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Many people move out to the Centennial State for its proximity to nature. It’s home to dozens of stunning national and state parks as well as tens of thousands of lush, pine-flecked trails. Yet, last summer when Colorado Parks and Wildlife released a state map noting 39,000 trails in Colorado, able-bodied folks may not have realized that only a tiny fraction of those trails are handicap accessible. Things are slowly improving though. Since legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990, Colorado’s parks and trails have become more inclusive. And while there is still plenty that needs to be done, we’ve compiled a list of the best outdoor and handicap accessible experiences in the Centennial State.
This new trail, which is slated to become a 65-mile-long trail linking South Platte River with the Continental Divide, is keeping inclusivity in mind as it expands. So far, the 10-foot-wide boardwalk path takes visitors along the bustling creek and down into the cool Clear Creek canyon with spectacular views of the surreal, eroded rock. Not only can folks in wheelchairs roll along this simple path, they can also post up along portions of the trail, where railings have been lowered to allow those in wheelchairs to fish the creek. Bonus: It’s only a 35-minute drive from Denver. 32087 US Highway 6, Golden, 80403 303-569-9972
This state park is the first in Colorado to launch a Track-Chair Program. Track chairs are wheelchairs with thick-tired wheels design for trekking along unpaved dirt and gravel paths. Thirteen miles of trails are accessible by way of these special chairs (which visitors should reserve ahead of time) including Davis Pond’s 3.5-mile loop and Mason Creek Trail (2.5 miles roundtrip), both of which take visitors through coniferous forests and aspen meadows. The longest trail accessible by track chair is Staunton Ranch Trail (5.2 miles round-trip) which offers epic vistas of Lions Head and Pikes Peak. 12102 S Elk Creek Rd, Pine, 80470, 303-816-0912
The Wilderness on Wheels project was started by Roger West in 1986, and the resulting eight-foot-wide and one-mile-long boardwalk has been providing access to the great Colorado outdoors in the years since. The ramp zig zags through blue spruce and bristlecone pine trees up a 12,000-foot mountain in Park County; at the top, visitors are granted panoramic views of the Pike National Forest. Not only do they offer accessible hiking, but those in wheelchairs can also fish Kenosha Creek and Wilderness of Wheel’s has several campsites with wheelchair accessibility. Please keep in mind that the trek will be a real workout for those in manual wheelchairs. 45924 Highway 85, Grant, 80448, 303-403-1110
Behold the caramel-colored waves and golden ripples of sand at these dunes by sand wheelchair. This park’s visitor center owns two of these chairs (which should be reserved ahead of time) specifically designed to roll through the loose sand, allowing those in a wheelchair to take a closer look at the majestic dunes. Trained guides take visitors in wheelchairs out into the sand, and if you forget to reserve a chair, the park also has accessible paths to the edge of Medano Creek, with a viewing platform just above the creek bed. 11999 State Highway 150, Mosca, 81146, 719-378-6399
This quarter-mile one way paved path takes visitors to an overlook just about level with the top of the 283-foot flowing Fish Creek Falls near Steamboat Springs. Along the way up this steep trail, filled with several switchbacks, take in the fresh mountain air while weaving through bejeweled aspens and emerald evergreens. Once at the top, bask in the Yampa Valley’s natural wonder. 34165 Fish Creek Falls Rd, Steamboat Springs, 80487, 970-879-0880
Folks in wheelchairs can hike, fish, and camp at this accessible state park. The one-mile concrete Mear’s Bay Trail winds along the shoreline of Mear’s Bar with picturesque landscapes of the San Juan Mountains reflected in the bay. Or take the 1.8-mile peaceful Marmot Run Trail along the east shore of the Uncompahgre River and Ridgway Reservoir. Reserve accessible campsites and bring your fishing rods to fish in the lakes at the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk park site. 28555 Hwy 550, Ridgway, 970-626-5822
Though this favorite offers an incredible scenic drive, it’s also home to a variety of wheelchair accessible trails that’ll get you out into the fresh air. Check out out the mile long Lily Lake trail for kaleidoscopic wildflowers, the half-mile long Sprague Lake Trail with a nearby accessible camping site, and the mile long Coyote Valley Trail (get there in the morning for potential elk and moose sightings). Holzwarth Historic Site offers a lovely one mile round trip pathway in Kawuneeche Valley and of course, the famed 0.6 mile loop at Bear Lake is not only breathtaking, but also wheelchair accessible. 1000 US Hwy 36, Estes Park, 80517, 970-586-1206