National parks are a beautiful way to connect with nature and explore the great outdoors. However, for individuals in a wheelchair, the parks can be difficult to navigate with rugged terrain and inaccessible trails being common. Fortunately, we are here to present a guide to parks that offer accessibility options to make enjoying nature possible!
Access Pass – Your Ticket to Every Park
We cannot talk about National Parks without mentioning the Access Pass! US Citizens or permanent residents with a permanent disability are eligible for an Access Pass. This pass offers free lifetime admission to the National Park Service. It works by allowing one vehicle with the pass owner and up to 3 other guests into the park for free. There are also discounts on camping depending on the park. (Also, if you are interested in some camping tips – check out this article!) With only a $10 processing fee with proof of eligibility, it is worth getting for endless fun in our National Parks!
Not only are the 5 accessible national parks discussed included in the pass, but 2,000 recreational sites across the country are included.
The Most Accessible National Parks
Without further ado, here are the National Parks that have taken measures to be enjoyed by all.
Yosemite National Park
Located in California, Yosemite National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. It is home to towering granite cliffs, vast valleys, and spectacular waterfalls. The park’s breathtaking scenery, including the iconic Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations, make it a popular destination for nature lovers and hikers alike. But there are still views to see if you are using a wheelchair!
Yosemite offers wheelchair rentals, making it easy for visitors to explore the park’s paved paths and boardwalks. Most restaurants in the park are also accessible, except for one. Yosemite’s major highlights can be viewed from the road, and the park offers a shuttle service that is wheelchair accessible.
A must-see on a trip to the park is the world’s fifth largest waterfall, Lower Yosemite Falls is a must-visit spot. The good news is, visitors in wheelchairs can access this beautiful attraction! The eastern part of the paved loop trail from shuttle stop #6 is wheelchair-friendly, and there are even transferable seating options to granite boulders at wheelchair height at the Lower Yosemite Fall viewing area. So, you can enjoy the stunning views and feel the mist of the fall in the spring just like everyone else!
You can see most of the major landmarks from the road, but for more wheelchair-accessible hikes, you can look reference this site!
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. Located in Arizona, the canyon spans 277 miles in length and up to 18 in width. It formed over millions of years of erosion, creating the remarkable wonder that can be seen today. With millions of visitors annually, it is worth a visit!
The park offers several wheelchair-accessible viewing areas, including Mather Point, Yavapai Observation Station, and Desert View. Not to mention there are many gorgeous views to be seen on scenic drives. Specifically, Hermit Road and Yaki Point Road are two picturesque drives that are closed to the public, but permitted with the access pass. There are also several accessible trails available, such as the Bright Angel Trailhead, which offers stunning views of the canyon.
Visitors with disabilities can also request a free shuttle tour that is fully accessible. Compliant restrooms can also be found at Yaki Point, Grandview Point, Tusayan Ruin and Museum, and Desert View.
For more details and specifics on accessibility at the Grand Canyon, you can visit their Accessibility Guide.
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, USA, and is known for its rugged coastline, granite peaks, and diverse wildlife. Fun fact: it was the first national park east of the Mississippi River, established in 1916.
Acadia offers several accessible viewpoints, including Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, and Jordan Pond. There are also accessible hiking trails available, such as the Carriage Roads, which offer stunning views of the park. There are also carriage rides that can accommodate two passengers with wheelchairs!
Acadia Park was once owned by the Rockefellers, and that had created an extensive network of carriage roads for Rockefeller to travel on by horse. The roads were intentionally built to take advantage of scenic views and to minimize damage to the land. You can take advantage of these gorgeous by-ways because most of the roads are smoothly paved making them great for wheelchair travel! The two MOST accessible are Eagle Lake and Bubble Pond. Both roads include accessible parking and restrooms.
For a comprehensive list of accessible accommodations and activities, you can check out the National Park’s Website.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is located in Colorado and is home to stunning mountain vistas, alpine lakes, and an abundance of wildlife.
The park offers four designated wheelchair-accessible trails, including Lily Lake, Bear Lake, Sprague Lake, and Coyote Valley Trail. Each trail has a paved road or packed gravel for smooth travel as you enjoy the alpine beauty of the park.
The scenic drives of Rocky Mountain Park are the principal attraction for millions each year! They are extremely accessible – one even has wheelchair-designated parking sightseeing pullouts. Old Fall River Road is an opportunity to experience the park on a one-way dirt road at 11,796 ft. elevation. Trail Ridge Road is 48 miles in the sky, towering over the tree line and looking at distant mountains. Not only is there gorgeous scenery but if you pay attention, there is an abundance of wildlife to be seen. A must-see at the park!
Zion National Park
Located in Utah, Zion National Park is home to towering sandstone cliffs, stunning waterfalls, and deep canyons carved over millions of years by the Virgin River.
Notably, has two trails for those with wheelchairs to enjoy the park. Riverside walk ——. Unfortunately at this time due to recent trail damage, it is not considered accessible. But you can stay up to date with its repair while preparing for your next trip here. Pa’rus trail is a gorgeous 1.5 mi paved trail that follows the Virgin River and has great views of The Watchman – a 6545 sandstone mountain summit.
The park’s visitor center is wheelchair accessible, and the park’s shuttle system is also fully accessible. Also, to get around while you are outside of the park the Free Town Shuttle can get you to dining and activities within nearby Springdale.
Other activities include the Zion Human History Museum which offers accessible exhibits and displays. Held behind the history center are Ranger-led Patio Talks where you can hear about the history, geology, and wildlife of the park! Similarly, the park holds the Watchman Evening Program where the rangers speak at greater length about these topics at the Campground Amphitheater.
To learn more about accessible travel in Zion National Park, visit the park’s website.
Go Out and Enjoy Some Nature
National Parks offer a beautiful and unique way to connect with nature and explore the great outdoors. However, it can be challenging to enjoy when you are using a wheelchair. BUT fear not, with this list of National Parks you are prepared for a summer of adventure! Consider this your starting point for your next nature-filled vacation!