5 of the best wheelchair-accessible hiking trails in the U.S.

From the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the shores of the Gulf Coast, accessibility is a priority at these parks

Photo: Cory Lee

With summer in full swing, that means it’s time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. If you or a loved one uses a wheelchair, finding accessible outdoor activities and hiking trails can be key to spending time outside. Thankfully, there are a multitude of accessible trails throughout the U.S. designed with smooth, sturdy surfaces and minimal inclines for wheelchair users and others with mobility disabilities. 

No matter which of these wheelchair-accessible hiking trails you choose, you’ll find that each one offers you and your family a memorable outdoor experience. From Upstate New York to the Gulf Coast, here are five must-visit wheelchair-accessible trails.

a wheelchair user on a wooden boardwalk through the woods
Handsome Pond Trail. | Photo: Cory Lee

1. Handsome Pond Trail in New York 

Handsome Pond Trail is located inside International Paper John Dillon Park in the Adirondacks, about 17 miles south of Tupper Lake, New York. This wheelchair-accessible trail runs 5 miles round trip and is mostly graveled, but also includes wooden boardwalks throughout. This trail can take around 2.5 hours to complete, so be sure to bring water and check the weather before heading out. There are beautiful water viewing areas along the way as well as accessible restrooms. Nine wheelchair-accessible, wooded, 3-sided lean-to shelters are free to use, but you’ll need to call ahead at 518-637-5042 to reserve your spot.

a wheelchair user is on a walkway over a scenic overlook
Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook Trail. | Photo: Cory Lee

2. Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook Trail in Michigan 

The Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook Trail is located in Marquette, Michigan. This trail is a must-do when visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Made of dirt and small gravel, the trail is fairly flat and smooth overall, with a few steep spots still accessible for wheelchair users. About halfway through this trail, you’ll come to an overlook section with breathtaking views of Lake Superior. And all along the mile-long path, you’ll find signage describing the surrounding plants, wildlife, and trees. These signs make the journey even more enjoyable, allowing you to learn about the area while you roll alongside the shores of Lake Superior. 

a wheelchair user and a park ranger are on a wooden boardwalk in the woods
Flytrap Trail. | Photo: Cory Lee

3. Flytrap Trail in North Carolina 

Only a few minutes from the beach, the Fly Trap Trail in North Carolina is located in Carolina Beach State Park. This half-mile, wheelchair-accessible trail features flat and easy-to-maneuver surfaces. If you visit on Saturday between April and October at 10 a.m., you can meet at the Flytrap Trail Parking Lot at the end of Nature Trail Lane for a ranger-led tour of the trail. The park ranger will discuss the region’s different types of carnivorous plants, including the famous Venus Flytrap. For questions about this tour, call the park at 910-458-8206.

a wheelchair user is on a wooden boardwalk over a waterfall in the woods
Anna Ruby Falls. | Photo: Cory Lee

4. Anna Ruby Falls in Georgia 

The town of Helen, a lovely Bavarian-style village embedded in the mountains of northeast Georgia is also home to the 0.4-mile, fully-paved Anna Ruby Falls trail. The path is wide and steep in some spots, but it’s still manageable in a powered wheelchair. If you use a manual chair or scooter, you may need to bring somebody to help you with the steep sections. The entire path runs along the water with beautiful views throughout. But the real reason for taking this trail awaits you at the end, where you’ll encounter the gorgeous Anna Ruby Falls. 

As you venture back to the bottom of the trail, head to the Lion’s Eye Nature Trail, a short distance from the entrance to the falls. This trail is only 0.15 miles long and is less steep than Anna Ruby. It’s fully paved and flat, making it easy to roll on without assistance. Along this path, you’ll see and hear Smith Creek. The trail was designed for blind travelers and includes Braille signage along the way.

a wheelchair user is on a wooden boardwalk over the water
Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. | Photo: Cory Lee

5. Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail in Alabama

The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is located in Orange Beach, Alabama. This coastal area is home to some of the most gorgeous waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Just minutes from the beach, you’ll find the 15-mile wheelchair-accessible trail, featuring paved asphalt and wooden boardwalks. The trail is flat and easy for wheelchairs, bikes, and strollers; it’s also part of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, so keep an eye out for many species of birds along the way. Don’t be surprised if you see an alligator or two in the swampy waters next to the trail, but don’t worry, the area is fenced and safe for visitors.