Summertime is the perfect time to hit the road and see some of the 63 magnificent national parks spread across the United States. However, these fun summer activities shouldn’t be off-limits to those with different accessibility needs—accessibility and inclusion are crucial so that all visitors can experience the beauty that these parks have to offer.
Fortunately, several of these national parks have gone above and beyond to guarantee that wheelchair users and individuals with physical impairments can still appreciate their splendor.
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park, located along Maine’s Atlantic coast, may appear a harsh environment at first glance, but it is one of the most wheelchair-friendly parks in the country. In addition to that, the park has accessible shuttle buses, making it easy to go about from the local village centers. Exhibits about the park’s natural and cultural history are considerately shown at wheelchair height in the Nature Center, inviting all to immerse themselves in the narrative of the area.
For those looking to bask in nature’s splendor, the Wild Gardens of Acadia provide a short, packed-gravel path surrounded by benches, allowing wheelchair users to get up close and personal with native plants.
The gorgeous Jesup Path, a boardwalk through a white birch forest, and the wheelchair-accessible beach at Echo Lake, complete with wheelchair-friendly parking and restrooms, add to the park’s allure. Meanwhile, tourists can enjoy a wheelchair-accessible carriage ride along the 45 miles of paved carriage roads courtesy of Wildwood Stables.
Carlsbad Caverns, located beneath the Chihuahuan Desert, is a wonderland of 119 caves carved into the limestone of New Mexico’s Guadalupe Mountains. This National Park has wisely developed a wheelchair-accessible elevator that takes visitors 750 feet deep to the enthralling “Big Room” cave cavern. Over a mile of paved trails allow wheelchair users to marvel at awe-inspiring limestone formations.
The Bat Flight Amphitheater at sunset offers a one-of-a-kind experience, where a swarming colony of bats takes center stage. A designated space for tourists in wheelchairs guarantees that everyone can witness this natural wonder. You can also take a leisurely trip down Walnut Canyon Desert Drive, a 10-mile route across the desert that provides for wildlife watching and scenic overlooks, to learn more about the park.
The Grand Canyon
No trip to America’s national parks is complete without seeing the magnificent Grand Canyon. To promote accessibility, the park provides 24 wheelchair-friendly pathways, accounting for 10.5 percent of all routes. The South Rim, in particular, welcomes all visitors with wheelchair-accessible shuttle buses, bus tours, a visitor center, and barrier-free overlooks that allow wheelchair users to enjoy canyon scenery at eye level.
The fully paved Trail of Time offers a 1.3-mile route between the Verkamp Visitor Center and the Yavapai Geology Museum for a spectacular hike. Scenic drive accessibility licenses give visitors access to select drivable places that are otherwise off-limits to visitors. Those looking for a one-of-a-kind experience can join excursions with firms such as Arizona Raft Adventures, which provides accessible boats with wheelchair ramps.
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park, located in Wyoming, is a refuge of mountains, glaciers, forests, rivers, and lakes that ranges from 6,320 to over 14,000 feet. The park is actively improving 17 sites as part of its Self-Evaluation Transition Plan to ensure accessibility for all visitors.
The park’s fifteen miles of paved pathways provide wheelchair users with easy access to the Colter Bay headwall, Jackson Lake Dam viewpoint, and Menors Ferry Historic District. Jenny Lake has a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk that takes guests right into the lake. Some of the campgrounds and eight facilities along Grassy Lake Road are partially accessible, and Headwater Lodge & Cabins and Flagg Ranch provide accessible camping and RV sites.
Teton Adaptive Sports organizes adaptive climbing expeditions and other activities tailored to accessibility needs for exhilarating experiences.
Great Sand Dunes
Great Sand Dunes National Park, hidden in Colorado, reveals a unique scene of natural sand dunes against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. Despite the fact that it appears difficult, the park supplies unique sand wheelchairs in both child and adult sizes, complete with inflatable wheels for easier travel.
Wheelchair users will appreciate the ease of three accessible campsites at Pion Flats Campground, while the wilderness campground at Sawmill Canyon has wheelchair access from the parking area. Evening activities in the amphitheaters provide the ideal setting for admiring the park’s dark, clear skies, which captivate hearts with celestial splendor.
Shenandoah National Park, only 75 miles from Washington, DC, welcomes all with its intriguing woods, waterfalls, and beautiful panoramas spread across 200,000 acres. The park’s only public road, the 105-mile Skyline Drive, invites visitors with 69 views, a fifth of which have wheelchair-accessible parking.
Try the Limberlost Trail, a 1.3-mile loop composed of crushed greenstone, or explore Dark Hollow Falls along Rose River Trail, which is accessible to motorized wheelchairs. Lewis Mountain, Skyland Resort, and Big Meadows Lodge all have accessible housing, and all picnic parks and campgrounds have accessible sites.
Yellowstone National Park, which spans portions of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, is a mesmerizing wonderland that showcases the world’s active geysers. Despite its enormous size, the park has 16 wheelchair-accessible routes for visitors to explore.
The famed Old Faithful Geyser can be reached through a boardwalk system, while the Mount Haynes Overlook and Virginia Cascade grand loop can be reached by car and provide beautiful natural vistas. Campgrounds provide at least one wheelchair-accessible site for a beautiful overnight experience, and both Goose Lake and Ice Lake Backcountry Campsites can accept wheelchairs.
Yellowstone guarantees that everyone can experience its geothermal wonders by providing thorough information on the park’s website, including wheelchair rentals and accessible guidelines.
Yosemite National Park, located high in the Sierra, is famous for its beautiful waterfalls and various scenery. A detailed accessibility guide on the park’s website provides useful information for planning an all-inclusive visit.
View Yosemite Falls from the lower paved trail, which includes benches and exhibits. The 300-yard paved trail at Glacier Point leads to a spectacular vista and a model of geological wonders. The park is working hard to make Bridalveil Falls more wheelchair-accessible by constructing a trail and viewing area.