Wanting to see the wonders of the U.S.National Parks?
The awe-inspiring views, rich natural history, and beautiful escapes are the perfect places whether you’re looking for a quiet vacation, daring exploration, or simple day trip. But for those with disabilities, it can be a more complex picture. Many parks were designed before mandatory accessibility standards, meaning some of the older trails and landmarks aren’t easy to navigate—if at all.
But the National Park Service is making strides to make all parks more accessible, including the current five-year improvement plan effective from 2015-2020. Thankfully, there are plenty of National Parks with great accessibility. Here are the best ones across the country.
While the Grand Canyon isn’t easily accessible to most people—including many able-bodied visitors—there are still a number of trails and areas designed to be accessible for everyone. Every park shuttle bus is wheelchair accessible, and you can also get a park Accessibility Permit, which allows access to some areas restricted to the general public. While there are no easy trails into the canyon, the South Rim Trail has sections that are paved and easily accessible.
There are a large number of accessible campgrounds at Sequoia National Park, and many of the trails are accessible as well. One of the most famous is the General Sherman Tree Trail. It’s a short path, but finishes at General Sherman, the largest tree on earth. The entire trail is paved and easily accessible.
Wondering how to travel a dune in a wheelchair? The answer is specially-designed sand wheelchairs for adults and children that are available for loan at the park. These chairs have large inflatable wheels that make it easy to see the dunes.The park also boasts accessible campgrounds and picnic areas.
You might not picture the Everglades as easily accessible, but in fact this park is full of accessibility features. Tours offer assisted listening devices (ADLs) on request, many displays have audio explanations and braille, and trails include large print and interpretive signage. Visitor centers, as well as seven trails, are completely wheelchair accessible.
Acadia is considered one of the most well-designed National Parks for accessibility, with a number of trails, visitor centers, museums, picnic areas, and ranger-led programs that are all perfect for wheelchair users. They also provide ASL interpreters with advance notice, and have ALDs, braille brochures, and audio tours available to those with vision or hearing impairments.
This beautiful national park is designed with accessibility in mind. You’ll find a number of wheelchair-accessible trails and facilities all around the park. They also have a number of hearing and vision options.
Zion National Park offers a huge number of accessible areas, including museums, visitor centers, trails, lodges, and picnic areas. Be sure to visit Pa’rus Trail, which is eight feet wide, paved, and has a minimal grade change.
Perhaps the most famous National Park in the country doesn’t disappoint when it comes to accessibility.
You’ll find a large number of wheelchair-accessible paths and facilities across the park. Video presentations are captioned and others include assistive listening. Audio descriptions are available for many of the park’s landmarks, and large print and braille documents are available throughout the park. You can also acquire an “Access Pass,” a lifetime discount and pass available to those with permanent disabilities.
Across the country, there are plenty of U.S. National Parks with great accessibility. And as the National Park service continues to expand their openness to those with disabilities, more trails and vistas are available every year. In fact, check out the Access Pass.
If you want to experience the history, majesty, and beauty of nature across the U.S., these parks are the perfect places to explore.