Colorado has a number of trails with minimal obstacles in natural areas. Some are very easy and others are wheelchair accessible. Here are a few of them.
Most of the links given were found through Internet search. Some places I have been able to visit and a few have been recommended to me by other people who have been there. With your help, we can share our knowledge with disabled people everywhere and also increase awareness of the need for more accessibility. Please e-mail me with your suggestions using the form to the right.
Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests
These mountain Forests in north central Colorado include popular destinations such as Guanella Pass, Brainard Lake Recreation Area and the Mount Goliath Natural Area.
Supervisor’s Office 970-295-6600. Links to Maps
Brainard Lake Recreation Area Although trails leading from Brainard Lake are not particularly easy, you can enjoy walking around the lake’s margins. Watch out for moose!
Arapahoe & Roosevelt National Forests – Mount GoliathA limited area is wheelchair accessible. The path through the garden is easy.
Mount Goliath is a beautiful area right at timberline on the road towards Summit Lake. It is famous for its ancient bristlecone pines and alpine garden. Interpretation displays and an accessible restroom are available in the Dos Chappell Nature Center. The garden is managed by the Denver Botanic Gardens in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service.
Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge Complex is headquartered in Walden, Colorado phone 970-723-8528 The Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge is part of a refuge complex that includes one refuge in Colorado and four in southern Wyoming.
Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge 970-723-8202
Moose-Goose Nature Trail 0.5 mile “…winds along the Illinois River, provides a great chance to view song birds and other riparian residents.”
There are three ADA compliant overlooks and an accessible viewing blind.
Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge
2.6 miles of hiking trail. “It is possible to hike all or portions of the system. The flat to gently sloping terrain makes it enjoyable for all hikers.”
San Juan National Forest
The Big Al Trail in the San Juan National Forest near Cortez passes through ponderosa pine, oak and aspen stands to a viewing platform overlooking the West Mancos Canyon. The easily graded gravel trail is handicapped accessible and offers spectacular views of the La Plata Mountains. Benches are provided along the way. This is an easy .6 mile trail, with a total elevation gain of 40 feet.” from web site of Eat Stay Play. Here is another description from the Mesa Verde Country Visitor Information Bureau
Very interesting place with huge fossil tree stumps. It has been a few years since I was there and I’ll have to find and scan the slides. Quote from their website:
“The visitor center and associated outdoor exhibit area are fully wheelchair accessible. The Ponderosa Loop Trail, a self-guided 1/2 mile trail is also fully accessible, although may be covered by snow in the winter.
The Monument has a non-motorized wheelchair with large, inflatable tires that can be requested and borrowed for daily use.”
This is some information about Pawnee Campgrounds
Rio Grand National Forest
The Alder Bench trail (Forest Service trail 799) is easy for the first half mile or so going up into the forest. We stopped where it turned back and steepened. Directions and map. Coming back down to the trail marker post (it has lost its arms) I then followed a social trail north paralleling Alder Creek. After about 1/2 mile barbed wire marks the start of private property. This was a lovely, quiet little walk. Very easy and pretty.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mt. National Park as described in The Disabled Traveler’s Companion. Accessibility page from the Park Service.
Wheelchair Accessible Trails at RMNP from rockymountainnationalpark.com. This web site is not affiliated with the National Park Service or National Forest Service, but looks pretty useful. They also have information on Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests and the neighboring communities of Estes Park and Grand Lake.
Lily Lake Trail is a pretty, mile-long loop in Rocky Mt. National Park. Although it is administered by the Park Service, there is no fee.
GPS at parking lot N40° 18.404′ W105° 32.270′
Forest Canyon Overlook in Rocky Mountain National Park is fully wheelchair accessible and has beautiful views of the canyon below and Longs Peak in the distance. GPS at parking lot N40° 23.731′ W105° 12.691. Trail Ridge Road is closed in winter and early spring.
Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge
The refuge is divided into two areas, both of which have accessible trails. The Prairie Management Area is open dawn to dusk all year. We went in October and were disappointed to learn that the more interesting Two Ponds area is only open May through September and then only Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Dogs are not allowed on the refuge. Described on National Recreational Trails site. Reviewed on Trip Advisor
Map Phone 303-289-0232
There are about 42 State Parks in Colorado. Admission for a day is $7 per vehicle or $70 a year ($60 for seniors). There is no charge for vehicles bearing a disabled veteran’s plate. Disabled visitors may apply for a yearly $14 Columbine Pass, which can be transferred between cars.
