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Barrier-Free Hikes

There's no reason to let age, ability or physical limitations prevent you or your hiking group from enjoying the outdoors in Washington. Whether you or a member of your hiking party is in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller, encouraging young children to hike, recovering from an injury or just beginning a fitness routine for the first time, Washington offers many hiking opportunities. WTA offers ten trails for all abilities.

There's no reason to let age, ability or physical limitations prevent you or your hiking group from enjoying the outdoors in Washington. Whether you or a member of your hiking party is in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller, encouraging young children to hike, recovering from an injury or just beginning a fitness routine for the first time, Washington offers many hiking opportunities.

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While the opportunities are out there, it can take a little more effort to identify the best trail for your situation. With that in mind, we've put together a list of ten of our favorite barrier-free (and family-friendly!) hikes. Whether you're in the Seattle area or out in Eastern Washington, these hikes will help every member of your hiking group get out on the trail.

Please check the resource guide to the right for more information available online and in guidebooks. Washington Trails Association, in conjunction with Mountaineers Books, published a guidebook in 1995 titled Accessible Trails in Washington's Backcountry: A Guide to 85 Outings. It's still available from booksellers and Mountaineers Books. Despite being more than 15 years old, it has maintained most of its relevancy and accuracy over the years. Another good resource is a Washington Trails Magazine article on Accessible Trails published in 2009.

So what are you waiting for? Get a little inspiration from these suggestions and then plan your next outing. Everyone should be able to enjoy Washington's wonderful wild places.

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North Cascades - North Sound

Artist Ridge

Artist Ridge susan elderkin
A family hikes along the Artist Ridge Trail. Photo by Jon Stier.

Distance: 1.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Trail Type: Gravel, ADA-Accessible trail
Season: Summer - Fall
Nearest Campgrounds: Silver Fir Campground

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.

>> Check out the Artist Ridge Hiking Guide Entry for more information.

>> Other ADA-Accessible and family-friendly hikes in the area include Fire and Ice and Rainy Lake. Farther east? Check out Lone Fir in the Methow Valley!

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Padilla Bay

Padilla Bay
Smooth surfaces, gorgeous views characterize Padilla Bay. Photo by Craig Romano.

Distance: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 30 feet
Trail Type: Paved and hard-pack gravel, ADA-Accessible trail (key to unlock wheelchair gate available at Interpretive Center)
Season: Year-round
Nearest Campgrounds: Several options

This is truly a bird-watcher's and coast-lover's paradise. Set amidst the 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!

>> Check out the Padilla Bay Hiking Guide Entry for more information.

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I-90 Corridor and Stevens Pass

Pretzel Tree

pretzel tree signs web.jpg
The interpretive signs along the trail are perfect for young kids. Photo by Jon Stier.

Location: Issaquah Alps - Squak Mountain State Park
Distance: 0.3 miles
Elevation Gain: None
Trail Type: Well-maintained Interpretive Trail. Usable for most, but not ADA-accessible
Season: Year-round
Nearest Campgrounds: Several options

A favorite Seattle-area hike for kids, this interpretive trail offers a short and easy wander through the woods. A horse barrier at the entrance makes Pretzel Tree inaccessible to wheelchairs, but those with limited mobility or small children can still enjoy this well-maintained, hard-pack trail.

>> Check out the Pretzel Tree Hiking Guide Entry for more information.

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Gold Creek Pond

Gold Creek pond mythoman ada.jpg
Gold Creek Pond is a ADA-accessible. Photo by Mytho-man.

Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Distance: 1.0 mile
Elevation Gain: 10 feet
Trail Type: Paved, ADA-Accessible trail
Season: Summer - Fall
Nearest Campgrounds: Several options

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 1-mile loop.

>> Check out the Gold Creek Hiking Guide Entry for more information.

>> For another wonderful family- and ADA-friendly trail near Snoqualmie Pass, try the Asahel Curtis Nature Trail.

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Iron Goat Loop

Iron Goat Loop ericjain
Iron Goat Loop. Photo by eric jain.

