsites are available on a first-come-first served basis. But the views are spectacular, especially at night when the lack of light from nearby towns or cities allows the stars to appear closer and clearer than usual.
Along with hiking and camping, visitors can enjoy canoeing and kayaking (rentals and shuttle services are available in Marietta), as well as river swimming, including numerous rope swings, and plenty of great fishing spots. The Little Muskingum River is known for its smallmouth bass, channel catfish and sunfish, and it’s also one of the only natural muskie streams in the state.
A great place to research the area’s recreation is through Wayne National Forest, linked HERE. For a great overview map of this trip, including hiking trails, click HERE.
Even if camping is not your thing, Route 26 is a wonderful road to explore.
Along with four covered bridges (and others located nearby), travelers will see a number of historical treasures, from the Historic Walter Ring House, also known as the Old Stone House, to historical markers and old buildings. There’s even an abandoned school and a number of relics from the region’s mining days.
Other things to see along this 67-mile road include a number of majestic white-steeple churches, countless historic barns, old cemeteries, a solar-powered orchard, Amish farms, log cabins, quaint small towns, and, in total, Appalachia at its finest.
Make sure to visit Marietta, which is Ohio’s oldest city. It has tons to see and do. This is also where you can rent kayaks and mountain bikes, including shuttle service to and from the river, from Marietta Adventure Company, linked HERE. For things to see and do in Marietta, click HERE.
The fastest route to Marietta – and Ohio Route 26 – from Troy is 197 miles away and uses Interstate 70 and Interstate 77. It’s about a three-hour drive from most of the Miami Valley.
If you have more time on your hands, and would rather take the scenic way there, I suggest taking Ohio Route 56 from London, Ohio (off of Interstate 70 near Springfield) to Athens. Then, follow U.S. Route 50 to Marietta. This route leads past some great small towns filled with antique stores and small restaurants, including Circleville and Laurelville. It also passes Hocking Hills State Park, Zelinksi State Forest (and the “haunted” Moonville Tunnel), and Blannerhassett Island Historical State Park, which is technically in West Virginia and located on the Ohio River. And so much more. Enjoy and drive safely.
Some of the things you can see and experience on this trip include:
- Hills Covered Bridge
- Hidden Hills Orchard
- Canoeing/Kayaking the Little Muskingum River
- Lane Farm Campground
- Mountain bike trails and bike rentals
- North Country Trail
- Scenic River Trail
- The Old Stone House
- Ohio View Trail
- Archer’s Fork Trail
- Jackson Run Trailhead
- Hune Covered Bridge
- Hune Bridge Campground (camp next to a covered bridge)
- Rinard Covered Bridge
- Knowlton Covered Bridge
- Ring Mill Campground
- Lamping Homestead Recreation Area (camping)
- Irish Run Natural Bridge
- Marietta (Ohio’s first city)
(Watch for these signs pictured at right to direct your way...)
New Frontier Restaurant, Matamoras (Ohio River)
Riverview Restaurant, Matamoras (Ohio River)
Undo’s On the Pike, 700 Pike St., Marietta
(Too many to mention in Marietta)
Dalzell Carryout & Restaurant, 8233 Dalzell Road, Lower Salem
Traditions, 113 S. Main St., Woodsfield
Jerry Lee’s, 124 S. Main St., Woodsfield
Ida’s Lunch Box, 211 S. Main St., Woodsfield
Pizza Shack, 154 S. Main St., Woodsfield