When we began traveling with our disabled son that uses a wheelchair for mobility we realized quickly it would entail more planning. I am going to walk through my process on planning trips. We tend to plan a lot of our road trips around seeing National Parks. Most of these parks have accessible parking, scenic drives, boardwalks or pullovers with amazing viewpoints. When looking for information on what to do at these National Parks the first thing you want to explore is each National Park's website. There will be an option for Accessibility that will outline each visitor center, restroom, pull over and fully accessible trail. I begin here making a list of things that look interesting that are 100% wheelchair friendly. I typically have a word doc and copy and paste the information from their website into the document so I can print it and have a physical copy in my folder for that trip. Next I head to YOU TUBE! You could start by searching that park and the word "wheelchair" or "accessible" but by this point I know the areas that fit the ADA guidelines because of step one. I’m looking for things that are stroller friendly, for instance typing in “Stroller friendly things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park”. Here is why; accessibility is a broad spectrum so even if a park has a paved sidewalk all the way up to a monument if the incline is too steep etc. it won’t make the initial list you find on their website. You know your abilities and further research may open more options for you!
A good example of this is Tuzigoot National Monument (pictured above). There are sidewalks throughout the monuments base but there is a steep enough incline that there are warnings for wheelchair users for good reason. For us anything that is level enough ground to push a stroller even with an incline I am adding to my word doc list and noting the condition that made it not make the initial cut. Pictured below is Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National park.
All Trails is another great site to look at to find short but epic hikes. You can also use this app/ website to check recent comments and for trail conditions. Unexpected ice on trails can really ruin a well-planned day. We will back carry our son if a hike is less than 2 miles round trip, doesn’t have a ton of stairs or cliff drop offs etc. A great example of this is Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. The hike to Mesa Arch is .5 mile and not extremely rugged, we saw hikers of all abilities going all different speeds on this trail.
I personally like to map out any location we are staying in and the places of interest close in proximity. This helps me visually so when we are driving around I know what options we have friendly to our needs. This example is of everything we did while staying in Williams, AZ south of the Grand Canyon. Some trips I color code the maps like this one so as I am flipping through my folder I can easily locate each destination and any notes I may have made. It can be hard to gauge how long you will need in each area, if you have a map handy you can determine what other things are close by IF you have time! You can also do this by starring locations in Google Maps but I like to have a printed out map and accessibility info just in case we are out of range or I break/lose my phone.
The travel community and full time RV families on social media are also amazing at posting family friendly places to see and answering questions. Do not be afraid to reach out to me or any traveler you find on social media that has posted in the location you want to travel to! This is how we get some of the best travel plans, word of mouth. If you aren’t already I invite you to follow us on instagram at @accessible.adventures as we geo tag wheelchair friendly locations we visit. If you have any questions or your own great tips on trip planning I would love to hear them in the comments!
Kristy here, special needs mom and travel enthusiast. I hope this blog guides you to get out into nature no matter your abilities.