It’s June which means — drum roll, please — it’s National Camping Month! With the right location and amenities, camping can actually be enjoyed year-round. Research suggests there are beneficial, if not crucial, reasons to spend time in Mother Nature. Benefits include reduced inflammation, decreased depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure and possibly even cancer prevention. While it is easier for some able-bodied individuals to gain these immeasurable gains simply from trekking out to a campsite, those with mobility issues and/or other disabilities may require a bit more planning to maximize accessible camping opportunities.
Fortunately, many parks have improved accessibility. We’ve compiled an accessible camping list featuring great outdoor destinations for visitors of all abilities! Oh, and remember, the National Parks Service (NPS) offers a FREE Access Pass to United States citizens or permanent residents who have a permanent disability.
“In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Simax Group Camp – Deschutes, OR
Located on Crescent Lake in Deschutes National Forest, Simax Group Camp is a fully accessible camping area. Expect to find flushing toilets, drinking water and paved roads and spurs that connect the group sites to the beaches and other areas. Visitors can rest on the sandy shores of the lake with a mountainous backdrop, hike one of the many trails of the scenic landscapes, ride the refreshing waters or drop a line in to catch one of the local fish varieties that call the lake home.
There are four sites and one large pavilion all of which are open May through September. Overnight stays range from $60 – $150 per night depending on time of year and campsite location. The campground has good cellular coverage for service and a large bathroom with showers and pressurized water. Since this is a national park, it is included in the National Parks Service Access Pass.
If you plan to bring your canine companion, there are on-leash and off-leash sections as outlined on the website. And for a complete overview of accessible adventures in the Deschutes National Forest, check out this informative video.
Hillsborough River State Park – Thonotosassa, FL
Hillsborough River State Park may not be the biggest park but it packs a punch when it comes to activities. This 112-site camping locale has several paved sites available to host RV or tent camping with electric hookups. Using an adaptive bicycle like those built by Van Raam or Worksman Cycles, bicyclists will enjoy a ride through Floridian scenery on the 1.6 mile Wetlands Restoration Nature Trail or the 2.2 mile Park Loop. And take to the tranquil waters in a canoe. Aside from standard canoes, the park also offers canoes with comfortable backrests which is more ideal for those requiring a bit more support.
Perhaps the best feature to highlight is the ADA-accessible saltwater pool. This ½ acre pool has ample deck to roam including a ramp into the water for individuals with wheelchairs, walkers or canes. The perimeter of the outer pool is shallow with the center being a greater depth. It is $24 per night plus tax and reservation fee.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – Borrego Springs, CA
While many may view the desert as a wasteland, it actually holds an abundance of beauty. Crystal blue skies dotted with white clouds, vast landscapes as far as the eye can see, the feel of warm air or sand on your skin, the sound of peacefulness and flowing rivers… all can be enjoyed at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The park is over 600,000 acres and includes campsites that are accessible. Pathways from these sites to the accessible restrooms are easily maneuvered. Borrego Palm Canyon Campground and Tamarisk Grove Campground each have three accessible sites with pathways to the restroom that allow wheelchairs to move around comfortably. The Bon Willow Campground is a primitive camping site with two accessible sites and non-flush restrooms that are also accessible. The horse campground has one accessible campsite which includes a restroom and horse mounting ramp for mounting convenience.
The All-Access Trail near the visitor center connects the center to the Borrego Palms Campground and includes Braille descriptions along the trail. The Culp Valley Trail is made from compacted soil and gravel leading to the Borrego Valley overlook, making it a breeze to get fresh air. For pricing and reservation information, campers can call (760) 767-4205.
