With Summer approaching, many Pacific Northwesterners are starting to plan hiking trips with their families and friends. However, for individuals who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices, hitting the trails can feel fraught with complications.
The steepness of terrain, roots and rocks, trail width, and the absence of benches can all make a trail inaccessible for individuals who use mobility devices, families with strollers, or those who are recovering from an injury. Luckily, Washington has a variety of gorgeous trails that are designed to be accessible for visitors.
Distance: 3.8 miles; Elevation Gain: 216 feet; ADA Parking: Yes
If you are looking for a trail within the Seattle city limits, you can’t do much better than the Washington Park Arboretum. The Arboretum’s lush foliage, idyllic ponds, views of Lake Washington, and miles of trail options mean that it can feel just as scenic as more far-flung trails. Visitors can traverse sections of trails and do not need to do the full 3.8-mile jaunt (the 0.2 mile Azalea Way section is particularly scenic and flat). Trails are wide and either paved or packed gravel. An ADA accessible bathroom is available as well.
Distance: 1 mile; Elevation Gain: 10 feet; ADA Parking: Yes
This 1-mile, paved loop trail is about as picturesque as it gets. Gold Creek Pond’s sparkling waters are nestled in a valley surrounded by Snoqualmie’s forested mountain peaks. You may be tempted to do this loop a second time to soak it all in even more. To complete the experience, you can finish up with a picnic at one of the entrance’s picnic tables.
Distance: 1.3 miles; Elevation Gain: 32 feet; ADA Parking: No
Only 40 minutes from Seattle, Rattlesnake Lake Trail is one of the closest wheelchair accessible trails that also offers beautiful mountain scenery. As you venture along the trail, enjoy lush forest, views of the nearby Rattlesnake and Tiger Mountains, and the pristine lake. The trail surface is a combination of pavement and gravel and is about 8 feet wide in most places.
Distance: 1.2 mile; Elevation Gain: 29 feet; ADA Parking: Yes
Old Sauk Accessible Loop offers plenty of classic, Pacific Northwest scenery. From towering trees dripping in moss to the rushing Sauk river, this trail will have you stopping to snap pictures around every corner. The trail is 4 feet wide in most places, comprised of packed gravel or dirt, and has benches throughout. Make sure to check recent trail reports as downed trees across the trail can be a problem.
Distance: 1 mile (combined); Elevation Gain: 71 feet (combined); ADA Parking: No
These two trails are a 7-minute drive apart but are well worth combining. Together, they include some of the best scenery that the North Cascades has to offer. Along the trail you’ll see chiseled, snow-capped peaks framing glacier-fed lakes and, in the late Summer, wildflowers dotting the path. Trail surfaces are a combination of dirt, packed gravel, pavement, and a boardwalk. The Fire and Ice Trail includes a short flight of stairs, though hikers can avoid this by sticking to the first 0.2 miles of the 0.6-mile trail.
Distance: 2 miles; Elevation Gain: 131 feet; ADA Parking: No
The name “Rainy Lake” does not do this trail justice. Rainy Lake’s turquoise waters are stunning on sunny days and clear enough to spy swimming fish. The lushly forested trail and views of mountain peaks surrounding the lake make this trail even more of a “must-see.” Rainy Lake Trail is a relatively wide, paved trail, with a less than 5% grade. That being said, manual wheelchair users may require assistance on some of the steeper portions of the trail.
Distance: 6 miles; Elevation Gain: 700 feet (though see below for clarifications); ADA Parking: Yes
The Iron Goat Loop Trail contains 3 miles of ADA accessible trails, which can be accessed via the Martin Creek Trailhead. While visitors with mobility limitations will likely want to avoid the steeper last 3 miles of this loop (if hiking clockwise), they will not be disappointed by all that the lower part of the loop has to offer.
Indeed, Iron Goat Trail is packed with history and scenery. Trains once traversed these paths and Iron Goat Trail was the site of the 1910 Wellington Avalanche Disaster, the deadliest avalanche event in US history. Abandoned train tunnels and bridges, lush forest, and babbling creeks line the trail.
Distance: 1.6 miles; Elevation Gain: 0 feet; ADA Parking: Yes
For those looking for a beach trail, the Semiahoo Spit Trail is a great option that combines some of the best scenery Washington State has to offer. The trail itself is paved, though it follows the sandy and pebbled shoreline of Puget Sound. Mt. Baker and the other peaks of the North Cascades loom magnificently in the background, making for some incredible photo ops. Those looking for a longer hike can continue past the 1.6-mile Coastal Millenium Trail, though be forewarned that the trail past this point can get steep in sections.
Before heading out, keep in mind that all-terrain tires are frequently recommended for trails with gravel or natural surfaces (dirt and rocks). Additionally, many of the trails on this list have pit toilet bathrooms that are not ADA accessible. Visitors may want to plan ahead.