Considerations for Mobility and Accessibility at Our National Parks
Plan Now for a More Successful Trip
Summer is in full swing, and your family may be planning their next trip. If your vacation will take you to one of our country’s beautiful National Parks, consider how your visit can be most successful—and enjoyable—for an older loved one with mobility limitations. Here are some suggestions:
Choose an accessible park.
Not all National Parks have the same level of accessibility. Research and choose a park that offers accessible trails, facilities, and amenities suitable for individuals with mobility limitations. The National Park Service website provides information about accessibility features for each park.
Plan the itinerary.
Create a flexible itinerary that allows for sufficient rest breaks and accommodates your loved one’s pace. Take into account the distance between attractions and the availability of accessible transportation within the park.
Contact the park in advance.
Reach out to the park’s visitor center or accessibility office ahead of time to inquire about specific accommodations or services available for individuals with mobility limitations. They can provide guidance on accessible trails, parking, restrooms, and other amenities.
Rent mobility aids.
If necessary, consider renting mobility aids such as wheelchairs, scooters, or walking aids from local providers or visitor centers within the park. This can enhance mobility and allow your loved one to explore more comfortably.
Pack essential supplies.
Bring necessary supplies such as comfortable and sturdy walking shoes, sunscreen, hats, insect repellent, and any required medications. Carry water, snacks, and any assistive devices your loved one may need while you are exploring, such as hearing aids or visual aids.
Take frequent breaks.
Plan for regular breaks for everyone to rest and recharge. National Parks often have designated picnic areas or benches where you can take breaks and enjoy the surroundings.
Utilize accessible facilities.
Take advantage of accessible facilities within the park, including restrooms, visitor centers, and accessible picnic areas. Familiarize yourself with their locations in advance.
Be mindful of weather conditions.
Check the weather forecast before your visit and prepare accordingly. Extreme heat, cold, or inclement weather can impact the comfort and safety of everyone, but particularly an older adult. Dress appropriately and bring protective gear as needed.
Choose accessible activities.
Participate in activities that are accessible and enjoyable for the older adult. This might include scenic drives, ranger-led programs, visitor center exhibits, or accessible viewpoints that offer stunning views.
Be patient and flexible.
Understand that your loved one’s mobility limitations may require extra time and adjustments. Practice patience and flexibility throughout the trip to ensure everyone’s enjoyment and comfort.
By considering these factors and planning ahead, you can have an incredible experience at a National Park with your entire family. If we can offer any additional guidance or tips, please reach out.
The next time you step outside, make sure you have your sunglasses ready to go.