Acadia National Park – Bar Harbor, ME
With 158 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads, there is ample opportunity for every nature lover to relish in a refreshing respite at Acadia National Park. There are four campgrounds on the premises: Blackwoods, Seawall, Schoodic Woods and Duck Harbor. Blackwoods and Seawall both have hard-packed or paved sites and areas for less challenging maneuverability. Sieur de Monts Spring Nature Center is comprised of wild gardens and paths made of hard gravel. Jesup Path, neighboring Sieur de Monts wild garden, is a boardwalk which winds through the white birch forest. Hemlock road runs from this area to the base of Dorr Mountain for a 1.5-mile jaunt through woodlands.
The carriage roads pulse throughout several areas allowing anyone with walking aids to breathe in fresh air while watching breathtaking beauty to include unforgettable east coast sunrises and vast twinkling starry skies. The local visitor centers are equipped with accessible entrances, restrooms and parking. Each campground has set pricing depending on the type of site desired and time of year.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve – Mosca, CO
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a diverse place unlike most. Where else can you go and roam the tallest sand dunes in North America while taking in scenery of evergreen forests, grasslands, wetlands, lakes and even the tundra? As if that wasn’t enough to put this place on your bucket list, the park also strives to make all areas as accessible as possible for every visitor. Enhancements are continually made to parallel with that goal. Guests in wheelchairs can check out a sand dune wheelchair for free from the visitor center. They have sizes for both adults and children. These wheelchairs are specially designed with inflatable wheels to glide across the sandy terrain.
Camping sites include Piñon Flats Campground and Sawmill Canyon Backcountry Campsite, both of which are accessible. Sawmill Canyon features a hard path to the site (0.1 mile) and elevated tent pad. Four wheelchairs are easily accommodated at this location. Free ranger programs are offered daily and most are accessible. The schedule can be obtained in the visitor center upon arrival. Piñon Flats is $20 per night for individual sites and $65-$80 per night for group sites. For detailed pricing or reservations of Sawmill Canyon Backcountry site, call (719) 378-6395.
Small Country Campground – Louisa, VA
Tucked in the wooded hills of Virginia is a family-owned campground that started as a getaway for Bill and Ruth Small and their children. Small Country Campground opened the gates for outside visitors in 1978 and hasn’t looked back since. Small contacted RVing Disability Group for an assessment to become a fully accessible camping destination. The process is ongoing for improvements but many features are included already.
Several options for lodging are offered. Campers can reserve the original Manor House, cabins, efficiencies, RV spots and, of course, tent sites. The onsite pool offers a chair lift, and the mini golf course is ADA compliant. Other activities include canoeing (Psst! Take a peek at this adaptive canoe), playing on the beach, fishing, swimming in the lake, hiking and playground fun for the younger campers. Pricing for accommodations can be obtained through the website’s reservation tool or by calling (540) 967-2431.
Wilderness on Wheels – Grant, CO
Wouldn’t it be great to have an outdoor camp experience where everything was tailored to those with disabilities? At Wilderness on Wheels, it is! Every aspect of the campground was designed with people of all abilities, including wheelchair users, in mind. All pathways are level with packed gravel for effortless rolling. One of the coolest features is the mile-long boardwalk that climbs a Colorado mountain. The eight foot wide boardwalk was built solely by volunteers and extends 9,000 feet at the top. The fishing pier has plenty of room to fit multiple wheelchairs or other walking aids, and staff even offer adaptive equipment to hold fishing poles on guests’ wheelchairs. These are on a first come, first served basis and are complementary to use.
The camping facilities are just as accessible as the rest of the grounds. There are thirteen tent sites, five huts, one rustic cabin and one modern cabin which includes an accessible bathroom with tub and shower. The tent sites and huts are free for guests to stay although donations are accepted. The rustic cabin is $55 per night and the modern cabin is $85 per night. Reservations are recommended for all lodging.
Of course, this list does not encompass all of the boundless options available within our beautifully diverse country. Be sure to read about some other accessible national parks here. Tip: Make sure you pack all essentials to stay happy campers without wild mishaps. The following list is by no means a complete camping checklist, but rather some fun additions of must-have camping gear.
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Feature image credit: Small Country Campground