The National Park system is perhaps one of America’s greatest homegrown treasures. Whether viewing the soaring peaks of the Rocky Mountains or hiking the rolling tundras of Yellowstone, the parks show the splendor of the U.S. and preserve the country’s history.
In recognition of Disability Pride Month, the July celebration of differently-abled persons, Garden & Health is highlighting a list of the most disability-friendly U.S. National Parks. Everyone should have access to enjoy these natural wonders.
Below are some of our favorites:
Nudged up against the eastern seaboard and trailing north into Canada, Acadia offers shuttle buses with lifts to all of the main attractions within the park. In addition, many of the trails, including the incredible Jesup Path and Thunder Hole, offer boardwalks running alongside for wheelchair access. There is also accessible parking, visitor centers, and dining/picnic areas.
A different take on the “great outdoors” is waiting for visitors to Carlsbad Caverns, but it takes a little trip below ground to get there. The Big Room Trail is wheelchair-accessible to venture deep into the bowels of the caverns and wonder at the stunning prehistoric rock formations.
The granddaddy of them all, Grand Canyon National Park protects one of the greatest wonders of the continental U.S. It also offers many accessible options for visitors with disabilities. The parks has guided bus tours with wheelchair lifts or one can linger alongside one of the many stunning vista lookouts without those pesky barriers blocking the view.
A unique kind of adventure awaits the differently-abled wild at heart here at the Great Sand Dunes in the Rocky Mountain State. One of the most common activities here is hiking to the top of one of the titular dunes, and with pre-notice, one can rent one of the limited sand wheelchairs and make the trip themselves. Don’t miss the genuinely singular experience of the dunes.
Sometimes, a good long drive through the beauty of mid-south nature is just what the proverbial doctor ordered. There may be no better park to make that drive than the Great Smoky Mountains. Cades Cove and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail both offer adventure lovers of all abilities the chance to soak up the scenery, spot the local wildlife, and even rest and relax by a waterfall or two.
Another underground nature lover’s paradise can be found deep in the great state of Kentucky. Below ground, sojourners can explore the massive caves via wheelchair-accessible paths and guided tours with vision and hearing assistance. Above ground, trails like the Echo River Spring Trail offer unobstructed views alongside boardwalks with glass barrier viewpoints making this vacation spot a truly inclusive experience for all visitors.
This destination is an excellent reminder to all visitors of how tiny humans are in the wonder of nature. Visitors of all abilities can enjoy this outdoor space with accessible trails, picnic areas, campsites, and tours. A video series and guides are available in standard and large print, highlighting all the accessibility features. Sequoia and Kings National Park is home to the world’s largest tree, and its forest is open for cars and wheelchairs to travel through and experience the beauty of the mighty sequoia tree.
Several incredible sites can be found right in the heart of old Virginia. But what sets the drivable Shenandoah apart is its accessible trails, campgrounds, ranger programs, and picnic grounds. Limberlost and Rose River Trails are perfect for anyone and everyone.
Perhaps the most famous national park in the U.S. system is also one of the most accessible — Yellowstone. There is little one cannot access by wheelchair in this unique American wonder, even Old Faithful. Yellowstone allows leased service animals, and you can download the free National Parks Service app for up-to-date accessibility information. It’s a true must-visit for all Americans!
Another famous park in the system, Yosemite offers some of the coolest and most accessible sites for the differently abled. Tenaya Lodge Yosemite 360 tours are fully wheelchair accessible. You can also take in the unimpeded views with an emergency-trained park expert to fully experience the world-renowned grandeur of California’s mighty Yosemite.