Colorado is calling! Roll into adventure as you embark on a journey through the breathtaking landscapes and mile-high marvels of the Rockies with our exclusive guide.
Colorado boasts some of the most unique and scenic natural landscapes in the world, including nine national monuments, three national historic areas, and four National Parks.
To discover the top accessible destinations in Colorado, we teamed up with two-time Paralympian and Accessibility Advocate Michelle Salt. She recently completed a road trip in a Winnebago Roam to highlight accessible destinations around North America and inspire others with disabilities to find their next adventure.
Located less than an hour and half from the United Access RV rental hub in west Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular National Parks for good reason. With its jagged mountain peaks, serene lakes, and dense alpine forests, it offers magnificent vistas and abundant wildlife across its vast wilderness. One of the park's most iconic features is Trail Ridge Road, often referred to as the “Highway to the Sky.”
The park offers several accessible amenities for visitors, including visitor centers, scenic overlooks, self-guided trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, and a backcountry campsite. Moraine Park, Glacier Basin, and Timber Creek campgrounds all offer accessible campsites, while four trails are fully or partially accessible.
Wheelchair users can explore beyond the accessible trails of Rocky Mountain National Park with an all-terrain Grit Freedom wheelchair available to borrow at no cost. Not only will the chair navigate the accessible trails in the park, but it’s also built to tackle rugged backcountry trails. It can be reserved by calling (970) 586-6548 and picked up at the Estes Park Mountain Shop at 2050 Big Thompson Avenue in Estes Park.
Known for its thematic atmosphere, the Denver Downtown Aquarium maintains more than one million gallons of aquarium exhibits. Visitors can navigate through tunnels in massive tanks, allowing you to get up close and personal with colorful fish. The multiple attractions include the Rainforest Habitat, Stingray Reef, Sunken Temple and a 4-D Theater.
“Very accessible throughout the whole building and so much to see. My service dog Lenny loved the experience, though she wasn't allowed in the tiger enclosure for obvious reasons (a no service dog area),” said Salt.
The attached restaurant features a 50,000-gallon centerpiece aquarium where you can enjoy a meal surrounded by more than 100 species of sea creatures. “The restaurant had a unique menu with lots of options including shrimp and gator tacos,” added Salt. Reservations may be required for this attraction.
A Denver icon for over a century, Elitch Gardens is a destination for locals and tourists alike. The park dates to 1890 when it opened as a botanical garden and zoo. Today, it offers something for everyone, whether you're an adrenaline junkie or a family looking to make memories. Boasting an impressive collection of roller coasters, most rides can accommodate wheelchair users.
“I found the walkways to be wide and easy to navigate and restrooms accessible. I was able to chat with an employee who mentioned their accessibility guide packed with all kinds of useful information including which rides will accommodate wheelchairs which surprisingly, includes most of their rides,” commented Salt.
Elitch Gardens also offers 11 family rides including classics like the carousel, Ferris wheel, and tilt-a-whirl, in addition to the 13 rides in Kiddieland. There’s also live entertainment, a water park, shopping, arcade, and more than 20 food and beverage options.
The mile-high city is a stand-out when it comes to accessibility. Although Denver is considered the gateway to the Rockies, the city itself has very little variation in elevation. Like any city, sidewalk conditions vary between neighborhoods, however the smoothest and most well cared for sidewalks are in the central business district, by the civic center and near the state capitol according to wheelchairtravel.org.
“I loved the vibe I got in Denver as everyone seemed so happy walking their dogs or riding their bikes. I found lots of parking along the trails as well as cool old buildings and cute cafes with accessible entrances,” said Salt.
Platte River Greenway Trail offers a picturesque route to take in the sights of downtown Denver. This popular urban pathway that runs along the South Platte River, with a mostly paved trail, is ideal for walkers, cyclists, and individuals using wheelchairs or other mobility devices. The trail is designed with accessibility in mind including features like curb cuts, accessible rest areas, and accessible parking at various points along the trail.
Located in Colorado Springs, the Olympic and Paralympic Museum pays homage to the incredible journeys of athletes who've transcended boundaries to achieve greatness. Interactive exhibits, multimedia displays, and an extensive collection of memorabilia bring the stories of Olympic legends to life.
This state-of-the-art institution’s dynamic contemporary architecture reflects athletes in motion. The building was designed to accommodate not just people with physical disabilities but also the visually and hearing impaired. From ramps in every room to subtitles on the videos to visual cues on the floor and multisensory experiences, the museum ensures all visitors will have an inclusive and engaging experience.
