words by Melody Forsyth
Having a child with Down syndrome has taught me the importance of being inclusive. Sometimes I still need to be reminded of this. I love organizing hikes for friends at work during the summer that are kid-friendly so we can get outdoors and have fun. I have a friend who has a child in a wheelchair, and she often asks me if the trail is wheelchair accessible. This has been a huge wake up call for me to plan hikes that are wheelchair accessible and to be more inclusive when planning these outings.
The following is a list of accessible hikes in the Wasatch that are fun for everyone. So, next time you plan a hike with friends, you have a great list of destinations that are perfect for all abilities.
Bridal Veil Falls via Provo River Trail
Large portions of this trail are shaded with large trees providing great coverage. The trail goes right to the bottom of the falls, so you can get some great pics. If you are able to put your feet in, you totally can. It is usually crowded around the falls, but for much of this hike, you may only see a few people on the trail. Although it is by the highway, you can look up at see amazing rock formations and towering peaks. The entire trail is about 15 miles, so you can do as much or as little as you like. On busy days, watch for bikers and rollerbladers because it's a popular trail for them as well.
Cascade Springs Interpretive TrailLocated on the Alpine loop up American Fork Canyon, this trail is great in the spring, summer and fall. It's an 0.8 mile long loop that goes around a few natural springs. The trail wanders around the springs, and there are some amazing views of the mountains all around. Because it is nestled among the trees, you can’t hear a lot of cars, so it feels more remote.
Canyon Nature TrailThis trail (0.6 miles long) is located across the street from Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Although the trail to the cave is paved, I do not recommend the caves for wheelchairs because they are incredibly steep, and there is no wheelchair access to actually enter the caves. However, a trip to the visitor’s center is worth the effort, and you can try this trail right after learning about the caves. This is a beautiful trail that has a bridge and rushing water down below. There is one small area at the start of the trail where the trail splits for a moment. There are a few stairs, but to the left, there is a paved trail with a small incline that goes around the stairs. You can find signs with the names of the trees. My kids enjoyed the telescopes along the trail that allow you to see one of the access points on the mountain to Timpanogos cave.
Temple QuarryAlthough this is not a long trail at a 0.3-miles, I highly recommend this one! There are signs along the trail to describe the history of Granite, Utah and the history of the granite in this area. The granite used to build the Salt Lake City Temple was quarried from the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, where this trail is located. There is a lot of early Utah history on this trail. If your kids love to climb, there are also several awesome granite boulders they can climb and play on.
Silver Lake LoopThis super popular hike is located between Brighton and Solitude Mountain Resort. Most of the trail is a boardwalk around Silver Lake with a small section with dirt that isn’t too rocky, is relatively flat and can be wheelchair accessible. You will find people fishing, and it is also a great area for birding. If you are lucky, you might even spot a moose on the trail! Remember to keep your distance! Check out our Utah wildlife guide before visiting to see if you can spot any of these common Utah animals.
Snowbird Observation Point TrailIf you want to cool off from the summer heat, heading up to the ski resorts in the summer is always a great idea. We really loved this trail at Snowbird. It was a little difficult to find. It is easiest to find this trail by going to the tram base and following the signs on the bridge. Go all the way across the bridge, and you will see the sign for the beginning of the trail. There are signs with information about trees and wildflowers in the area, as well as the history of the ski resort and its changes over the years. The trail ends at a beautiful viewpoint and a great place to get photos. There is a little bit of elevation gain at the very beginning and at the very end.
City Creek Canyon RdThis trail can be used for adaptive biking, walking and so much more. It may be too steep for wheelchairs because it is pretty much uphill the first few miles (that’s all we did) but there are people biking and hiking throughout the trail. Most of it runs alongside the creek, so it’s nice to hear the running water. Most of the trail is sun-exposed, but there are areas of shade to rest and cool down. There are also several picnic tables if you want to stop and enjoy a meal.
The above hikes require some effort to reach the trailheads; however, there are a few handicap-accessible parking spots available at each trailhead. If you are looking for a trail that is more urban and closer to neighborhoods, below are some other trails you can check out. Most of them are 10+ mile long paved trails along rivers and by houses. If you have an adaptable bike, they also provide miles and miles of great trails to explore.
Oquirrh Lake Long Loop
Porter Rockwell Trail
Jordan River Parkway trail
Sugarhouse Park Loop
Weber River Parkway Trail
Additionally, if you or someone you know is looking for help getting into the outdoors. The National Ability Center located in Park City is an amazing resource. They have all sorts of adaptive programs and equipment for all abilities.
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