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Barrier-Free Trails

Finding a wheelchair-friendly trail can be challenging, but they are out there! While access for disabled hikers is a need that we're continually working to improve, there are some trails in Washington that allow wheelchair users to enjoy the natural beauty of the state. Here's a sampling.

Finding a wheelchair-friendly trail can be challenging. In addition to general information about what you see along the way, wheelchair hikers need to know things like the cross slope (it can affect how a chair performs.) They also need to know the type of surface they'll be traveling on, and the angle of the trail itself — how steep is it? 

Trails don't have to specifically be designated ADA-accessible to be wheelchair friendly, but it helps. If they don't meet ADA requirements but they're wide enough for a wheelchair, trails are called 'barrier-free'. That means that in ideal maintenance conditions, a wheelchair hiker could navigate their way along the route. 

We've compiled this list of our favorite barrier-free hikes, though there are many more out there. Get inspired, head out, and of course write a trip report when you're back! While this list has been assembled with wheelchair-hikers in mind, it's a useful resource if you're hiking with a stroller or walker as well.


Northwest Washington

Semiahmoo Spit

Location: Bellingham area
Mileage:
1.6 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain:
none
Trail Type:
Paved

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An eagle tries to get some dinner. Viewed from the Semiahmoo Spit trail. Photo by Bob and Barb.

This paved trail on a sandy spit outside of Bellingham is a birdwatcher's paradise - lots of previous trip reporters have gotten incredible photos of eagles, kingfisher, mergansers, and many other types of birds of prey and waterfowl. If the birds don't do it for you, maybe the gorgeous views of Mount Baker, Twin Sisters, and other snowy North Cascades peaks will.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Hertz Trail

Location: Bellingham area
Mileage:
6.2 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain:
100 feet
Trail Type:
Packed Dirt

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Lake Whatcom on a cloudy day from the Hertz Trail. Photo from WTA archives.

With only 100 feet of elevation gain, this trail provides a nice way to spend time outside and get views from the lakeshore. Be sure to check trip reports before you go; sometimes downed trees can block the path, but usually the way is clear. There are plenty of distractions along the way in the form of streams and waterfalls. In autumn, the trees blaze with color, reflecting in the lake's surface.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Padilla Bay

Location: Bellingham Area 
Mileage:
4.4 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: minimal 
Trail Type: Paved and hard-pack gravel. You'll need a key to unlock the wheelchair gate, which is available at the Brezeale Interpretive Center

Padilla Bay. Photo by Philosopher.
An old building along the trail at Padilla Bay. Photo by Philosopher.

Set amid eel grass flats that provide food and shelter for numerous bird species in the North Sound, Padilla Bay offers extensive bird-watching, and striking views of the coast, mountains and farmlands to boot!

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


North Cascades

Fire and ICe Trail at Artist Point

Location: Mount Baker Area
Mileage:
0.5 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Trail Type: Gravel

Mt. Shuksan Reflection
Beautiful views can be found just a short hike from the Artist's Point parking lot. Photo from WTA archives.

With a name like Artist Ridge, it should be no surprise that views along this popular hike are, in a word, spectacular. Alpine meadows provide a stunning foreground for views of the North Cascades' grand peaks, inspiring photographers, painters and casual visitors alike on even the grayest of days.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Rockport State Park

Location: Highway 20
Mileage: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: minimal
Trail Type: Packed Dirt

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Looking down the Evergreen Trail at Rockport State Park. Photo by kmyer02.

