Regardless of where you are in the US, wheelchair-accessible trails are out there waiting to be explored. Read on to discover some of the country's best accessible hikes.
1. Artist Ridge, North Cascades, Washington
Nestled deep in the northwest corner of Washington State sits Mt. Baker, the birthplace of snowboarding and home to some of the best trails in the world. Head north on I-5 into Bellingham before heading east on Highway 542. The Artist Ridge trail on Huntoon Point sits in the shadows of Mt. Baker and close-by neighbor Mt. Shuksan.
The area spends most of the year under a layer of snow, making the trail hikeable without snowshoes only three months out of the year. But when the trail does finally clear, Artist Ridge is one of the easiest-going hikes around. Toddlers can be found traversing the trail wearing flip-flops and a smile. This evenly-graded trail is a breeze to tackle with a wheelchair in tow, thanks largely to the minimal 200-foot elevation gain.
Roundtrip, Artist Ridge is 1.2 miles long. This leisurely journey is packed with panoramic views of nearby Mt. Larrabee, American Border Peak, Goat Mountain, and Mt. Stuart far to the south. If you can, try and make this one an early morning hike. Due to the trail's short hiking season and impressive scenery, it tends to get pretty busy by noon on nice days.
2. Row River National Recreation Trail, Willamette Valley, Oregon
The Willamette Valley is the heart of Oregon, containing the state's largest cities and approximately 70 percent of the state's population. One visit, and you'll quickly understand why it's the most densely populated area of Oregon. The Willamette Valley is wrapped in a cocoon of lush scenery, surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges -- the Cascades, the Oregon Coast Range, and the Calapooya Mountains to the south.
The Row River Trail covers 15.6 miles of land, passing through Cottage Grove, Dorena Lake, and Culp Creek, with the Umpqua National Forest nearby. The trail is part of an effort to convert the abandoned Oregon Pacific & Eastern (OP&E) rail line into hikeable trails. Between Culp Creek and Cottage Grove, the 15.6-mile trail meanders through pastures and farmland, urban townscapes, and forested greenery. Halfway between Culp Creek and Cottage Grove, the trail hugs the southside of Dorena Lake. The path crosses several historic bridges, including one that was used in the filming of the cult-film classic Stand By Me.
The Row River Trail also passes a landmark homestead that was used in the old Buster Keaton films The General, and The Wedding Tree. Make some history of your own in the Willamette Valley of central Oregon.
3. Redwood Grove Loop Trail, Santa Cruz, California
The Redwood Grove Loop Trail is located just outside of the funky coastal city of Santa Cruz. When you're done enjoying the rides on Santa Cruz's iconic boardwalk, consider heading east to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. There you'll find the Redwood Grove Loop Trail, a 0.8-mile round trip through the old-growth redwood forest. The trail has an elevation gain of only 20 ft, and he dense foliage and undergrowth make for a peaceful, meditative hike... until Roaring Camp Railroad passes through and the silence is pierced by the wails of a steam train.
Compared to nearby Big Basin, the redwoods at the Grove Loop Trail are not as colossal or densely packed, but the area offers a unique variety of old-growth feel mixed with tanoak and bay trees. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park serves as a gateway to the San Lorenzo River where several more trails can be found. Take a short break from your day and visit the tall redwoods on this pleasant loop trail.
4. Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon, Utah
Bridal Veil Falls is located in scenic Provo Canyon. This one-mile round trip hike is easy to access from both Bridal Veil Adventure Park and Nuuns Park. The falls are located a short stroll (or roll) up Provo Parkway. For a slightly longer adventure, you can park uphill at Vivian Park and hike your way down to the falls. Coming up Provo Parkway, the first half of the trail is lined with manicured grass and picnic tables. Come prepared to take a short lunch break before continuing up to the falls. The entire hike to the falls takes between 10 to 15 minutes. At your destination, you'll be greeted by a 600 ft, multi-tiered waterfall that plays host to some of the best ice climbing in the state during the winter months. A restaurant used to sit perched near the top of the falls, but has since closed down.
5. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
The 30-square-mile Great Sand Dunes National Park would typically be nothing but inhospitable terrain for anyone in a wheelchair. Luckily, the Park has taken it upon themselves to provide two complimentary dunes chairs for visitors. Call ahead to the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center to check for chair availability. The specialized wheelchairs feature oversized, tread-free tires that glide over the sand. The closest parking to the visitor center is located one mile away at the Dunes Parking Area. A wheelchair accessible mat meets Medano Creek and the edge of the dunes, with an accessible viewing platform positioned above the creek bed.
From sand and waterfalls to towering old-growth forests, there's a whole lot to enjoy from your wheelchair. Thanks to the abundance of well-maintained trails scattered across the US, anyone and everyone can get out there and soak in the natural beauty of the wild.