Poly(acrylic acid-co-N,N'-methylenebisacrylamide) hydrogel films were synthesized by copolymerizing acrylic acid (AAc) with N,N'-methylenebisacrylamide (MBA) as a cross-linker via photo polymerization in the spacing confined between two glass plates. NMR spectroscopy was utilized to determine the cross-linking density. We found that the cross-linking density determined by NMR is higher than that expected from the feed concentrations of cross-linkers, suggesting that MBA is more reactive than AAc and the heterogeneous nature of the cross-linking. In addition to the swelling tests, indentation tests were performed on the hydrogel films under water to investigate effects of the cross-linking density on the adhesion and mechanical properties of the hydrogel films in terms of adhesive pull-off force and Hertz-type elastic modulus. As the cross-linker concentration increased, the effective elastic modulus of the hydrogel films increased dramatically at low cross-linking densities and reached a high steady-state value at higher cross-linking densities. The pull-off force decreased with increasing cross-linker concentration and reached a lower force plateau at high cross-linking densities. An optimal "trade-off" cross-linking density was determined to be 0.02 mol fraction of MBA in the hydrogel, where balanced elastic modulus and adhesive pull-off force can be obtained.