California has a number of trails with minimal obstacles. Some are very easy and others are wheelchair accessible. Here are just 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 in the sidebar.
“This national park area has some world renowned destinations — Alcatraz and Muir woods, for example — as well as some places where you might not encounter another human being.”
The photo is courtesy of Mark Hehir, who writes that San Francisco’s Crissy Field has “several handicap parking spots, and you have a wonderful view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and of Alcatraz Island.” Map and Brochure Phone 415-561-4700
Lassen Volcanic National Park
“Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to steaming fumaroles, meadows freckled with wildflowers, clear mountain lakes, and numerous volcanoes.”
There is a half mile paved interpretive trail in the Devastated Area. The “easy, flat nature trail loops around a small section of the Devastated Area. Displays placed along the way explain various features of this area, flattened by the eruptions of Mount Lassen between 1914 and 1917. Excellent views of Lassen itself can be seen all along the trail as well.” Here is the accessibility page for Lassen Volcanic NP and here a PDF of their Accessibility Guide. Map
Mendocino National Forest
Uncrossed by paved roads, the Mendocino National Forest “is especially attractive to people seeking an outdoor experience of tranquility and solitude.”
Chico Seed Orchard
Comanche Trail 1 mile loop in “The 3/4 mile hard surface trail winds through mixed stands of mature trees with walk bridges crossing small stream beds.”
Self-guiding nature trail: 1 mile loop “meanders through a unique botanical area in Edgar Slough which has remnants of exotic species that were planted when this was a Plant Introduction Center.
Accessible Recreation Possibilities Phone 530-934-3316
Thousands of elephant seals come to the beaches near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse north of San Simeon.
There are accessible boardwalks from which you can see and photograph the seals. The site is governed by the Bureau of Land Management. There is no fee for parking and viewing the seals. Here are reviews from Yelp and Trip Advisor. Thank you Cathy and Gordon Illg for the photograph! Phone for Friends of the Elephant Seal 805-924-1628
Plumas National Forest There are a ton of trails in Plumas NF, but almost none are rated as “easy”, let alone accessible.
? Gold Lake Trail from Silver Lake Campground ” is considered an “easy” trail at 1.5 miles long with approximate hiking time of 30 minutes and both swimming and fishing can be found at Bucks Lake. Better call the park first to see if this easy trail has obstacles.
San Bernadino National Forest Accessibility
The Exploration Trail 2W09X at the Children’s Forest Trailhead 4.5 miles “family friendly” 12% grade. “This trail was designed by children along with the U.S. Forest Service personnel and other professionals. There are interpretive panels located throughout the 0.75 mile Interpretive Trail Loop section near the Upper Exploration trail.”
Alpine Pedal Path 3.5 miles “connects the Big Bear Discovery Center with the Cougar Crest Trailhead and a pathway along the North shore of Big Bear Lake” “…this gentle trail has some magnificent views of the lake.”
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Valley video of easy trails
Lower Yosemite Falls Trail 1 mile paved “Consider walking the loop in a clockwise direction for best views of Yosemite Falls. This eastern portion of this loop trail is wheelchair accessible (when not covered in ice or snow).”
Bridalveil Fall Trail 0.5 mile paved The trail is considered too steep for wheelchairs.
Mirror Lake Trail 1 mile paved. Be sure to go in the spring when there is a lake and not just a meadow.
Cook’s Meadow Loop 1 mile “…short, easy walk offers stunning views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Rock.”
Wawona Meadow Loop 3.5 miles
? Lukens Lake from Tioga Road 1.6 miles round trip. “The trail winds through a mixed conifer forest, then over a saddle and down to a small mountain lake surrounded by a meadow.” Although this trail is rated “easy” you had better call first to learn about possible obstacles.
Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge 1.5 miles Described in trailmob.com as “a great choice for hikers traveling with small children. ”
Accessibility Guide Phone Park Headquarters 209-372-0200
Accessibility Coordinator 209‐379‐1035
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Redwood Grove Trail 0.8 mile loop – A great horned owl’s hooting added to the pleasure of this lovely trail among giant redwood trees. Thank you Mark, for the suggestion. The visitors center has a loaner wheelchair, but you had better call in advance (831-335-4598) as they are short staffed and sometimes the center is unpredictably closed.
Patrick’s Point State Park This site mentions two short trails, including an interpretive trail. We just walked along the road.
Trinidad State Beach Not a lot of information here, but it sure was lovely when we visited.
Bear Yuba Land Trust Nevada County Trails Portal Trails Location Map
According to helpful people with the land trust, these trails are “… ADA friendly but may not meet all ADA standards”.
Litton Trail “A well-established trail through an informal urban greenbelt in the vicinity of the Sierra College campus in Grass Valley.” 2 miles one way.