You can ride their “Eagle Express” (like a golf cart seating 14) for a naturalist guided tour. It is available in warm weather on weekends. Call 303-659-6005 for information.
Although the road around the 9 mile perimeter of the lake is not officially ADA compliant, it is a hard pack, dirt and small gravel road and outside of serious mud and snow times shouldn’t pose a problem. From the Nature Center to a Gazebo reached by a boardwalk over the water is 1.2 miles. In fair weather this includes a spectacular view of the Front Range, but even on a poor day, the lake, waterfowl and old cottonwoods make a pretty walk. There is an accessible blind for wildlife observation.
Niedrach NatureTrail is partly boardwalk, and once current improvements are made, may also become wheelchair accessible, although it is a little narrow in places.
Fox Meadows Trail is easy walking, but includes a few steps.
The Canyon View Nature Walk is 1.2 miles between parking lots and is ADA accessible.
Chatfield State Park Phone 303-791-7275 Trails Trail Map
The state park surrounds Chatfield Reservoir. Together they comprise 3,895 acres, of mostly flat land.
The Chatfield Internal Trails network is 10 miles of ADA accessible paved trail. The Chatfield Dam Trail is 2.4 miles of ADA accessible asphalt.
The Fowler Trail (trailhead GPS: N39° 55.770 W105° 17.408) is a self-guided nature walk built for wheelchair use. There is one rather narrow spot, but I was assured that people negotiate it without problems. It is about 1/2 a mile long and has great views. Bring your own binoculars as the two telescopes set up for viewing raptors (or climbers) on the other side of South Boulder Creek are too high for viewing from a wheelchair.
Dragonfly Loop 0.20 mile a very short paved trail, but a pretty spot good for fishing, birding, wildlife and flowers.
There is some elevation loss/gain on all these next trails. Check with the Visitor Center to see if they are easy enough for you.
School Pond Trail 1.61 mile wide and gentle
Elk Meadow Loop 2.38 miles
Wapiti Trail 0.8 mile self-guiding nature trail which drops drops down about 200′ before climbing back up. There are 3 granite steps at the bottom which you can bypass without too much difficulty. Be sure to use your trekking poles.
Ridgeway State Park Phone 970-626-5822 Trails Map Brochure and Trails Map
Mear’s Bay Trail 1.0 mile concrete trail that “winds along the shoreline of Mear’s Bay in the Dutch Charlie area. Waterfowl such as Western grebe, Canada geese and great blue heron can be seen here during the more quiet hours of the day. Enjoy beautiful views of the San Juan Mountains reflected in the bay.”
Marmot Run Trail 1.8 mile that “runs along the east shore of the Uncompahgre River and the Ridgway Reservoir.”
River Walk 0.2 mile runs along the Uncompahgre River
? Forest Discovery Trail 0.6 mile is a steep, up to 12% grade, self-guided nature walk, but has a “compacted – firm” surface with no obstacles. It is next to the Dutch Charlie Visitors Center, so you could ask there about difficulty.
Roxborough State Park Phone 303-973-3959 Trails Brochure and Trail Map
This park near Denver is a designated National Natural Landmark. There are accessible restrooms and a visitor center. The park is day use only.
? The Fountain Valley Trail is basically a 2.3 mile dirt road and can be wheelchair accessible with assistance during dry seasons. I understand there is some erosion damage on parts (2016), so be sure to call ahead. It does not qualify for ADA designation.
You can ride this trail in the “Roxborough Ride”, a golf cart seating 6 guests and a volunteer driver/naturalist guide. Although the Ride is free, donations are requested. Each disabled person must be accompanied by an able person to help them on and off the cart. The ride is usually scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays and reservations are wise. Call the park, 303-973-3959, for more information.
Although the shorter Willow Creek trail is not wheelchair accessible, I have done it with a walker. Roxborough is truly beautiful and surprisingly peaceful, given its proximity to Denver.
Staunton State Park phone 303-816-0912 Trails Trails Map
Staunton State Park is the most recently opened of Colorado’s state parks. On their accessibility ratings the park has listed “No” for all of its trails. However, we have visited it twice recently and found the trails to be, for the most part, smooth and easy. We walked just the lower first 2 miles of the Staunton Ranch trail, which meant a 4 mile round trip and my 88 year old husband had no problem with it. Main parking lot: N39° 29.843 W105° 22.913.
We have also walked the 2.1 mile Davis Ponds Loop trails and found just two obstacles, one eroded spot and another short rocky section. There are a couple of places that might be a little steep without brakes, but I have seen steeper labeled “wheelchair accessible”.