The Evergreen Trail at Rockport State Park encircles the entire park, but a 1.5 mile barrier-free lollipop loop on the trail is possible from the parking area to the west side of the park and back. Trip reporters can't get enough of the huge trees and lush moss here.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Gorge Overlook

Location: Highway 20
Mileage: 0.53 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 70 feet
Trail Type: Paved, then gravel

gorge lake overlook_austineats.jpeg

This very short trail provides astonishing views of nature’s beauty as well as humanity's technological “improvements” upon it. Half this loop is paved, allowing an out-and-back, while the remaining graveled loop section is not steep and could be managed by a wheelchair user with help.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Washington Pass Overlook

Location: Methow Valley
Mileage: 1.0 mile, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 10 feet
Trail Type: Paved, then gravel

washington pass overlook_austineats.jpeg

Some of the best views of the North Cascades can be had from the viewpoint at the Washington Pass Overlook. The first 200 yards of this trail are wide, nearly flat and paved, leading to an absolutely breathtaking view of the dramatic North Cascades peaks.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Central Cascades

Gold Creek Pond

Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Mileage: 1.0 mile, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 10 feet
Trail Type: Paved

Gold Creek Pond. Photo by CiscoKitty.
Gold Creek Pond. Photo by CiscoKitty.

Within eyeshot of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness lies this lovely, fully ADA-accessible mountain pond. Take a picnic with you and soak in the mountain views, crystal-clear water and blooming wildflowers while ambling along this one mile loop.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Iron Goat Loop

Location: Stevens Pass - West
Mileage: 0.5 - 6.0 miles, depending on the trail conditions
Elevation Gain: ~700 feet
Trail Type: Barrier-free interpretive trail on converted railroad grade

Iron Goat Loop. Photo by jbk51691.
The old railroad grade of the Iron Goat Loop makes for a great barrier free trail. Photo by jbk51691.

Built on reclaimed railroad grade, the Iron Goat Loop's wealth of both history and natural beauty make it a perfect trip for everyone in your hiking group. Several barrier-free interpretive trails allow all visitors a chance to enjoy this beautiful area.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Enchantment Park

Location: Leavenworth
Mileage: 2 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: minimal
Trail type: Packed Dirt

The Wenatchee River at Enchantment Park. Photo by sharon.
The Wenatchee River at Enchantment Park. Photo by sharon.

Located just adjacent to the Wenatchee River, Enchantment Park is part of a large network of trails and parks in downtown Leavenworth. The trails are dotted with informative plaques all along their length, and the ample signage offers glimpses into the history of the area, facts about the wildlife or vegetation that surrounds you, or an interesting bit of information about the section of trail you're on.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


South Cascades

Trail of the Shadows

Location: Mount Rainier National Park - Longmire
Mileage: 0.7 mile, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 20 feet
Trail Type: Packed Dirt and boardwalk

Trail of the Shadows. Photo by Impromptu Disco.
A boardwalk along the Trail of the Shadows trail. Photo by Impromptu Disco.

A short loop trail, this little walk provides an opportunity for visitors to appreciate the history of Longmire while immersing themselves in nature. The boardwalk may be a bit narrow for some wheelchairs, but even skipping the boardwalk section gives you some beautiful time on trail in a lovely national park.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Meta Lake and Miner's Car

Location: Mount St. Helens
Mileage: 0.6 mile, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Trail type: paved

Meta Lake. Photo by ejain.
The boardwalks along the Meta Lake trail weave through the landscape. Photo by ejain.

Walk a paved path to an observation deck at the edge of little Meta Lake. Learn how certain life forms survived the 1980 eruption and how this small body of water helped the regeneration of life within the blast zone. Then walk another paved path to a different outcome — a demolished car belonging to three people who perished from the forces of Mount St. Helens.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Trail of Two Forests

Seaquest State Park - Silver Lake Boardwalk

Location: Mount St. Helens Area 
Mileage:
1.0 mile, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Trail Type: Boardwalk, packed dirt

Seaquest State Park-Silver Lake. Photo by Liz M.
A stretch of boardwalk extending into the lake immerses visitors in nature. Photo by Liz M.

Mount St. Helens may be on full display at Silver Lake (an accessible telescope is often available for close-up volcano viewing), but it's best to keep your eyes on the lakes and forests along the trail. A haven for local wildlife, Silver Lake might just treat you to a glimpse of deer, elk, owls or even bear!

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


Southwest Washington

Catherine Creek Universal Access Trail

Location: Columbia River Gorge
Mileage:
1.5 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 120 feet
Trail Type: Paved

Catherine Creek Universal Access Trail. Photo by HaroldC3.
The Universal Access Trail is a paved route offering expansive views. Photo by HaroldC3.

