Thursday, May 25, 2017

Accessible Trails in Washington State

When I first started using a wheelchair over 10 years ago, I searched around for information on wheelchair hiking.  I found a great book, entitled Accessible Trails in Washington's Backcountry.  I was elated . . .  almost.  The book was published in 1995 and hadn't been updated since.  When I began hiking with the Freedom Chair last year, I once again pulled out this book.  My first excursion highlighted the changes in trails since the book was published and inspired me to a new goal: update the book to match present day reality and capture the information on a website, so as to easily allow for changes and additions. Well, I soon realized that this was a behemoth task, requiring time and attention to detail that I don't even pretend to possess.  So, as a paltry consolation prize, I've compiled a list of wheelchair-accessible hikes in Washington from my own experience and added some links to other resources.  I hope that this information will help other wheelchair hikers in the state, and that readers will share their own recommendations (perhaps even using this blog post as a forum?).

Keep in mind that the idea for this list actually came after many of the hikes, and that I have the memory of a middle-aged person with a chronic disease.  Therefore, it is more than possible that some of the details listed below are not exactly accurate!  Also, the type of wheelchair for which the trail is most appropriate is my own subjective opinion and is accumulative (i.e. anything appropriate for a power chair is also appropriate for a manual chair or all-terrain chair).  Finally, for more information about the hikes, click on the name of the trail to link to a website.  (Really finally -- the formatting function of this application is a mystery to me.  What looks good in the editor is all a jumble in the preview window.  I haven't the patience to figure it out and make it look pretty, so please pretend...)

Jenny's List of Wheelchair-Accessible Hikes in Washington

Location: Seattle, WA
Distance: short
Surface: paved and hard-packed dirt (roots pushing up               pavement in a couple of spots)
Wheelchair: power chair
Views: Puget Sound, West Point Lighthouse, Mt Rainier,                 Olympic Mountains, beach with driftwood,                                     wildflowers
Trailhead: with DMV disabled placard, pick up pass from                Visitors’ Center, allowing you to  park near the entrance to                                                                     the trails                   

Location: Seattle, WA
Distance: 2.8 miles round-trip
Surface: hard-packed dirt, sand dune
Wheelchair:  all-terrain chair
Views: Puget Sound, trees and grasses, birds
Trailhead: North end of parking lot near Visitor Center

Location: Seattle, WA
Distance: 1.4 miles out and back
Surface: hard-packed gravel
Wheelchair:   all-terrain chair 
View: trees and flowers  - azaleas and other rhododendrons when they bloom
Trailhead: central section of the Washington Park Arboretum

Location: Seattle, WA
Distance: about .5 miles (I don’t remember exactly) one-way downhill
Surface: hard-packed dirt
Wheelchair:   manual chair (power chair if conditions are good)
View: big trees in old-growth forest, ending at Lake Washington with views of Seattle
Trailhead: top of hill in center of park

Location: Seattle, WA
Distance: I don’t remember (less than 1 mile)
Surface: hard-packed dirt (sometimes muddy)
Wheelchair: manual chair (all-terrain chair when muddy)
View: Puget Sound, wetlands, over 200 species of birds
Trailhead: parking lot for Merrill Hall at UW Center for Urban Horticulture
Other: free tram tours first Thursday of each month

Location: Seattle, WA
Distance: 1500 feet
Surface: boardwalk
Wheelchair: manual or power chair
View: Puget Sound, swamp, water fowl
Trailhead: East side of Union Bay Natural Area at UW Center for Urban Horticulture

Location: 6 miles East of North Bend, WA off of I-90 on South Fork of Snoqualmie River
Distance: .4 miles one-way
Surface: hard-packed dirt with roots
Wheelchair: all-terrain chair
View: big trees, waterfall, along a river, through a mostly old-growth forest
Trailhead: East end of parking lot at Olallie State Park

Location: Bellingham, WA
Distance: 6.7 miles
Surface: hard-packed dirt and crushed stone
Wheelchair: all-terrain chair
View: through woods, follows coastline, Puget Sound, and San Juan Islands (sporadic)
Trailheads: Donovan Ave. and 10th St. (Fairhaven) and Larrabee State Park at Fragrance Lake Rd. and Chuckanut Dr. (Bellingham)

Location: Pierce County, WA
Distance: 15.1 miles (part of 30 miles of 6 unconnected segments of the old Burlington Northern Railway)
Surface: paved
Wheelchair: power chair
View: along Carbon River, salmon spawning in season, Mt Rainier in distance
Trailhead: four trailheads along the route at East Puyallup, McMillin, Orting, and South Prairie,

Location: Issaquah Alps,WA
Distance: 2.9 miles (not all ADA)
Surface: Hard-packed gravel, hard-packed dirt
Wheelchair: all-terrain chair
View: Woods, ferns, lake
Trailhead: High Point trailhead in Issaquah Alps

Location: Bellevue, WA
Distance: 10 miles of several segments from Lake Washington to Lake Sammamish
Surface: hard-packed gravel, paved (some city sidewalks connect trails between parks)
Wheelchair: power chair
View: Nine city parks, suburban streets, blueberries, lakes, second-growth forest
Trailhead: Weowna Park near Lake Sammamish (we parked at (Lake Hills Farm Fresh Produce fruit stand at 15562 SE 16th St).

 Location: North Cascades Highway near Rainy Pass, WA
Distance: 1 mile each way
Surface: paved
Wheelchair: power chair
View: trees, alpine lake
Trailhead: Milepost 158 on North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20); Need NW Forest Pass to park

Location: Stehekin, WA (Lake Chelan)
Distance: short
Surface: paved
Wheelchair: power chair
View: Rainbow Falls, cinnamon rolls at Stehekin Pastry Company on road down
Trailhead: Take Lady of the Lake Ferry ( from Chelan to Stehekin across Lake Chelan, and then take the accessible shuttle bus ( from Stehekin to Rainbow Falls.  The trail goes from the parking lot to the falls.   Other: You can wheel back on the paved road back down to Stehekin, stopping to sample the giant cinnamon rolls at the Stehekin Pastry                                                        Company (, and catching the shuttle bus for the                                            rest of the route.  FYI: the lodge at Stehekin has a wheelchair-accessible                                            cabin   (                      

Links to other lists and ideas about wheelchair-accessible hikes in WA (no personal recommendations here; try at your own risk!):

Wheelchair-accessible trails from Outdoors for All (compiled by two of their participants)  (last updated 2014)    (must register)

Please share your own recommendations!!!                            

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