Wonderful new development at Staunton is their motorized track chair. Starting in May 2017, you will be able to register to use the chair, which can be used on 10-15 miles of trail.
? Tombstone Nature Trail is a self-guided interpretive trail described on the park’s website as 1.1 mile and easy to moderate. Trails.com describes it as 0.75 miles and easy. The trail has its own Facebook page.
Boulder Open Space The city of Boulder has a great web page devoted to accessible trails. There is also an amazing online book with detailed descriptions of Accessible Trails & Natural Sites in the Boulder area. The floods of 2013 severely damaged many of the trails. Check with Boulder Open Space for trail conditions.
Marshall Mesa Trail Boulder describes this trail as “appropriate for wheelchair users who are looking for an extra challenge”. I should say so. I watched a boy of about 10 who was having difficulty bicycling up the short rough stretch that is about 13% grade.
City of Fort Collins
Fort Collins has a lot natural areas, many of them with paved or easy trails.
Fossil Creek Trail 5.17 miles paved. “…runs through the Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area along Fossil Creek. It extends west and north to meet the Spring Creek Trail at Spring Canyon Park.”
Poudre Trail 12.3 miles paved. From traillink.com “…follows the meandering course of the Poudre River from the Bellevue Watson Fish Hatchery to Colorado State University’s Environmental Learning Center on East Drake. The trail passes through wooded corridors and among agricultural and natural areas, small lakes and holding ponds, parks and light industrial sites.” Natural Areas crossed or bordered by the Poudre Trail include Butterfly Woods , Gustav Swanson, Homestead, Willams, Springer, Riverbend Ponds, Kingfisher Point, Cattail Chorus, Prospect Ponds, and Arapahoe Bend.
Arapaho Bend Natural Area Map “About 4 miles of natural surface and paved trail follow the edge of the ponds in a loop and encircle Rigden Reservoir.”
North Shields Ponds Map “1.5 miles of natural surface trail, wheelchair accessible fishing deck…”
Coyote Ridge Natural Area “The Hidden Clues Trail is a 1/4 mile interpretive loop located about 1 mile into the site. The interpretive loop is wheelchair accessible. The City will make arrangements for groups of persons with limited mobility to have vehicle access to the accessible trail loop. Call 970-416-2815 or email…”
Fischer Natural Area 0.3 mile of the paved Spring Creek Trail
Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area Heron Loop 0.25, Trail Map
? Magpie Meander Natural Area Map 0.16 miles of natural surface trail looks as if it is accessible. There is an accessible fishing pier.
Mallards Nest Natural Area 0.4 mil of Spring Creek Trail
Pelican Marsh Natural Area Map “There is about 1 mile of flat trail including a paved trail connecting Water’s Way Park to Carpenter Road, a gravel trail along Carpenter Road and a paved trail from Water’s Way Park to a wildlife viewing area of Robert Benson Reservoir.”
Pineridge Natural Area 1.8 mile soft surface loop round Dixon Reservoir.
Red Fox Meadows Natural Area
Map 1 mile of flat soft surface
Reservoir Ridge Natural Area Map The Parking lot at Overland Trail Rd is at start of an “easy flat trail” 1.4 miles.
Riverbend Ponds Natural Area Map In addition to the Poudre Trail, there are “About three miles of natural surface trails and a boardwalk from the Cherly St. entrance.”
Ross Natural Area 0.7 mile of paved Spring Creek Trail goes through this area.
Salyer Natural Area Map 0.3 mile paved and 0.3 miles natural surface.
Two Creeks Natural Area 0.2 mile paved. Nearest parking is in Fossil Creek Park 5821 S. Lemay Ave.
Map of Wheelchair Accessible Trails Trails Map of Natural Areas
Parks 970-221-6660 Recreation 970-221-6655
Natural Areas 970-416-2815 Rangers 970-416-2147
City of Golden
The city of Golden and Jefferson County Open Space have combined efforts and have made the path beside Clear Creek wheelchair accessible from Lyons Park to trail’s end, about a mile to the west. Between Lyons Park and the overhead Highway US6, the trail is concrete. West from the bridge, it has been filled in and covered with crusher fines. The concrete part is very busy, but can be entertaining as it overlooks the kayakers’ whitewater park. You will meet runners, dog-walkers, bikers, etc., but it is still a lovely path right beside the creek. This is a fair weather trail as snow and ice or heavy rains can render it difficult. In hot weather it can get too crowded with families coming to play in the cold water.
