There’s been a big push in recent years to make the outdoors accessible to all, as it should be. Thankfully, a few destinations around Colorado are making an effort to do so. Here are a few great outdoorsy Colorado attractions that go above and beyond to cater to the ADA community.
Article by: Spencer McKee
1. Garden of the Gods
One of Colorado’s most iconic destinations, Garden of the Gods is also very accessible. While many of the hiking trails on the outside of key rock formations are dirt paths with steps, the feature route inside of the park is paved. The feature route is also where the best views are, and it’s easily accessible via a nearby parking lot. This park is also a great place to take a driving tour.
2. Seven Falls
While getting to the top of Seven Falls requires going up a tall staircase, the best view (which happens to be located across from the falls) is accessible via elevator. Shuttles are also available to take visitors from the front gate to the falls, a distance of roughly one-mile.
3. Dillon Dam Recpath
Located in Summit County, Colorado near Breckenridge, the Dillon Dam Recpath is one spot accessible to those on two wheels. The full length is close to 10 miles, though many trail users prefer to pop off early or stop to enjoy the view. Made of asphalt, this route wraps around Dillon Reservoir, home to the highest deep-water marina on the planet. Visit during the summer to get some fresh mountain air or stop by during the fall to see Colorado’s changing colors. Looking for a beer? Dillon Dam Brewery and Pug Ryan’s are two great local stops.
4. The Mineral Belt Trail
Almost 12 miles long and near America’s highest city, the Mineral Belt Trail is one paved loop that can’t be missed. Some people have referred to this experience as a path through an “outdoor museum” thanks to the many mining artifacts and beautiful scenery along the way. It’s long, but it’s a beaut.
5. Rifle Falls
A short, paved route from the nearest parking, Rifle Falls consists of three massive waterfalls crashing into a pond below. This is one of the lushest places in Colorado and the amount of green during summer months will have you thinking you’re lost somewhere in Jurassic World. The nearest town is Rifle, and Glenwood Springs is a short drive down the road.
6. The Great Sand Dunes National Park
Normally, one wouldn’t expect a wheelchair to do well in sand. That being said, Great Sand Dunes National Park has a solution. They’ve got two sand wheelchairs available for use around the park that are donned with large inflatable tires. A helper is required to push the chair given the size and shape of the wheels, but for a quick trip into the dunes, these chairs get the job done. Find more details about using the chairs here.
7. Rocky Mountain National Park
Perhaps the most iconic National Park in the country, Rocky Mountain National Park tries to make some of their popular trails as accessible as possible. Be warned, many times this means hard-packed gravel (not pavement) and the presence of steep grades, which not all may be comfortable with. If you are, one great half-mile trail is Bear Lake Trail. Click this link for a preview of what it’s like. Another great trail to check out is Coyote Valley Trail, which is packed gravel with a level grade. For more about various accessible trails at Rocky Mountain National Park, here’s one resource and here’s the official resource provided by the National Parks Service. It’s also worth mentioning that Trail Ridge Road is a drivable route that shows off some of the best the park has to offer.
8. Winter Park’s National Sports Center for the Disabled
If you’re looking for a place to try adaptive snow sports, Winter Park Resort is one of the best places to do so in the country, if not world. It’s home to the National Sports Center for the Disabled. Keep in mind that you’ll need to book a lesson ahead of time. Their instructors are some of the best around.
9. Check Out Adaptive Adventures
Offering a range of programs from cycling, to climbing, to kayaking, to whitewater rafting,Adaptive Adventures is constantly working to make the outdoors accessible to all. Check out their website and you might find something for you. If not, here’s a full list of other adaptive programs around the state.
10. Staunton State Park
Similar to the chairs found at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Staunton State Park has something available called a “track-chair.” Basically, it’s a wheelchair with tank tracks on it – and according to the reviews, it gets the job done, even on rocky surfaces. As an added bonus, this chair has a motor in it, controlled by a joystick, which means no helper necessary. The “track-chair” allows those who would typically be in a wheelchair to enjoy three trails at the park ranging from two to five miles. Included on these trails are features like aspen groves, ponds, and building ruins from yesteryear. The goal the “track-chair” program is to make Staunton State Park accessible to all, and it’s definitely a move in that direction.
11. Wilderness on Wheels
Located near Bailey, Colorado, Wilderness on Wheels is a broadwalk that’s one mile long and eight feet wide. Rising to 9,200 feet above sea level, visitors are able to take in views similar to the nearby terrain of the iconic Kenosha Pass. There’s also spots to fish and grill, as well as camping and cabin options.
12. Pikes Peak Highway
Considered one of the most beautiful drives in the country, Pikes Peak Highway is one classic Colorado experience that can happen from the seat of a car. Other scenic drives worth mentioning include Mount Evans Scenic Byway and Rim Rock Drive at Colorado National Monument, located in the western part of the state.
13. Boulder Creek Path
This smooth path offers a taste of both the urban and natural scenes in Boulder, one of the more ADA accessible cities in Colorado. It’s 5.5 miles long, traveling from Boulder Canyon to Stazio Ballfields. You’ll see mountains, Boulder Creek, UC-Boulder, and much more. The path also cuts through downtown, meaning plenty of food options along the way. Be warned, certain sections are steep. Our sources suggest that the grade would be fine for a power wheelchair, though may be a struggle for those in push wheelchairs that aren’t physically strong.