Catherine Creek offers a veritable feast for the eyes for all Columbia Gorge visitors. Starting at a parking lot overlooking the Columbia River are two ADA-accessible trails; an easy .25 mile route and a much-more-challenging 1.25 mile route, on which you'll likely need assistance getting up and down. Either way, you'll wind through open meadows with gorgeous views. WTA has also built a third barrier-free trail at nearby Cape Horn.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


St. Cloud

Location: Columbia River Gorge - WA
Mileage: 1.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: none
Trail Type: Compacted Gravel

apple orchard at St. Cloud_ryanojerio.jpeg
Apple trees and a picnic table in fall at St. Cloud. Photo by Ryan Ojerio.

Five miles downriver from Beacon Rock State Park is a lovely little park with a one-mile barrier free route through an old apple orchard and open meadows. Enjoy a picnic or the river views, and look out for migratory birds and waterfowl.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Klickitat Rail Trail

Location: Columbia River Gorge - WA
Mileage: 10.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Trail Type: Paved

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Fall on the Fisher Creek Trestle on Klickitat. Photo by Susan Saul

This first section of the 31-mile Klickitat Trail is a rails-to-trails conversion from Lyle to Warwick (on the Lyle-Centerville Highway), with several access points along the way. The Klickitat River section runs 10 miles upriver from Lyle to the hamlet of Pitt paralleling the river the entire way. This is a multi-use trail, so expect to see bicyclists and equestrians along the way.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Puget Sound and Islands

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Olympia
Mileage: 5.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal
Trail Type: gravel to boardwalk

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR. Photo by cristina.
Long stretches of boardwalk at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR are extraordinary. Photo by cristina.

The National Wildlife Refuge at Nisqually is a simply gorgeous trail just a few miles off of I-5, making it an ideal stop during a trip. A spot where migratory birds congregate and the boardwalk is fascinating whether the tide is in or out, be sure to stop here.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Cedar River Trail

Location: Tacoma
Mileage: 17.4 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain:
820 feet
Trail Type: paved

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The Milwaukee Trestle bridge on the Cedar River Trail. Photo by wafflesnfalafel.

With access points all along the nearly 18-mile trail, the Cedar River Trail offers an urban river outing, a more rural experience wandering along a former rail bed, and a roadside bicycle path connecting the two. Tackle the entire trail, or select one section.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Seward Park

Location: Seattle
Mileage: 2.4 miles, roundtrip, for perimeter trail
Elevation Gain: minimal

Trail Type: paved

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Winding trails through the center of Seward Park. Photo by brad_f.

Wheelchair users heading for Seward Park can enjoy a flat hike around the perimeter of the park on a paved trail, with views of Seattle and Mount Rainier. Those with chairs that can handle a little more rugged routes could head into the center of the park for a more hilly adventure. In some places, you may want a friend for an assist on the ups and downs.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Olympic Peninsula

Hurricane Hill

Location: Northern Coast
Mileage: 3.2 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: minimal 
Trail Type: paved to gravel

Hurricane Hill. Photo by b555.
Hurricane HIll offers some of the most epic mountain views in Washington. Photo by b555.

The trail on Hurricane Hill leads to a blustery summit, but along the way, you'll find gorgeous views along a moderately graded trail. If you're in a manual chair, you may need a little help along the way, but be sure to head for the summit — interpretive signs label the surrounding peaks as well as the scars left from various fires that have burned in the area.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Mima Mounds

Location: Olympia
Mileage: 2.75 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal 
Trail Type: paved

Mima Mounds. Photo by Fishlady.
Paved trails wind through the unique landscape at Mima Mounds. Photo by Fishlady.

These mysterious mounds inspire imagination and speculation among visitors. With a half-mile ADA accessible path and another two miles of more rugged wandering, the Mima Mounds are a great destination for many hikers.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Spruce Railroad

Location: North Coast
Mileage: 2.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 250 feet
Trail Type: Paved dirt and boardwalk

Ravennspirit.jpeg
A new bridge and tunnel on the Spruce Railroad Trail. Photo by Ravenridge.

