Top National Parks for Disabled Visitors

The Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon, Arizona. © Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr
01 of 07

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

River running through the Grand Canyon

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

What to See:. You don’t have to climb to the bottom to experience Grand Canyon National Park. Check these fun things out:

  • Fred Harvey Bus Tours: Wheelchair accessible tours; Call 928-638-2631 for information
  • River Trips: Many river concessioners are willing to make accommodations for all abilities. Get the Trip Planner, available at all Visitor Centers to find specific companies
  • Mule Rides: The famous mule rides are provisionally accessible with prior arrangements; Contact 928-638-2631
  • Scenic Air Flights: Fixed-wing and helicopter tours over the canyon; Obtain a list of air tour companies at Visitor Centers
  • Desert View Bookstore
  • Tusayan Museum: A glimpse into Pueblo Indian life at Grand Canyon almost 800 years ago

Where to Stay: Whether you want a comfy bed or a campsite, the Grand Canyon has many options. Mather Campground, located on the South Rim, has accessible sites upon request. But if you are looking for something cozier on the South Rim, try the El Tovar Hotel, Maswik Lodge, or Yavapai Lodge.

On the North Rim, the Grand Canyon Lodge is a good option, though there are many stairs and some cabins do not have roll-in showers, so keep this in mind when booking.

Amenities: Wheelchairs may be checked out in various locations, including: North Rim Visitor Center; Visitor Center at Canyon View Information Plaza; Yavapai Observation Station; and Desert View Bookstore/ Park Information. Free shuttles services are also available to help visitors get around the park.

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02 of 07

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

krossbow via Flickr

What to See: Here are your best bets for Rocky Mountain National Parks:

  • Alpine Visitor Center: Open only in the summer, it includes a bookstore, information desk, ranger-led programs, and exhibits on the Alpine Tundra region
  • Trail Ridge Store: Includes a gift shop and snack bar
  • Beaver Meadows Visitor Center/Park Headquarters: Auditorium, ranger talks, and bookstore.
  • Fall River Visitor Center: Wildlife exhibits, visitor information, children’s discovery room, and some ranger talks are offered
  • Kawuneeche Visitor Center: Ranger talks, auditorium, and exhibits
  • Moraine Park Museum: Natural and cultural history exhibits and ranger-led programs
  • Endovalley Picnic Area: Fully accessible picnic tables and vault toilets

Where to Stay: There are three campground that have ISA-designated sites for those with disabilities: Glacier Basin Campground; Moraine Park Campground; and Timber Creek Campground

There is also one backcountry area that is accessible - Sprague Lake Camp. The camping area will accommodate 12 people and is moderately accessible with a vault toilet, picnic tables, and fire ring with grill. Reservations must be made for Sprague Lake Camp and a backcountry permit obtained; Call the Backcountry Office at 970-586-1242.

Amenities: The Estes Park Quota Club has wheelchairs and other hospital equipment available for loan. Arrangements can be made by calling the Estes Park Medical Center at 970-586-2317. A small, refundable deposit is required on all equipment.

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03 of 07

Yosemite National Park, California

Half Dome

Dawn Endico via Flickr

What to See: The following are all accessible and reachable by shuttle:

  • Yosemite Valley Visitor Center: Exhibits, bookstore, theater
  • Yosemite Museum: art gallery, Demonstrations, giant sequoia tree, interpretive ranger
  • Indian Village of Ahwahnee: Reconstructed Indian Village of Ahwahnee with outdoor displays
  • The Ansel Adams Gallery: The work of Ansel Adams, contemporary photographers, and other artists
  • Yosemite Art Center: Art classes are offered during the summer and fall. Call 209-372-1442 for more information.
  • Lower Yosemite Fall: The world’s fifth tallest waterfall

Where to Stay: Three campgrounds in the Valley offer accessible campsites, suitable for wheelchairs: Lower Pines, Upper Pines, and North Pines. Specific sites have accessible fire rings and picnic tables with extended tops. Electric power to charge a wheelchair can be found at Lower Pines.

Other options include the following lodges/hotels: The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge, Curry Village, and Housekeeping Camp.