Independence Trail West Independence Trail East “Independence Trail transformed an historic gold mining ditch into the nation’s first identified handicapped-accessible wilderness trail. It is now one of the most popular trails in the area, contouring along wooded hillsides, passing live streams, and crossing deep gorges on restored wooden flumes that once transported water for hydraulic mining. The trail has two separate sections — West and East — that extend from one main trailhead on Highway 49.” “West trail is wheelchair accessible in dry months from the trailhead to a short way beyond Flume 28 (about 1.1 miles one way).”
“Like the Independence Trail West, the East trail follows the gentle gradient of an old mining ditch and is wheelchair accessible. It offers occasional views of the South Yuba River canyon and passes seasonal side streams and bogs. Tree cover and a generally northerly orientation keep the trail relatively cool and green for its 1400-1500 foot elevation.”
Penn Valley Bike Trail Not really a natural trail, the description of its environment is “commercial and residential areas with some areas of oak woodland and pines.” 1.7 miles one way.
Western Gateway Park Trail A small town park with lots of grassy fields and a creek running though it. The fitness trail of about a mile round trip goes through “Mixed oak woodland and pines, riparian forest, and landscaped areas.”
City of Anaheim
Oak Canyon Nature Center
“58-acre natural park nestled in the Anaheim Hills. A year-round stream meanders through the park. Consisting of three adjoining canyons, four miles of hiking trails traverse one of the few remaining areas of oak woodland and coastal sage scrub in our region.”
Main Road ” bisects the center of the canyon, offering hikers an open view. The road is level and accessible to both strollers and wheelchairs. Distance: 0.7 mi.”
Trail guide Phone 714-998-8380
City of Palo Alto
“Palo Alto’s open space preserves offer a chance to hike from the marshes of the bay to the redwoods of the upper Santa Cruz mountains.”
Baylands Nature Preserve near Palo Alto – According to Wikipedia, this preserve is the “largest tract of undisturbed marshland remaining in the San Francisco Bay.” Here is Mark Hehir’s video of the paths and many of the birds to be found there. Phone 650-329-2506
Palo Alto Open Space and Parks
City of San Jose
The city has a trail system of over 57 miles of recreation and active transportation opportunities. Trail Network
Alum Rock Park About five miles from downtown San Jose, Alum Rock Park is in a canyon in the foothills of the Diablo Mountain Range. There are many wild animals including mountain lions, bobcats, and deer. Pets are not allowed. The lower trails along side the Penitencia Creek are paved and shady. Where the pavement leaves off, there is still lovely and easy hiking as well as challenging, steep trails.
Trail Map Ranger office phone 408-259-5477
The River Center in Alturas offers a wealth of programs and information about the surrounding area, including the Pit River Watershed, Modoc County and Siskiyou County in California, Lake County and Klamath County in Oregon. The center is now housed in the Modoc Historical Museum, 600 S Main St, which is wheelchair accessible. Call 530-233-4314 ext. 115 for hours and other information.
There is an easy walking path along the Pitt River, but is very soft sand and probably would be difficult for a wheelchair.
Hirschman Trail “The eastern 0.4 mile of trail is constructed to ADA standards, providing barrier-free access to Hirschman’s Pond.” Map
Cascade Canal Trail 4.5 miles one way. “…an almost level walk along a peaceful canal through a forest with many Douglas firs and dogwoods. At 3200′ elevation, it is a bit higher and cooler than many local trails.” Map
Santa Clara County Parks sent this helpful reply to my inquiry:
“We do make every effort to design and build trails that meet grade and width requirements. The following is a short list of recently constructed trails and paved pathways that offer opportunities for those with disabilities requiring the use of mobility devices.
Paved; Los Gatos Creek trail, Coyote Creek, Penitencia Creek, Martin Murphy at Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch.
Natural surface trails; Coyote Lake Harvey Bear-Campground trail, Valley Oak, Calaveras, Rancho La Polka trail via the southern segment of the Mendoza trail. Sanborn County Park-John Nicholas trail and the Indian Rock trail.”
Erick and Elisa Mikiten’s downloadable PDF of A Wheelchair Rider’s Guide to Los Angeles and Orange County Coast
Bonnie Lewkowicz’s downloadable PDF of A Wheelchair Rider’s Guide to San Francisco Bay and the Nearby Coast
Access Northern California – This site has lots of information and they have a newsletter.
Accessible Hikes Around the Bay Area – an article by Ann Sieck
Adventures in a Wheelchair is a marvelous site with video shot by Mark, the author/photographer, from his wheelchair. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
The Falcon Guide “Best Easy Day Hikes Lake Tahoe” by Tracy Salcedo-Chourré is very helpful for pointing you to easy hikes.
Article by San Francisco Bay area Bonnie Lewkowicz : Opening the Door to Nature for People with Disabilities
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy – lists wheelchair accessible trails in California.
We happened on the Bizz Johnson rail trail near Susanville. What a treat! There is parking at either end of the seven mile accessible trail or you can take a wheelchair -accommodating shuttle bus from Susanville and then enjoy a 3% downhill ride along the Susan River. The bus operates from June – October on the first and third Saturdays. Call 530-252-7433 to learn more.
Wheelchairtraveling.com is an outstanding resource, especially for California.