The Spruce Railroad Trail is getting updated to be more wheelchair friendly, and the most recent renovations have made big moves in that direction. Currently hikers visiting should start from the east end for the longest uninterrupted stretch. Starting on the west end, you'll have a much shorter hike (a bridge lacks a ramp currently), but it's a very scenic area: Devil's Punchbowl is a popular location to stop for photos.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Ruby Beach

Location: Pacific Coast
Mileage: 740 feet
Elevation Gain: minimal 
Trail Type: Gravel

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From the parking lot overlook. Photo by Kiwimi.

Of all the beaches on the Olympic Coast, the Ruby Beach trail is the only one wide enough for a wheelchair to reach the beach. But visitors will still need to be prepared for a rough route — drainages crossing the trail make it a bit rough, and it can be steep. Bring a friend.

> Plan your hike using WTA's Hiking Guide


Eastern Washington

Columbia Plateau Trail

Location: Spokane area
Mileage: 48 miles of ADA-accessible trail
Elevation Gain: minimal 
Trail Type: Paved and gravel

Columbia Plateau Trail. Photo by dschoonover.
A gravel paths along the Columbia Plateau Trail. Photo by dschoonover.

Pick your own adventure on this 143-mile stretch of reclaimed railroad that extends from Spokane to Pasco. Though most accessible at the Cheney Trailhead, this railroad trail includes ADA-accessible hikes through the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, and graveled routes at the Snake River Junction Trailhead.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Children of the Sun

Location: Spokane
Mileage: 10.0 miles of ADA-accessible trail
Elevation Gain: none
Trail Type: Paved

children of the sun_lord busines.jpeg
On the Children of the Sun trail outside of Spokane. Photo by Lord Business.

This trail outside of Spokane is a class A paved trail. It parallels the new North Spokane Corridor from the Little Spokane River to Hillyard. Eventually it will connect with the Centennial Trail. The trail will be extended as road construction continues.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Sacajawea Historical State Park

Location: Spokane area
Mileage: 0.5 miles of ADA-accessible trail
Elevation Gain: minimal 
Trail Type: Paved and gravel

Nestled on the eastern edge of the Tri-Cities, just east of Pasco, is a lovely little state park and accompanying interpretive center dedicated to Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who was crucial to the success of the Corps of Discovery as they made their way to the Northwest Coast.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Central Washington

Wenatchee Confluence State Park - Horan Natural Area

Location: Spokane area
Mileage: 48 miles of ADA-accessible trail
Elevation Gain: minimal 
Trail Type: Paved and gravel

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A bench for resting at the Horan Natural Area in Wenatchee Confluence State Park. Photo by terradactyl.

Take the paved Apple Capital Trail to a lovely art-deco bridge spanning the Wenatchee River. On the other side of the bridge is the Horan Natural Area, where you can meander through a gravel surface trail that loops through oxbow ponds with birds and frogs.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Silver Falls Interpretive Trail

Location: Entiat Mountains/Lake Chelan
Mileage: 1.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal 
Trail Type: Paved and gravel

With a flat grade and plenty of benches and signs, this trail makes for a calming outing through a beautiful area, no matter the occasion. In spring this can have trees down across the trail after a rough winter.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Clear Lake Interpretive Trail

Location: White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley
Mileage: 0.5 mile, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal 
Trail Type: Paved and gravel

clear lake interp_beaverdawg.jpeg
A platform at the end of the Clear Lake Interpretive Trail. Photo by BeaverDawg.

Located on the north shore of Clear Lake, this interpretive trail forms a lollipop loop on a paved trail that is flat and less than a mile in length, making it the perfect short outing. The trail starts out from the Clear Lake Day Use Area parking lot.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Thanks to help from members of the WTA community like Jenny Schmitz and partners like Disabled Hikers, WTA is working to more clearly identify wheelchair-friendly hikes in our Hiking Guide.