Dyfed-Powys Police said the 46-year-old former lifeguard was also charged with perverting the course of justice.
As the search for the missing five-year-old continued for a fifth day, Iwan Jenkins, the district crown prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service in Wales, said: “I now have to advise that, having carried out a detailed review of the evidence gathered so far by Dyfed-Powys Police, my conclusion is that there is sufficient evidence to charge Mark Bridger with the murder of April Jones, and that it is in the public interest to do so.
“I have also concluded that there is sufficient evidence to charge the defendant with attempting to pervert the course of justice and child abduction.”
Bridger will appear before Aberystwyth Magistrates Court on Monday morning.
April Jones was taken from the Bryn-y-Gog estate in Machynlleth on Monday evening, sparking one of the biggest missing person inquiries of its kind.
Yesterday Chief Constable Jackie Roberts said the investigation was “one of the most complex and fast-moving inquiries in the history of our force”.
“Now that Mark Bridger has been charged with this horrific crime it is time to let the judicial process take its course and time to let the family come to terms with what has happened over the last week” she said at a press conference in Aberystwyth.
“In the meantime, our efforts to find April will be as meticulous as they have been from the outset of this inquiry until we have exhausted all available options.”
Police said the hunt for April was continuing after the search was hampered by atrocious weather on Friday.
Superintendent Ian John said: “We have deployed ten specialist police teams who are conducting a systematic and methodical search in and around the town.
“We continue to have the support of a whole range of search-and-rescue teams who are using specialist equipment as we continue our efforts.
“We will be keeping April’s family fully updated on progress of this investigation.
“Finally, despite today’s announcement, we are maintaining the momentum of the search and we remain totally focused and committed to finding April.”
April was seen to willingly get into what is believed to have been a Land Rover Discovery on Monday. She had been playing out late on the estate on her bicycle as a treat for receiving a glowing school report. Her parents had attended the nearby Machynlleth Primary School parents’ evening less than one hour before, as had Bridger, who also has children at the school. Bridger was arrested on suspicion of abduction on Tuesday. His Land Rover was also seized by police and is undergoing forensic examination.
On Friday, police announced Bridger had been arrested on suspicion of murder, indicating they no longer expect to find April alive. They were granted a final 24 hours to question him.
Emergency services including the Coastguard, RNLI, RAF mountain rescue and 150 members of mountain rescue teams from across the UK have been searching for April since she vanished.
They are liaising with more than 60 specially trained search officers.
Private prayers have been said for April, who suffers from cerebral palsy and needs medication, by members of the close-knit community this weekend.
Many in her local community are refusing to give up hope that she will be found alive nearly one week after her disappearance and continue to wear pink ribbons in support of the family.
April’s mother, Coral Jones, 40, called on the community to wear the ribbons in her daughter’s favourite colour as a symbol of hope.
Residents, police officers, homes, cars and shops were quickly festooned with pink ribbons in a massive symbolic show of solidarity.
“We are still clinging to hope that April will be returned to us” said Gwenfair Glyn, acting head teacher at Machynlleth Primary. “As more time goes on we are becoming increasingly concerned for her safety but we refuse to give up hope.”