There is a surprising amount to do in Iowa, and one of the very best things to do is head out on a Bridges of Madison County Roadtrip. Yes, these are the same bridges that are the subject of the famous (and sad!) movie starring Meryl Streep! You can visit them yourselves in a single day – so keep reading to learn how!

Where are the Bridges of Madison County

Why, in Madison County, Iowa, of course! To be a little bit more helpful, perhaps, they are located about an hour south of Des Moines. The somewhat circle the idyllic little town of Winterset. None of the bridges are more than an hour apart.

Here are the six Bridge of Madison County for your roadtrip:

Imes Covered Bride

Bridges of Madison County Roadtrip Imes red and white bridge with crab apple tree

This bridge is located in the town of St. Charles. It’s the most out of the way bridge, so I recommend starting here. The town of St. Charle’s motto is “the gateway to the bridges.”

However, if you are looking to have a picnic, I think this is the best bridge to do so, so plan your schedule accordingly. There are some nice picnic tables and it’s relatively quiet.

This bridge has several flowering trees next to it which make for idyllic photos. The intricate details of the bridge’s interior are sure to amaze. There are also some excellent walking paths nearby if you’re looking to get a little exercise on your day out.

Holliwell Covered Bridge

front of the holliwell bridge with river to the left

Built in 1880 it’s hard to view the full scale of this bridge – The bridge appears smaller even though it’s actually the longest of the lot! The river still rushing by underneath is exciting, adding ambiance.

If you can, I highly recommend bringing your kayak. There is a handy concrete ramp to unload, and the views as you pass underneath are stunning. I think this is the only way to truly appreciate how long this bridge is as it spans the river.

I also found the bees to be the worst at this location (see below for more details on the bee situation). I actually didn’t walk through the whole bridge as there were so many.

Cedar Covered Bridge – Bridges of Madison County

girl in skirt in front of the red cedar covered bridge

I recommend heading north towards this bridge next. This way if you’re interested in taking a break at the Winterset Cidery, it won’t be too far out of your way.

If driving through a bridge is your dream, this is the best option. Most of the bridges are closed off to vehicles, but this one gives you the full transportation experience!

Despite this bridge being over a dried-up river bed, I found this to be one of the nicest ones to take photos at. Especially if it is dandelion or clover season, getting those artsy shots with the full bridge behind you are easy.

This is another great spot for a picnic, with a nice pavilion and park nearby.

Hogback Covered Bridge

covered bridges of Madison county roadtrip hogback bridge

Built in 1884, this is by far my favorite bridge on the list. The way it appears along the rolling countryside roads, how there always seems to be some stunning sunset or weather…It’s also one of the most middle-of-nowhere bridges. It’s going to be a lot of back roads and dirt roads to reach this one!

However, that means it’s very quiet. It’s unlikely you’ll have too many people stopping in at the same time as you, giving you a chance to truly explore.

This one feels the most magical, as though the bridge is a portal into another world. Woods on one side and farmland on the other, I recommend planning a little extra time here. The bee problem also seemed significantly reduced here.

Roseman Covered Bridge

Roseman bridge over a river

Definitely the most “out there” bridge, expect the most winding dirt roads, farmers in tractors, and a lot of wondering if this can *possibly* be the correct way. It’s also the location of the gift shop, so it’s nice to place this at the end to decide what would be a worthy souvenir.

Built in 1883, this bridge has the most lovely old timber smell. As a part of a major scene in the movie, this is the most famous bridge. There is excellent fishing in the river rushing beneath and highly scenic photography opportunities as well.

Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge

white bridges of Madison county roadtrip

End your trip in Middle River Park in Winterset, at this 1870 bridge. This bridge has been relocated to this park, and it certainly a boon to the town of Winterset. Lovingly kept, the white walls and the sun peeking through the slats – you can see how these bridges caught the imagination of film directors.

Other Things to Do on Your Bridges of Madison County Roadtrip

This area is not only for the covered bridges – there are three other points of interest to consider on your roadtrip.

Pammel State Park

Although not the most exciting state park, you can swim in the river here which is an excellent way to cool off in the summer. There is good camping here, and a nice selection of picnic tables and covered bench swims to watch the world go by.

Clark Tower

As if this roadtrip hasn’t been dreamy enough, give the extremely winding road up to Clark Tower a try. My Honda Accord made it, but it was a little scary at times! You can also hike here if you are concerned, but it definitely appeared to be a pretty long hike and you might need to share the path with cars.

But expect to be rewarded with some stunning views of the valley and a Medieval Tower in the middle of Iowa!

Middle River Park

Technically Clark Tower is inside this park, but since it takes you so far out on a winding road, I thought I’d split them up. Middle River Park is home to the Cutler-Donahoe bridge and it’s a great place to let your kids run around and for adults to explore.

They have some fun little hedge mazes, and some pretty amazing wood sculptures. When a giant storm came through Winterset and knocked down several of the trees, the town made the fantastic decision to hire a woodsculpter to make the downed trees into art.

Middle river park wooden eagle sculpture

What to Know When Planning Your Bridges of Madison County Roadtrip

While this Bridges of Madison County roadtrip is relatively straightforward there are two main things to be aware of:

Dirt Roads

Just about every bridge except the one right in Winterset (the Cutler-Donahoe) is going to involve a lot of dirt road driving. For those of you unused to dirt roads, don’t worry too much. Even a normal car with a lower clearance shouldn’t have much trouble on these roads.

If there is rain expected, it can actually provide some traction. Just make sure to stay off them in extreme weather, of course, so check the weather forecast before heading out.

Your car will get very dusty!

Large Bees

I don’t know exactly what type of bees they are, but they are massive and seem to hang out almost exclusively in and around the covered bridges. While they did not seem too interested in me (or my dog) the buzzing was unnerving at points.

The Holliwell Covered Bridge had the worst bee problem, perhaps due to its length. I also left my dog in the car for this one just in case since there were so many flying through the bridge. I imagine they are less bad in the colder months.

What to do in Winterset, Iowa

The town itself is quite cute and worth a look around. The buildings are old brick and charming. There are two main places I recommend checking out in and around the town.

Anything Sweet & More Cafe: This cafe wound up being a huge highlight of my entire roadtrip. The people who run this little restaurant are so kind and nice. The food is also excellent, make sure to check out their award winning fried chicken and their pot pies! They also do events like murder mystery dinners, which sound like a whole lot of fun.

Winterset Cidery: Cider, or apple wine, is slowly becoming more popular in the US. It’s one of my favorite alcoholic beverages and it was a real treat to stop in. The have a beautiful orchard and their prices are reasonable. Stop in and try a sample!

Where to Stay in Winterset for your Bridges of Madison County Roadtrip


This is your easiest option and the best way to end your roadtrip day with a little more fresh air. The Winterset City Campground is excellent and affordable. Electric sites don’t run over $22 a night, and it backs up to the main Middle River Park which is excellently kept. It is possible to walk to Main Street from this campground to pick up snacks and other essentials if needed.

Note: The campground is only available from April through November, so plan your roadtrip accordingly. There is also camping in the nearby Pammel State Park if you’re looking for another option.


When it comes to a hotel, you’re going to be much better off staying in Des Moines the night before or after your roadtrip. There’s tons to do in Des Moines, more restaurant and cafe options, and it’s only 30 minutes away from your first stop at Imes in St. Charles.

Liked reading about this Bridges of Madison County Roadtrip? Check out my other posts!

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