City of Lakewood
The stretch of Bear Creek Trail that goes east/west from Estes to Wadsworth, south of Yale Ave. is part of the Bear Creek Greenbelt and is one of our favorite urban trails. There are two little lakes and lovely streamside stretches. It is pretty much all easy and a lot of it is wheel chair accessible. There are beaver, muskrat, coyote, prairie dogs, occasional deer and lots of birds. The toilet is being remodeled, but they have an accessible port-o-potty.
Colorado Riverfront Trail
The Colorado Riverfront Trail goes through Grand Junction and is planned to eventually span 21 miles along the Colorado (Grand) and Gunnison Rivers running from Fruita to Palisades and perhaps farther. It is a concrete, wheelchair-accessible trail with numerous access points. Maps of the trail and its segments are available on the website, linked above. Here is a pdf. of the index map. Thank you, Bill Haggerty, for telling me about the trail and providing the photograph.
Chief Hosa Braille Nature Trail is within Denver’s Genesee Park. Take I-70 west to exit 153 “Chief Hosa”. At the off-ramp stop sign, turn north, then turn right on to a dirt road -Stapleton Drive. Follow Stapleton Drive about 1 mile to the trailhead for the Braille Nature Trail. The trail has a vinyl-coated cable for guiding visually-impaired people. Metal interpretive signs along the trail in Braille and printed words explain the surrounding ecology. The signs are great, but some scumbag(s) have shot up some of them. The trail is about a third of a mile through forest and is not wheelchair accessible.
The alpine trail between Summit Lake and the Chicago Lakes Overlook has just recently been redone to be wheelchair accessible. Summit Lake is about 12,800′ above sea level. The air is thin, temperatures are likely to be chilly, and it can snow anytime of year. It is also beautiful! GPS at parking lot: N39° 35.904 W105° 38.430.Echo Lake is another Denver Mountain Park. GPS for eastern (uphill) end: N39° 39.382 W105° 35.820. GPS for western (downhill) end: N39° 39.617 W105° 36.281. Although not signed as wheelchair accessible, the short trail between the Lodge and Echo Lake is a gentle downhill trip on crusher fines that takes you through the englemann spruce forest to the lake. There is parking at both ends of the trail, so someone could be dropped off at the top and join their group at the lake. It is not a loop trail.
North Table Mountain This popular biking spot is one place where an electric wheelchair user might find it easier than a hiker. The flush toilets are ADA compliant, but the first .8 mile of trail is very steep. You might get away from the traffic noise once on top, but neither the signs nor brochure give you an idea of where best to go. ProTrails gives details of trail length and this Walk With Fred video is excellent.
Pine Valley Ranch is highly accessible with fishing docks, a 0.6 mile wheelchair accessible trail around pretty Pine Lake and picnic shelters. The Narrow Gauge Trail runs beside the North Fork of the South Platte River and could be managed by wheelchair if Jeffco would cut the weeds growing in the middle of the trail.
If you can hike without a walker, the very narrow, but level and easy North Fork view trail goes half a mile beyond Pine Lake to a bridge where you can come back on the Narrow Gauge Trail. Snow and ice cover the trails in winter and early spring. Parking lot: N39° 24.463′ W105° 20.825′.
Unfortunately the regular closing of the access road from Quaker St. to the top of the mesa renders our favorite part inaccessible for wheelchairs.
Hikers looking for an easy walk on the south side of the mesa can park in the small lot on Golden Hills Rd. a little west of Quaker Street. GPS: N39° 44.844′ W105° 11.031′ Walk north a short way and then take the narrow path to the east which goes to the dirt road. Staying on the road would take you to the State Patrol training area and some NREL property, but first you reach a wide, crusher fine-based foot and bicycle trail . This has the same panoramic views as North Table Mt., but without the traffic noise and fumes. You are likely to see deer and hear coyotes and meadow larks, but be watchful for rattlesnakes. It is a great place for sunsets. Addendum Sept, 2013: Jeffco Open Space is creating 3 miles of accessible trails on South Table Mt. Once it is done, I will change this entry.
Lair O’ The Bear is a small, lovely park by Bear Creek. There is a little noise from Highway 74, but it is pretty quiet in the middle of the week. The park has accessible toilets, picnic tables, and a fishing deck. The pretty Creekside Trail and part of the Bear Creek Trail are wheelchair accessible and easy walking. Dipper Bridge is now closed because of flood damage. The normally easy Bear Creek Trail going west from Dipper Bridge is often icy in winter. There is a new accessible fishing platform near Ouzel Bridge.
