By: Cory Lee
While national parks and other popular hiking destinations can offer an enjoyable, accessible experience, they also bring with them crowds of other hikers. To have a more secluded wheelchair hiking experience, some hikers prefer lesser-known trails where they can get all of the enjoyment of a popular trail with none of the crowds.
The seven accessible hiking trails below are ones you probably have never heard of until now, giving you plenty of options to explore a new location and maybe even view some wildlife while taking in the foliage.
1. Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail in Kensington, GA
The first trail on this list is a 0.9 mile out-and-back trail—meaning you hike out and then turn around and come back—that is accessible for all skill levels. The path itself is a raised wooden plank boardwalk, which provides a smooth hike, but can be narrow if you need to pass other hikers. Features of this trail include the wildflowers that are the namesake of the trail, which are in bloom from March to April. There is also a waterfall at the end of the trail, but the wooden boardwalk does not go all the way to it. However, the first half mile of the trail is 100% wheelchair accessible and worth exploring.
2. Sweetgum Trail in Groveport, OH
Another popular trail option is a loop trail, which is a trail that allows you to hike in a circle and return to your starting point. This trail is a 2.2-mile loop trail with a connector trail in the middle, giving you the option to shorten or lengthen your hike as needed. The path is paved, with highlights including the pines and the nearby river. The trail is dog-friendly, but dogs must remain on a leash at all times. This is a great hiking spot, as the trail is mostly flat and there isn’t usually a lot of hiker traffic, giving you a peaceful and quiet space to explore the trees.
3. Tiemann Shut-ins Trail in Fredericktown, MO
An out-and-back trail, this 1.8-mile path is accessible throughout the year and suitable for all skill levels. The trail is great for a hiking wheelchair, with a paved trail that is at least four feet wide. It’s primarily a scenic trail, ideal for bird watching, ending at an observation deck that overlooks the river. Along the trail, there are benches for stopping to take a rest and enjoying the natural surroundings. The end of the trail does get a little steeper than the rest of the path, so while still considered wheelchair accessible, some hikers may need assistance here.
4. Lodi Lake Wilderness Trail in Lodi, CA
This loop trail starts and ends at the edge of Lodi Lake, giving you the option to hike a short distance, or to cover the whole two-mile loop. The path is either paved or packed dirt, depending on the portion you’re hiking, and is around four feet wide throughout the trail. Highlights include the lake as well as the park, giving you space to fish and kayak. Overall, there are great views, which make this location a fun hike for all skill levels. The lake is more popular from May to July, given the opportunity to fish, kayak, and canoe at the park. Walking a dog is allowed in the park while on a leash, but not on the trail itself.
5. Bird Berry Trail in Winder, GA
For a shorter hike, this trail is a 0.7-mile out-and-back trail that also has a lake at one end. The path is paved and includes a birding area, as well as nature signs to learn more about the local wildlife and foliage. At the lake’s edge, there is a birding platform for observing the water and watching the birds. The end of the trail culminates in a pollinator garden, as well as a small loop to redirect you back down the path. There is a mountain bike trail that continues farther—at around the 0.5-mile checkpoint—so keep this in mind. This is a good trail for those looking to get into hiking and for a shorter trail to gain some basic experience, as well as a family-friendly option to get out and explore.
6. Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve Loop in Egg Harbor Township, NJ
For those that like to have a destination on their hiking trail, this 1.9-mile loop trail surrounds a lake located within the nature reserve. This is a great path for all skill levels, as there are several trails within this loop. Hiking closer to the lake allows you to be in the sun, while hiking farther from the lake offers shade throughout the trail. Being in the nature reserve makes this a great hike for not only viewing the lake, but also for observing birds and other wildlife and local foliage. If you’re interested in nature hobbies like bird watching, foraging, and wildlife identification, this is a great trail.
7. Little Elm Lakefront Trail in Little Elm, TX
The last trail on this list is a longer trail at 8.6 miles, but as an out-and-back trail, you can choose the length you hike, giving you the option to work up to the full 8.6 miles. This is an unpaved path that is very wide, giving you plenty of space to pass other hikers while staying in wheelchair-accessible territory. Part of the trail does curve around the edge of a lake, giving you a place to stop and enjoy the view, as well as a halfway checkpoint for the full path. It is located near a neighborhood, but the trail is generally quiet and family-friendly.
These seven trails take you off the popular trails and give you plenty of options to explore your local natural landscapes. Consider these trails when planning your next hike or use them as inspiration to find an accessible trail in your area. There are so many wheelchair-accessible hiking trails for every skill level, giving you the opportunity to start a new hobby or level up in your hiking skills.
About the Author: Cory Lee
Cory Lee is the award-winning accessible travel blogger behind Curb Free with Cory Lee. He hopes to inspire others to roll out of their comfort zone and see all of the beauty our world has to offer.