The Most Wheelchair-friendly National Parks in the U.S.

·2 min read
A bench to rest and enjoy the beauty on a boardwalk trail in Badlands National Park.
A bench to rest and enjoy the beauty on a boardwalk trail in Badlands National Park.

Matthew H. Irvin/Getty Images

Badlands National Park in South Dakota is the most wheelchair-friendly national park in the United States.

The park, known for its geologic deposits and mixed-grass prairie lands, has three wheelchair-friendly trails, which account for more than 17% of all its trails, according to a new study by Aging in Place. The park also accommodates wheelchairs in 92.3% of its restaurants, giving it a total accessibility score of 9.31, per the study.

Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park came in at No. 2 with two dozen wheelchair-friendly trails — a 10.5% share of its total trails — and 95.7% of restaurants accommodating wheelchairs, according to the study. The park scored a total of 8.80 in accessibility.

Ayla Girouard, a licensed practical nurse, focused on geriatrics and long-term rehabilitation, with Aging in Place, told Travel + Leisure that being outdoors can have "measurable physical and psychological benefits," including lowering stress, lowering blood pressure, boosting immunity, and even helping manage chronic pain.

"People of all ages who get moving outside generally feel happier and healthier, but for many people with mobility issues, these benefits are difficult to access," Girouard said. "National Parks are some of our greatest resources for enjoying the outdoors, so as experts in medical alert systems who promote independence and accessibility for overall health, we wanted to find out which parks offer the most amenities to people with mobility impairments."

Yellowstone National Park, which touches Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, had the most wheelchair-accessible trails with 16, but the park's sheer size meant that only accounted for 5.9% of all trails. The park, which took the No. 3 spot on the list, also had the highest percentage of wheelchair-friendly restaurants at 96.3%.

On the other end of the spectrum was Pinnacles National Park in California, which was rated the least accessible park in the U.S. It has zero wheelchair-friendly trails and only 30.5% of its restaurants accommodate wheelchairs.

Additionally, several parks only had one wheelchair-friendly trail, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, and Zion National Park in Utah. See the full results of the recent survey on most and least accessible national parks here.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.