Here is a description with photos by Deb Stanley from Examiner.com
Larimer County Parks & Open Space Larimer County has 15 Reservoirs and Open Space Parks. Most of these have trails rated “easy”, but you should call to see if they are really easy enough for you. Recreation Map Phone 970-619-4570 Trails
Pinewood Reservoir County Park Brochure
Poudre River Trail Phone 970-619-4534 “Once complete, the Poudre River Trail will be over 40 miles in length, from Bellvue, north of Fort Collins, to Island Grove Park in Greeley. The trail is currently in three sections separated by two gaps. An approximately 15-mile section is located in and managed by Fort Collins, a 1-mile section is in Timnath and a 21-mile section is located in unincorporated Larimer County, Windsor, Weld County and Greeley.”
River Bluffs Open Space is crossed by about half a mile of the 21 mile paved Poudre River Trail
Ramsay-Shockey Open Space 0.25 mile boardwalk starts at Pinewood Reservoir‘s Blue Mountain Campground. Brochure Map
South Suburban Parks and Recreation
South Platte Park, Littleton – This riverside park has lots to offer the disabled nature lover.The paved Mary Carter Greenway multi-use trail runs 8 miles along the South Platte River. Parallel to the concrete bike trail is a crusher fines side path that is meant for pedestrians and wheelchairs. Snow melts off the concrete sooner than from the crusher fines so winter wheelchair users might prefer the pavement although that is discouraged. Many hard natural surface side trails within the park take you to the river’s edge and through lovely stands of trees and other streamside vegetation. There are waterfowl, raptors, deer, coyotes and other wildlife.
Park staff (303-730-1022) are very helpful and say that most of their nature programs can accommodate disabled participants. The Colorado Center for the Blind have frequent field trips here.
The Discovery Pavilion of Chatfield State Park is operated by the Audubon Society of Greater Denver. The Audobon Discovery Loop trail can be 2.5 miles or less, depending on how many ponds you wish to walk around. Near the education center, there are interpretive trail makers, accessed by scanning with a smart phone. The trail as described in Pam and Dave Irwin’s Book “100 Best Denver Area & Front Range Day Hikes”. It is not wheelchair accessible and there are a few steps over water bars. There are a lot of social trails and we found it somewhat confusing. I veered off on one of these side trails and found a big pile of bear scat. There is a lot of poison ivy beside the trail.
Wilderness on Wheels is in the mountains on U.S. 285, sixty miles southwest of Denver or 3.8 miles west of Grant, Colorado.
There are camping, fishing, picnic tables and an 8 foot wide boardwalk just over a mile long. Charging stations are placed at intervals along the boardwalk for electric wheelchairs.
Day Hikes Near Denver has an “easy” classification with descriptions and directions. They do not address wheelchair accessibility.
Accessible Denver is a website which claims to be ” your source for disability-related information for those living in Denver or visiting the mile high city. Use the Resource Guide below to find medical services, businesses and professionals who provide information and assistance to the disabled community.” Not much here that pertains to this website.
The Continental Divide Trail is an amazing 3,100 mile trek from Mexico to Canada.
You can walk a tiny portion of this trail, walking northwest from Lobo Overlook (altitude 12,000′). We were there the first week of October and there was too much snow for hiking, but I was told at least 1/2 mile is easy walking. However, the first 1/4 mile is downhill, which means you are coming uphill on the return. The 3 mile road to Lobo Overlook is off the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. The view alone is worth the drive, even if you don’t walk the trail. Here is a description from Trails.com and another from AllTrails.
ORIC has a comprehensive review of outdoor activities in Colorado, some of which are for the disabled. I believe I have links to information they give for the latter, but the site is definitely worth a visit.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy lists wheelchair accessible trails in Colorado.
The Colorado Trail – Most of the 500 mile Colorado Trail, which goes from Denver to Durango, is not accessible. However, there are a few places where you can follow it for short distances, at least on foot.
The start of the Colorado Trail is at Waterton Canyon, a wide dirt road beside the South Platte River. Here is another link, and still another. I believe the first 6 miles are wheelchair accessible and there is an accessible fishing pier about a mile and a half from the parking lot. This is a road, not a trail, and you will meet a lot of bicyclists and runners, occasional cars and rattlesnakes. It can be very hot in the sun.
We walked about 1/2 mile east on the Colorado Trail from Kenosha Pass. We could have gone farther as it was easy walking, but the way was blocked by two fallen trees. This is a convenient place to enjoy the aspen colors in the fall. Parking lot: N39° 24.814′ W105° 45.277′ The trail going west from the highway becomes difficult almost immediately.
Wheelchairtraveling.com is an outstanding resource.