Accessibility in Your National Parks

Zion National Park – Lower Emerald Pool Trail

Our family often chooses vacations based on outdoor activities. We are travel junkies and adventure is our main goal. Until our trip to Washington, UT for the Ironman 70.3 St. George, I had never considered how difficult it must be for physically challenged individuals and their families to plan a vacation that would be accessible for all involved.

I was pleasantly surprised by our National Park System. Specifically, Zion National Park.

Lower Emerald Pool is a Paved Trail Rated Easy

Getting There

According to a recent article by Insider, here are the most accessible airlines you can fly:

  • JetBlue for those in a wheelchair
  • Southwest for the ability to choose your seat ahead of time (important – because on our flight out here with another airline, they sat our 6 year old alone and our 3 year old alone in the back of the plane, away from us. What?!)
  • American Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic – Accommodations for those with visual, mental, and hearing impairments, as well as wheelchair accessible bathrooms! (if you’ve ever seen a regular airline bathroom, they’re toddler-size at best).

National Parks

We have 58 National Parks in the United States. Overall, the system has taken a pledge over the last several years to make each park accessible to all types of disabilities. Because each park has it’s own inner workings, you must choose your park of interest to see the accessible options. From a few minutes of clicking, it seems not all National Parks are created equal. To be fair, the overall goals of most National Parks are to preserve the natural beauty of the environment, so the hesitation to disrupt the habitat is understandable.

All national parks are listed here by state. Since we are spending most of our time at Zion, here is what I’ve highlighted:

Zion boasts several accessible options, including the visitor centers, museum, restrooms, shuttle busses, picnic areas, and Zion lodge. Several campsites are reserved for those with disabilities. Several paved trails await, including the Pa’rus Trail and Riverside Walk, which are wheelchair accessible, albeit with assistance. We also “hiked” the Lower Emerald Pool trail, which was paved and perfect for our kids! Service animals are permitted on-leash.


Not the outdoorsy type? No problem! The most accessible cities in America via

Other Resources

WheelchairTravel.Org: Travel tips & tricks from wheelchair-accessible flights, trains, and hotels. Resources listed by destination.
National Geographic‘s 4 best Wheelchair-Accessible Trails
Outside Magazine‘s best National Parks for people with disabilities
Adventure Sports Network‘s 5 coolest wheelchair-accessible trails


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