With summer in full swing, that means it’s time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. If you or a loved one uses a wheelchair, finding accessible outdoor activities and hiking trails can be key to spending time outdoors. Fortunately, there are plenty of accessible trails across the United States designed with smooth, rugged surfaces and minimal grades for wheelchair users and others with reduced mobility.
No matter which of these wheelchair accessible hiking trails you choose, you’ll find that each provides you and your family with a memorable outdoor experience. From upstate New York to the Gulf Coast, here are five must-do wheelchair accessible trails.
1. Beautiful New York Ponds Trail
Handsome Pond Trail is located inside International Paper John Dillon Park in the Adirondacks, approximately 17 miles south of Tupper Lake, New York. This wheelchair accessible trail is 8km return and is mostly gravelled but also includes boardwalks throughout. This trail can take around 2.5 hours, so be sure to bring water and check the weather before you go. There are nice water viewing areas along the way as well as accessible restrooms. Nine wheelchair-accessible 3-sided wooded lean-to shelters are free, but you will need to call ahead at 518-637-5042 to reserve your spot.
2. Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook Trail in Michigan
The Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook Trail is located in Marquette, Michigan. This trail is a must do when visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Made up of dirt and small gravel, the trail is fairly flat and smooth overall, with a few steep spots still accessible to wheelchair users. About halfway through this trail you will come to an overhang section with stunning views of Lake Superior. And along the mile-long path, you’ll find signs describing the surrounding plants, wildlife, and trees. These signs make the trip even more enjoyable, allowing you to learn more about the area as you drive along the shores of Lake Superior.
3. Flytrap Trail in North Carolina
Just minutes from the beach, North Carolina’s Fly Trap Trail is located in Carolina Beach State Park. This half-mile, wheelchair-accessible trail features flat, easy-to-maneuver surfaces. If you visit on Saturdays between April and October at 10 a.m., you can meet at the Flytrap Trail parking lot at the end of Nature Trail Lane for a ranger-led tour of the trail. The park ranger will discuss the different types of carnivorous plants in the area, including the famous Venus Flytrap. For questions about this tour, call the park at 910-458-8206.
4. Anna Ruby Falls in Georgia
The town of Helen, a charming Bavarian-style village nestled in the mountains of northeast Georgia, is also home to the fully paved 0.4-mile Anna Ruby Falls Trail. The path is wide and steep in places, but still manageable in an electric wheelchair. If you are using a manual chair or scooter you may need to bring someone to help you with the steep sections. The whole path runs along the water with beautiful views everywhere. But the real reason to take this trail awaits you at the end, where you will encounter the magnificent Anna Ruby Falls.
Venturing down the trail, head to the Lion’s Eye Nature Trail, a short distance from the entrance to the falls. This trail is only 0.15 miles long and less steep than Anna Ruby. It is fully paved and flat making it easy to ride without assistance. Along this path you will see and hear Smith Creek. The trail was designed for blind travelers and includes Braille signs along the way.
5. Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail in Alabama
The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is located in Orange Beach, Alabama. This coastal area is home to some of the most magnificent waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Minutes from the beach is the 24km wheelchair accessible trail, which is made up of paved asphalt and boardwalks. The trail is flat and easy for wheelchairs, bikes, and strollers. it’s also part of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, so keep an eye out for plenty of bird species along the way. Don’t be surprised if you see an alligator or two in the marshy waters next to the trail, but don’t worry, the area is fenced and safe for visitors.