North Carolina has a number of trails with minimal obstacles. Some are very easy and others are wheelchair accessible. Here are just a few of them.
These links were found through Internet search. I would love some first-hand information. 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.
Big Oaks Recreation Area on Hartwell Lake
Big Oaks is a summer day-use area on Hartwell Lake, a man-made 56,000 acre lake bordering Georgia and SC on the Savannah, Tukgaloo and Seneca Rivers. Description on Oh Ranger! Map Phone (706) 856-0300 Hartwell Lake Visitor Center phone 888-893-0678 Reviewed on tripadvisor
Hartwell Dam Walking Trail on the Georgia side 1.37 miles one-way “….follows the shoreline of Hartwell Lake from Big Oaks up to the concrete portion of the dam on the Georgia side.”
Hartwell Dam Walking Trail on the South Carolina side 0.75 mile one-way. “….follows the shoreline up to the concrete portion of Hartwell Dam on the South Carolina side. For a shorter walk, you can access this trail from the South Carolina Recreation Area, located approximately midway between the South Carolina Overlook and the GA/SC border.”
Blue Ridge Parkway Phone 828-348-3400 Recorded Park Information line 828-298-0398 Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville, North Carolina 828-298-5330 Map Real time open/close road status map – Accessibility
The Blue Ridge Parkway is in both Virginia and North Carolina.
The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Peaks of Otter
Abbot Lake Trail One mile loop around the lake “…through a woodland forest and open field.”
Trails in North Carolina This site gives mileage and a rating of easy, moderate or strenuous and links to trail maps. I can not tell just how easy is “easy” and there is no indication whether there might be obstacles such as stairs.
? Rocky Knob Picnic area trail “… is an easy 1-mile loop and offers a pleasant walk through a mature forest of large oaks, ashes, hickories, Fraser magnolias, hemlocks, and other native trees and shrubs.”
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trails accessibility information Maps Recorded Message (865) 436-1200
Great Smoky Mt. NP is in both North Carolina and Tennessee. Hiking In The Smokies.com – difficulty has a trail list with difficulty ratings. You can see that the rugged Great Smokies offer little in accessibility. You might try Randy Johnson’s Best Easy Day Hikes guide.
Deep Creek Trail to Tom Branch Falls “The trail begins as a wide path as it traces Deep Creek upstream. The 80-foot Toms Branch Falls is located only three-tenths of a mile from the trailhead. The park service has provided several benches for visitors to admire these beautiful falls, which spill down into the creek from the opposite bank.”
Sugarlands Valley Nature trail is 0.5 mile round trip. Reviewed on AllTrails.com It is located on Newfound Gap Road, just south of Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Spruce Fir Trail is 0.35 miles with an elevation gain of just 25′ according to the author of Hiking In The Smokies.com.
Laurel Falls 2.6 miles Map EveryTrail.com says the trail is paved and is suitable for strollers, but considered ‘moderate” in difficulty. “wideopencountry.com” warns that the first half is uphill.
Metcalf Bottoms Trail 1.4 miles. A short nature hike through the woods to Greenbrier School. Map from EveryTrail
Middle Prong Trail Trip Advisor hikingproject.com maliasmiles 4 miles. The trial is a 12′ wide graveled railroad grade for the first two miles. Descriptions vary for the difficulty after that. Video by The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog
The National Forest Service website lists a great many trails, but with no details. You have to already know the name of the trail you might be interested in. I suggest you call the supervisor’s office in Asheville for information: 828-257-4200. The NFS published this helpful Recreation Guide in 2011.
Pisgah National Forest Map 828-877-3265
Roan Mountain Gardens Trail Brochure “On a clear day you can enjoy views of Mount Mitchell, Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock and Hump Mountain. This trail passes through a large patch of Catawba rhododendrons and consists of two loops. The upper loop is wheelchair accessible, while the lower loop has several steps.”
? Deerfield Loop Trail in the Bent Creek area 0.8 miles with a 100′ elevation change. This is described as easy, but you might call ahead to ask about conditions.
Wiseman’s View in Grandfather District a 0.2mile access trail to a spectacular view.
? Tom’s Creek Falls near Marion. This 0.8 mile trail is described as easy, but the last 0.2 miles get steeper and may be too much for you.
Mount Mitchell State Park Map (828) 675-4611 Trails described on the WNCoutdoors.info website.
Commissary Trail 1 mile. “Provides spectacular views of Mount Mitchell and the mountains below. Passes through grassy fields on Bearwallow and Grassy Knob Ridges; also Spruce-Fir forests.”
Summit Trail 0.1 mile A paved path from the summit parking area to the observation deck at the top.
The State Parks’ website says there is a trail for the visually impaired at Mount Mitchell, but I haven’t found any information about it. Try calling the park.
Mountains to Sea Trail When complete, this 900+ mile trail will link the Mountains in the West to the Coastal Plain in the East. Very little of it is easy, let alone accessible.
? From Sleepy Gap around Grassy Knob near Asheville This up to two mile trail is described as “nearly level with a fairly smooth surface. …… You will find a few rocks, roots, and muddy stretches here and there, but it’s nothing to worry about.”