Amenities: Manual wheelchairs and electric scooters can be rented at the bicycle-rental stand at Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village. Reservations are suggested and can be made by calling 209-372-8319.

Free accessible shuttle buses also run in several areas of the park and have wheelchair lifts and tie-downs. For more information, call 209-372-1240.

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04 of 07

Olympic National Park, Washington

Seven Lakes Basin, Olympic National Park, Washington

((brian)) via Flickr

What to See: At Rocky Mountain National Park you have your choice of Pacific Ocean beaches, rain forest valleys, and glacier-capped peaks. Try these:

  • The Living Forest Trail: Travel through the forest to a view of Peabody Creek Valley
  • Olympic National Park Visitor Center at Port Angeles: Several exhibits on the park's natural and cultural history
  • Madison Falls Trail: Take a paved trail to a 60-foot high cascade
  • Rialto Beach: A very short paved trail leads to a picnic area in the coastal forest. In the summer, a short ramp provides access to a beach overlook
  • Hurricane Ridge Area: This area has many trails and a visitor center with accessibility; Great spot to view wildflowers ad wildlife

Where to Stay: Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort has accessible hot spring pools, rental cabins, restaurant, and lodge, so it’s a great place to stay. Lake Crescent Lodge is also a good option, equipped with accessible rooms, restaurant, and lounge.

There are several options to camp, including Altair, Elwha, Fairholme, Heart O' the Hills, Hoh, Kalaloch, Mora, and Sol Duc.

Amenities: Wheelchairs are available for use at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, which also has great exhibits, as well as the Living Forest Trail.

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05 of 07

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana

backpackphotography via Flickr

What to See: Glacier National Park park has done a lot to accommodate disabled visitors.

  • Avalanche: Includes 2 of the more popular hiking trails, a picnic area, and restrooms
  • Goat Lick: an exposed riverbank where mountain goats and other animals come to lick the mineral-laden cliffs.
  • McDonald Falls: At the end of the trail is a hidden gorge.
  • Running Eagle Falls: A beautiful attraction that issacred to the Blackfeet (Southern Piegan) people.
  • Trail of the Cedars: Partially paved and partially a boardwalk that allows for great nature viewing
  • Two Dog Flats: A good viewing spot where the prairies meet the mountains
  • Two Medicine: On a lake, you have a great view of the Rising Wolf Mountain

Where to Stay: Accessible lodging can be found at the following lodges: Glacier Park Lodge; Lake McDonald Cabins; Lake McDonald Lodge; Many Glacier Hotel; Rising Sun Motor Inn; Swiftcurrent Motor Inn; and Village Inn at Apgar.

Apgar Campsite, Avalanche Campsite, Fish Creek Campsite, Rising Sun Campsite, Sprague Creek, and Two Medicine Campsite are also options for those looking to camp.

Amenities: Fully accessible Visitor Centers, and a fantastic shuttle service that allows for easier transportation.

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06 of 07

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park

SC Fiasco via Flickr

What to See: Not only is Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve accessible, it offers the most unique things to do!

  • The Dunefield: Ride in a sand wheelchairs especially designed for over-sand travel
  • Dunes Picnic Area: A shaded site with accessible trails
  • Interpretive Programs: Most programs are accessible and nature walks do offer dunes wheelchairs
  • Viewing Deck: This new feature allows barrier-free access for photographers and those who would like watch family members hiking in the dunes

Where to Stay: If you’re a camper, check out the backcountry at Sawmill Canyon. The site’s facilities include an elevated tent pad, an accessible picnic table, a fire grate, firewood and food storage containers, and an accessible privy. Pinyon Flats Campground is also an accessible place to stay with great restrooms and trails.

The Great Sand Dunes Lodge and Zapata Ranch also have accessible options.

Amenities: The sand wheelchair is a cool option that allows visitors to fully experience all aspects of the park. You can reserve a wheelchair in advance by calling the Visitor Center at 719-378-6399.

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07 of 07

Access Pass

Yellowstone National Park sign

Mmphotos / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Learn how to obtain the Access Pass (formerly the Golden Access Passport), a free lifetime pass for U.S. citizens with permanent disabilities.