Sunday, March 31, 2024

Road Trip With a Wheelchair: Wyoming (Grand Teton National Park)

Sunset over Jenny Lake at Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park was an opportunistic and short visit, filled with accessibility disappointment and gorgeous photo opps. Out of Yellowstone we drove homeward through Grand Teton National Park and spent a coupe of hours there. 

The visit was made easier because of free access with the Access Pass. Learning from my experience at Yellowstone, I asked the ranger at the entrance for a guide showing accessibility; I was rewarded with a photocopied brochure showing accessible features. It is also available on the park’s website.

Ramped store in Colter Bay Village

We drove through Colter Bay Village, which included a convenience store, laundry, a visitor center with a paved parking lot — all with accessible entrances or ramps to get inside. 

The problem with many vault toilets
designated “accessible” —
the 4” concrete platform they sit on!

Even the vault toilets were designated as accessible (and many seemed to be, although at least one was raised up about 4” on a concrete platform)

Trail wheelchair available at visitor center

Supposedly, every visitor center offers a trail wheelchair for guests to reserve and use,  A quick look told me that these chairs are not great for hiking, but the large front casters indicate they’d be good to enjoy the outdoor features of the park while being pushed. Plus, they’re free!

Roadside pull-out with view to Grand Teton

I was excited to explore Grand Teton NP, because I’d heard that it is good for accessibility and even has accessible back-country campsites. Granted, our visit was short and poorly-planned, but I was disappointed in that I never encountered that accessibility. The park did have beautiful vantage points from the car and picnic table.  

Jenny Lake

I had high hopes for trails around Jenny and Leigh Lakes.  I had read that there were  accessible trails around that area.   Indeed, there were nice picnic areas, and the lakefront views were gorgeous.

Accessible section of trail
next to Jenny Lake

However, we never found an accessible hiking trail around the lake or lakes. In the north, we quickly ran into steps on the trail.  The accessible paved section in the middle was short and narrow, with a cross slope and covered roots. I’m not sure what was in the south.

From what I’ve read, I still believe that there are accessible trails in the park, and we  simply didn’t plan ahead or spend enough time while there to discover these options.  Accessible trails are described in Candy Harrington’s book about barrier-free travel in 3 mountain-state national parks, including Grand Teton NP. Also, the following blogs about the park for visitors with a wheelchair include information on accessible hiking trails:

And we never did encounter any backcountry wheelchair hiking trails with campsites.  Again, maybe we were too rushed. If anybody has some information on these, please leave a comment.  I would like to go back someday.

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