North Carolina State Parks – this is a page from which you can look for accessible facilities in the state parks.
Here is their list of Parks with wheelchair-accessible trails:
- Crowders Mountain State Park
- Goose Creek State Park
- Hanging Rock State Park
- Jockey’s Ridge State Park
- Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
- Lake James State Park
- Lake Waccamaw State Park
- Merchants Millpond State Park
- New River State Park
- Pettigrew State Park (Depends on trail conditions; please contact the park)
- South Mountains State Park
- William B. Umstead State Park
Bass Lake Park Trails Map
Lake Trail is described as 1.25 miles and easy. “The trail begins behind the visitor’s center and follows the shoreline with beautiful views of Bass Lake. Keep watch for waterfowl, osprey and snakes.”
Greenway connection to Womble Park is a “1.32-mile paved greenway that travels past Sugg Farm to Grigsby Avenue across from an entrance to the paved Womble Park trails.” I am assuming that this is accessible, but the website doesn’t say, so call first: 919-557-2496.
Blue Jay Point County Park Brochure & Trails Map 919-870-4330
There are three loop trails described as wide and mulched: Azalea Loop 0.5mile, Sparkleberry Loop 0.3 mile, and Laurel Loop 0.2 mile.
Three “old road beds” go to the lake shore: Beaver Point 0.3 mile, Sandy Point 0.2 mile, and Blue Jay Point 0.3 mile.
Parks and Recreation and Open Space 919-856-6170
Blue Jay Point County Park is a “236-acre park located on the shores of Falls Lake in northern Wake County. Blue Jay Point’s mission is to offer environmental education programming in a natural setting.”
There are three short loop trails Azalea 0.5mile, Sparkleberry 0.3 mile, and Laurel 0.2 mile which are described as old roads that are wide and mulched.
Three short trails go to points on the lake. They are the Sandy Point 0.2 mile, Blue Jay Point 0.3 mile, and Beaver Point 0.3 mile trails. These are described as old road beds.
Brochure and Trail Maps 919-870-4330
North Wake Landfill District Park
1.8 miles of paved walking trails take you across Nance Spring Branch creek, around the 0.4 mileNance Spring Loop, and connect all of the park facilities. “The park’s paved trails also connect to the City of Raleigh’s Abbott’s Creek Trail, which connects to the Neuse River Trail. ”
Brochure Phone 919-856-6670
Lake Crabtree County Park Adjacent to a 520-acre flood control lake, the 215 acre park provides outdoor opportunities including mountain biking, fishing, boating, picnicking, hiking and nature study.
Old Beech Nature trail is a 0.6 mile self-guided trail described by AllTrails as good for “all skill levels”.
Brochure Phone 919-460-3390
Historic Yates Mill County Park is a “174-acre wildlife refuge and an environmental research center.”
Millpond Trail 600′ of the mile long trail. “This 6-foot wide trail heads past the Finley Center to the Historic Mill along an accessible gravel pathway that’s about 600 feet long and includes several benches and small picnic areas.” Brochure Phone 919-856-6675
Crowder District Park is 33 acres and offers “a closeness with nature along with the accessibility of maintained trails.”
Outer Loop Trail 0.8 mile paved. “It makes a wonderful scenic tour as you go by the Bird garden, Prairie garden and the shade garden near the Heron shelter.”
Inner Loop Trail/Pond Trail 0.3 mile. This trail goes across a boardwalk and includes an observation deck near the dam. It may be wheelchair accessible, but I can’t tell from description. Could even be some stairs. Call to find out. Brochure Phone 919-662-2850
Green Swamp Preserve
The Green Swamp Preserve in Brunswick County, North Carolina has an easy trail running through it. The 17,424 acre preserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy, “…contains some of the country’s finest examples of longleaf pine savannas. The open savannas have a diverse herb layer with many orchids and insectivorous plants. Almost 13,000 acres of the preserve, however, are comprised of a dense evergreen shrub bog (pocosin) dominated by gallberry, titi, and sweetbay.” Phone 910-395-5000 Here is their website. Described on North Carolina Birding Trail Thank you to Bill Blevins are letting me know about this preserve.
The trail is 1 1/2 mile round trip and flat. “A small portion of the trail is boardwalk through thick shrubs. The board walk can get quite slippery, so be careful.” Closed-toe waterproof shoes are advised.
Nags Head Woods Preserve – The Nature Conservancy has built an accessible one mile trail through the maritime forest, with views of an interdunal freshwater pond and the brackish marsh system
Access North Carolina, a vacation and travel guide for people with disabilities.
Carolina Outdoors Guide – A directory of public recreation in North Carolina. Although this site does not specifically address disability, it provides contact information including phone numbers for the parks and forests.
A guide to the accessible trails on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina.
Guide book Hiking North Carolina by Randy Johnson, 2nd edition. This is a Falcon book published in 2007 with an appendix listing trails throughout the state noting accessibility.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy lists wheelchair accessible trails in North Carolina.