Location: Stevens Pass - West
Distance: 0.5 - 6.0 miles, depending on the trail
Elevation Gain: ~700 feet
Trail Type: Barrier-free Interpretive Trails on converted railroad grade
Season: Spring - Fall
Nearest Campgrounds: Money Creek Campground

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.

>> Check out the Iron Goat Loop Hiking Guide Entry for more information.

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South Cascades


Nisqually Vista Loop

Nisqually Vista Loop child
Snow lingers on the Nisqually Vista Loop Trail well into summer. Fun for making snowballs! Photo by Jon Stier.

Location: Mount Rainier National Park - Paradise
Distance: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Trail Type: Gravel - pavement, barrier-free but steep in places and not recommended for wheelchairs
Season: Summer - Fall
Nearest Campgrounds: Ohanapecosh

High up in the hills surrounding Mt. Rainier, the Nisqually Vista Loop offers a true alpine experience for all. Views abound here, especially at the Nisqually Glacier Viewpoint, so be sure to bring the binoculars!

>> Check out the Nisqually Vista Hiking Guide Entry for more information.

>> Other ADA-Accessible and family-friendly hikes at Mount Rainier National Park include Trail of Shadows.

 

 

 

 

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Seaquest State Park - Silver Lake

Silver Lake-Seaquest.
Silver Lake-Seaquest. Photo by Steve Payne.

Location: West of Mount St. Helens National Monument
Distance: 1.0 mile
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Trail Type: Variable, ADA-Accessible trail
Season: Spring - Fall
Nearest Campgrounds: Seaquest Campground

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!

>> Check out the Silver Lake Hiking Guide Entry for more information.

>> ADA-Accessible and family-friendly hikes within Mount St. Helens National Monument include Big Creek Falls, Trail of Two Forests and Lava Canyon.

 

 

 

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Catherine Creek

Catherine Creek ADA
Go to Catherine Creek to see some amazing wildflowers! Photo by Craig Romano.

Location: Columbia River Gorge
Distance:
1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 120 feet
Trail Type: Paved, ADA-Accessible trail
Season: Year-round
Nearest Campgrounds: Panther Creek Campground

Catherine Creek offers a veritable feast for the eyes for all Columbia Gorge visitors. Starting at a parking lot overlooking the Columbia River, two ADA-accessible trails (an easy .25 mile route and a more challenging 1.25 mile route) already wind through the park's woods and meadows, and the WTA will help build a third barrier-free trail this year at nearby Cape Horn.

>> Check out the Catharine Creek Hiking Guide Entry for more information.

 

 

 

 

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Olympic Peninsula

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach. Photo by Scott+Lucy.

Location: Olympic National Park - Coast
Distance: 0.25 miles to beach; up to 6 miles along beach
Elevation Gain: 80 feet
Trail Type: Variable, ADA-Accessible trail to beach, then unmarked, non-ADA-Accessible beach trail 
Season: Spring - Fall
Nearest Campgrounds: Kalaloch Campground

If the beach beacons, Ruby Beach may be the perfect hike. A quarter mile boardwalk opens onto the sprawling Ruby Beach, which can be explored at your leisure. The sandy, driftwood-strewn beach may not be accessible for all, but the classic Northwest vista of rocky shores and misty sea-stacks is easily enjoyed from the trail.

>> Check out the Ruby Beach Hiking Guide Entry for more information.

>> Other ADA-Accessible and family-friendly hikes on the Olympic Peninsula include Mima Mounds, Hurricane Hill and Marymere Falls.

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Eastern Washington

Columbia Plateau Trail

Columbia Plateau Trail m&s
Columbia Plateau Trail. Photo by m+s.

Location: near Spokane
Distance: 48 miles of ADA-accessible trails
Elevation Gain: 10 feet
Trail Type: ADA-Accessible paved trail     
Season: Spring - Fall
Nearest Campgrounds: Riverside State Park

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 family-friendly routes at the Snake River Junction Trailhead.

>> Hiking in Southeast Washington? Take a look at the always-stunning Palouse Falls.

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