The Most Accessible National Parks
1. Badlands – Accessibility score: 9.31/10
In first place is Badlands National Park. This park in South Dakota covers 244,000 acres of prairie home to roaming bison, prairie dogs, and bighorn sheep and has an accessibility score of 9.31 out of 10.
Badlands National Park takes first place thanks to its relatively high proportion of wheelchair-friendly trails, with three of its 17 trails, or 17.6% being suitable for wheelchair users. The park also ranks in the top 10 for its proportion of wheelchair-accessible restaurants, with 92.3% providing assistance to wheelchair users.
2. Grand Canyon – Accessibility score: 8.80/10
This national park needs no introduction, boasting spectacular views of the Arizonan landscape The Grand Canyon is one of the most accessible national parks in the country, with an accessibility score of 8.80 out of 10.
The national park scores highly thanks to its proportion of wheelchair-accessible restaurants with 95.7%, and 10.5% of its trails are suitable for wheelchair users.
3. Yellowstone National Park – Accessibility score: 8.11/10
The world’s first national park, Yellowstone, is home to 2.2 million acres of unique geology and wildlife. The park is world-famous for its geysers and geothermal features and scores 8.11/10 in our accessibility index.
Yellowstone National Park takes third place as the most accessible. It also has the highest proportion of wheelchair-friendly restaurants at a whopping 96.3%. The park also has a relatively high proportion of wheelchair-friendly trails.
The Least Accessible National Parks
1. Pinnacles National Park – Accessibility score: 0.52/10
At the bottom of the list is Pinnacles National Park in California, with a score of 0.48 out of 10. Thanks to its steep and rocky terrain none of this park’s 31 trails are wheelchair accessible so it’s best avoided if you have a condition that affects your mobility.
Pinnacles National Park is also in the bottom five for its proportion of wheelchair-friendly restaurants, with only 30.5% being accessible.
2. Sequoia National Park – Accessibility score: 1.21/10
Up next is another Californian National Park, Sequoia, with an accessibility score of only 1.43/10. Only three of the park’s 110 trails or 2.7% are accessible for wheelchair users and these trails are prone to accessibility issues caused by the weather, including fallen trees, rockfalls, and flooding.
Sequoia National Park also has the lowest proportion of wheelchair-friendly restaurants, with just over 25%, making it one of the least suitable for people with mobility impairments.
3. Acadia National Park – Accessibility score: 2.07/10
This park in Maine is the third least accessible national park scoring only 0.52 out of 10. Less than half of the restaurants in the park and surrounding area are wheelchair accessible.
Acadia National Park receives 4 million visitors a year, making it one of the US’s most visited national parks and protects 76.7 miles of habitat along the Atlantic coastline. Only 3.3% of its 246 routes are suitable for people with conditions that affect their mobility, but the park authority is working to improve its accessibility to all visitors.
The National Parks with the Highest Proportion of Wheelchair-friendly Trails
1. Badlands National Park – 17.6%
This national park in South Dakota offers wheelchair accessibility for 17.6% of its trails, or three of its 17 total routes, taking first place for the factor. Badlands National Park has one of the largest areas of undisturbed prairies in the US and is home to rugged landscapes and some of the rarest wildlife in the country.
Some of the park’s routes and scenic overlooks are accessible to wheelchair users as they have wooden boardwalks with gentle slopes.
2. Indiana Dunes National Park – 16.7%
Hugging the southern shore of Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes National Park covers 15 miles of rugged dunes, wetlands, prairies, and forests. Wheelchair users can enjoy 16.7% of the 50 miles of trails within the park or 3 of its 18 routes, taking it to second place for the factor.
3. Hot Springs National Park – 13.6%
Hot Springs in Arkansas is one of the smallest national parks in the country at only 5,550 acres. Home to hydrothermal springs from which it takes its name, 13.6% of its trails are accessible, ranking third for the factor.
The National Parks with the Highest Proportion of Wheelchair-friendly Restaurants
1. Yellowstone National Park – 96.3%
Taking second place for this factor is Yellowstone National Park encompassing Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. There are 27 restaurants in or surrounding the park and only one is unsuitable for people with mobility impairments, giving the park a score of 96.3%.
2. Grand Canyon National Park – 95.7%
Next up is The Grand Canyon. This national park 270 miles east of Las Vegas is similar to Yellowstone as 22 of the 23 restaurants in the park and surrounding area are wheelchair friendly, giving it one of the highest proportions on the list for the factor and taking it to third place.
3. Grand Teton National Park – 93.8%
This park in northwest Wyoming and only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park is home to the Teton mountain range, alpine terrain, and 200 miles of trails. 93.8% of the restaurants in and surrounding the park are suitable for wheelchair users, taking it to third place for this factor.
Accessibility Rating Methodology
Looking at each national park, we gathered data on the total number of trails and the number of wheelchair-friendly trails taken from AllTrails to find the proportion of wheelchair-accessible routes.
We also gathered the total number of restaurants and the number of wheelchair-friendly restaurants according to Tripadvisor to find the proportion of wheelchair-accessible restaurants in or surrounding the national parks.
To achieve our accessibility score both factors were assigned a normalized score out of 10 and took an average across both scores to reach the final ranking.
National parks with less than 10 trails and restaurants were removed from the rankings as this may only be a reflection of the low visitor numbers to these parks.
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