Disabled Hikers - Is Hiking Really For Everyone?

Posted by Carmel Turner on


Disabled hikers

Before one of my customers contacted me and ask me if I could create a design for people with disabilities who hike (disabled hikers), I hadn't really heard of disabled folk hiking.  I am an Australian and have hiked predominantly in Southern Queensland and Tasmania over a period of 40 years.  However, I had never encountered a disabled hiker on a trail. But when I started to investigate the topic more, I felt like I’d been living in a bubble.  I quickly learnt that 1 in 10 Americans have a disability, that’s almost 40 million people.  The number in Australia is estimated to be around 4.5 million which is nearly 1 in 5 of the total population of around 26 million.  I also learnt that although not all want to hike, or go outdoors for prolonged periods, there are a sizeable number that do. 

The Benefits of Being In Nature

The benefits of being out in nature are well documented. In fact, researchers think making time to get outdoors could be essential to keeping healthy. Studies show time spent outdoors lowers blood pressure, improves short-term memory, and helps the body stave off illness. A study done by King’s College London even found that hearing birdsong improves mental wellbeing.  In Japan the practice of Forest bathing I.e. taking contemplative walks through the woods, has long been regarded as a way to reduce conditions such as anxiety and depression.

So, catering for people with disabilities in national parks by creating trails and amenities that make them easier to access, is important for disabled folks to be able to improve their health and well-being. 

From a wider societal perspective, it is also an equity issue as it is unfair that 10% of the population may not have access to what wider population does.  As Jenny Bruso says, “The outdoors should be for EVERYBODY and EVERY BODY.”

disabled hikers - is hiking really for everyone

Organizations That Support People With Disabilities To Go Outdoors

With all this in mind, I put together a summary of the websites and organizations, that have been created to help people with a disability experience more of the outdoors. Refer Table below.  It includes

  • websites specifically for hiking the trails,
  • companies that manufacture terrain specific wheelchairs,
  • a great worldwide travel company, www.gowheeltheworld.com and
  • other hobbies to engage in while in the outdoors, like bird watching.

These websites have great tips on how to plan a trip, maps and other accessibility information and what type of equipment is best for different outdoor adventures. 

On her website, https://disabledhikers.com, Syren Nagakyrie has created practical resources to assist disabled hikers and non-disabled hikers alike.  She is also writing a comprehensive guide book, 'The Disabled Hiker’s Guide to Western Washington and Oregon: Outdoor Adventures Accessible by Car, Wheelchair, and Foot,' which is being published by Falcon Guides in 2022.

So the short answer to the question 'Disabled Hikers - Is Hiking Really for Everyone', is YES.  For as Syren Naggakyrie points out, 

".....If there is one thing that I wish all hikers knew, it’s that building accommodations and universal access into the community benefits everyone."

Table - Summary of Online Resources for Disabled Hikers.

Base State or Territory

Website link

Stated Mission



Olympic Peninsula Western Washington Oregon


To build disability community and justice in the outdoors through fair representation, accessibility, and justice for disabled and all other marginalized outdoors people.

Comprehensive guide book being launched in 2022


Syracuse, New York


Cerebral Palsy Guidance was created to provide answers and assistance to parents of children with cerebral palsy. 

Portland, Oregon


Jenny Bruso lives by the adage, ‘The outdoors should be for EVERYBODY and EVERY BODY.’

Houston Texas


Aim to bring joy, empowerment and community through birding and nature to those who have mobility or other accessibility challenges.



Providing ACCESS TO NATURE for people of all abilities, their families, friends and caregivers for over 30 years.



Splore has been providing outdoor adventures for people of any age and ability since 1977.

Pacific Northwest

Seattle Washington


To enrich the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through outdoor recreation.

Crested Butte Colorado


The ASC is now a full-fledged therapeutic recreation program that operates year-round, with adaptive activities ranging from mountain biking and skiing to ice climbing and kayaking.

Berkely California


The Adventures & Outings Program (A&O) offers a wide array of outdoor recreation activities, group adventure trips, and urban outings that appeal to a variety of ages, interests and abilities. This program has something for everyone

St. Paul Minnesota


Wilderness Inquiry’s mission is to connect people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to each other and the natural world through shared outdoor adventures.

Rockville Maryland


Move United uses the power of sport to push what’s possible for people with disabilities, confronting ignorance, fueling conversation, and inciting action that leads us to a world where everyone’s included.

They sell adaptive hiking and outdoor equipment including wheelchairs

Medford, Massachusetts


We believe that everybody deserves access to the outdoors and adventure, regardless of their physical ability. We met while studying mechanical engineering at MIT and came together around our shared passion to use our skills to make a difference.

They sell wheelchairs for hiking and other outdoor activities

The World


We believe that we, people with disabilities, should experience the world like anyone else. We know that all of us have different needs when it comes to accessibility and planning a trip can be a big effort.

Brilliant site with ambitious mission

Seattle Washington


Rooted in Rights exists to amplify the perspectives of the disability community.


All photos used with permission from Go Wheel The World.


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