“For me, this experience was very meaningful being a two-time Paralympian. I would give yourself a few hours for this experience as there is a lot to see, read, and watch. They do a great job of introducing you to the history of both the Olympics and Paralympics,” said Salt. “A must-see if visiting Colorado Springs.”
A registered National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods features dramatic vistas, including 300-foot-tall sandstone rock formations and panoramas of snow-capped Pikes Peak. Admission to the Garden of the Gods is free, thanks to the generosity of the Charles Elliott Perkins family, who donated the land to the city of Colorado Springs with the stipulation that it remain open to the public.
The park offers a large variety of activities, including vehicle and bike tours, horseback riding, scavenger hunts, rock climbing (permit required) and dinosaur fossil exhibits at the visitor’s center. An accessible, open-air Jeep fitted with a BraunAbility® Lift accommodates one mobility device and up to three additional passengers.
The park offers accessible parking, restrooms, and trails for visitors with mobility challenges. The Perkins Central Garden Trail is a paved and wheelchair-accessible trail that provides excellent views of the formations.
“You can drive the park in 20 minutes or take a hike along the accessible trails. They have parking lots with designated accessible spots and most of the attractions like the Balanced Rock have paved turn outs making it accessible for pictures,” reported Salt. Find more information on accessibility of attractions in the Pike’s Peak area.
A pristine natural sanctuary located just south of Colorado Springs, Cheyenne Mountain State Park provides an ideal location for camping and picnicking in the Colorado wilderness. Spanning more than 1,600 acres, this park offers a variety of educational programs, including guided wildflower walks, family mystery hikes, animal education, full moon hikes, geocaching, and campfire talks.
The park features 22 day-use picnic sites complete with table and grill. One of these sites is universally accessible. You can also find full-service reservable campsites, several of which are wheelchair accessible with a view. ADA bathrooms with filtered water faucets are also available for visitors’ convenience.
“What a great place to camp and picnic,” raved Salt. “In the hot summer months, I also enjoyed cooler temperatures at a higher altitude and great views of Colorado Springs with all amenities only minutes away.”
In addition, adventure seekers can enjoy a fantastic network of 28 miles of hiking and biking trails, including the accessible Acorn Alley Trail. The Visitor Center is universally accessible with automatic front doors.
A hidden gem tucked in the heart of Cañon City, Colorado, the Arkansas Riverwalk winds along the banks of the Arkansas River. This accessible 7-mile trail has so much to offer including wetlands, forest, tunnels, fishing ponds, picnic shelters and much more. The Riverwalk is adorned with informative plaques and public art, which tell the stories of the region's history, wildlife, and natural wonders.
Cañon City has put time and effort into making this trail accessible. Its paved paths and level terrain make it easy for visitors with mobility challenges to navigate and enjoy the natural surroundings. Wheelchair-accessible fishing areas and restrooms are also available.
Just under four hours south of Denver, this unique national park is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, with some towering of over 700 feet. It's a place where the arid desert meets the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, offering a stark contrast between alpine forests and desert sands.
The closest parking to the dunefield is located one mile north of the visitor center. There is an accessible entrance from the dunes parking area to the edge of the Medano Creek and the sand. Visitors can reserve sand wheelchairs for free to access the dunes. Note you'll need a strong helper to push the chair through sand. When you make a reservation, you can choose between two sand wheelchair styles. There is also a child-size option.
The visitor center is fully accessible and there is one accessible picnic site with a hardened trail to a nearby accessible restroom.
In southwestern Colorado, about five hours from Denver, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park offers visitors a journey into one of the steepest, narrowest, and deepest canyons in North America. This canyon was carved over two million years by the Gunnison River. A geologic stunner, the canyon's formations are a complex mix of volcanic and sedimentary rock, creating a striking landscape.
There are three scenic drives within the park. The South Rim drive is most popular, and the most accessible. According to Kristin of worldonwheelsblog.com, there are more accessible overlooks on the South side of the canyon compared to the north rim for more chances to get out of the vehicle. The wheelchair accessible overlooks are Tomichi Point, Gunnison Point, Pulpit Rock, Chasm View, Sunset View, High Point. The South Rim also features a paved road, visitor’s center, accessible restrooms, and accessible parking.
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