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Most accessible US national parks

Most accessible US national parks
Most accessible US national parks
Written by Harry Johnson

The best and worst national parks in the US for accessible adventures ranked based on their wheelchair-friendly accessibility

Spending time in the outdoors can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, enhance your immune system and exercise helps to keep you fit and healthy.

And it is simply enjoyable.

But, for some people, the great outdoors is harder to access, especially for those living with conditions that affect their mobility or ability to communicate due to hearing loss.

Industry experts conducted a study which national parks provide the most amenities to people with mobility impairments, revealing the best and worst national parks in the US for accessible adventures and ranking them based on their wheelchair-friendly accessibility.

The Most Accessible National Parks In the US:

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1. Badlands National Park, SD – Total number of trails – 17, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 3, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 17.6, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 92.3, Accessibility score – 9.31

2. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ – Total number of trails – 133, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 14, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 10.5, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 95.7, Accessibility score – 8.80

3. Yellowstone National Park, WY/MT/ID – Total number of trails – 270, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 16, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 5.9, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 96.3, Accessibility score – 8.11

4. Mesa Verde National Park, CO – Total number of trails – 21, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 2, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 9.5, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 81.4, Accessibility score – 7.76

5. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT – Total number of trails – 38, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 5, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 13.2, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 61.9, Accessibility score – 6.90

6. Hot Springs National Park, AR – Total number of trails – 22, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 3, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 13.6, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 54.1, Accessibility score – 6.55

7. Grand Teton National Park, WY – Total number of trails – 118, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 4, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 3.4, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 93.8, Accessibility score – 6.21

8. Joshua Tree National Park, CA – Total number of trails – 133, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 5, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 3.8, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 93.3, Accessibility score – 6.21

9. Death Valley National Park, CA/NV – Total number of trails – 100, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 7, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 7.0, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 70.0, Accessibility score – 6.21

10. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH – Total number of trails – 76, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 8, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 10.5, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 61.3, Accessibility score – 6.21

11. Indiana Dunes National Park, IN – Total number of trails – 18, Wheelchair-friendly trails – 3, % of wheelchair-friendly trails – 16.7, % of wheelchair-friendly restaurants – 52.0, Accessibility score – 6.21

Covering 244,000 acres, Badlands National Park ranks as the best for accessibility in our index. With a score of 9.31/10, 17.6% of Badlands’ trails are suitable for wheelchair users, while an additional 92.3% of restaurants in the area provide suitable assistance to wheelchair users, landing them the top spot!

Needing no introduction of its own, the Grand Canyon comes in as the second most accessible national park in the country with a score of 8.80/10! The park scores highly thanks to 95.7% of its restaurants being wheelchair-accessible, and 10.5% of its trails being suitable for wheelchair users.

The world’s first national park, Yellowstone is home to 2.2 million acres of geology and wildlife, scoring 8.11/10 in our index, with the highest proportion of wheelchair-friendly restaurants at a whopping 96.3%. Additionally, the park has a relatively high number of wheelchair-friendly trails! 

The research also looked at the least accessible national parks:

  1. Pinnacles National Park, CA
  2. Sequoia National Park, CA
  3. Acadia National Park, ME
  4. Canyonlands National Park, UT
  5. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
  6. New River Gorge National Park, WV
  7. Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
  8. Yosemite National Park, CA
  9. Saguaro National Park, AZ
  10. Zion National Park, UT

At the bottom of the list is Pinnacles National Park in California, with a score of 0.48 out of 10. Thanks to its steep and rocky terrain none of this park’s 31 trails are wheelchair accessible so it’s best avoided if you have a condition that affects your mobility. Pinnacles National Park is also in the bottom five for its proportion of wheelchair-friendly restaurants, with only 30.5% being accessible.

Up next is another Californian National Park, Sequoia, with an accessibility score of only 1.43/10. Only three of the park’s 110 trails or 2.7% are accessible for wheelchair users and these trails are prone to accessibility issues caused by the weather, including fallen trees, rockfalls, and flooding. Sequoia National Park also has the lowest proportion of wheelchair-friendly restaurants, with just over 25%, making it one of the least suitable for people with mobility impairments.

This park in Maine is the third least accessible national park scoring only 0.52 out of 10. Less than half of the restaurants in the park and surrounding area are wheelchair accessible.

Acadia National Park receives 4 million visitors a year, making it one of the US’s most visited national parks and protects 76.7 miles of habitat along the Atlantic coastline. Only 3.3% of its 246 routes are suitable for people with conditions that affect their mobility, but the park authority is working to improve its accessibility to all visitors. 

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About the author

Harry Johnson

Harry Johnson has been the assignment editor for eTurboNews for mroe than 20 years. He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is originally from Europe. He enjoys writing and covering the news.

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