Known for its five stunning national parks, Utah is packed to the brim with scenic beauty. From Zion’s expansive canyons and the majestic formations in Arches National Park, to the spire-like Bryce Canyon hoodoos, there’s no shortage of natural wonders in the Beehive State. At first glance this rugged terrain appears inaccessible to people with mobility issues; however, upon closer examination a number of barrier-free options are revealed. Although not every trail, attraction or outdoor area in the state is accessible, these sites are good choices for wheelchair-users and slow walkers.
Located 20 miles from the entrance to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Newspaper Rock is worth a quick stop on the way to the park. Not only is the site located right along Highway 211, but this massive rock contains an impressive collection of historic petroglyphs. Accessible parking and accessible pit toilets are located in the paved lot. From there, a hard-packed dirt trail covered in crushed granite leads over to the petroglyph panel. The level trail is just 30 feet long, so it’s doable for most people. The older petroglyphs date back 1500 years, and are attributed to the ancient Puebloan people; while the lighter petroglyphs are more recent, and are believed of Ute origin.
Snow Canyon State Park
This popular state park, which is located 50 miles west of Zion National Park, makes a nice side trip for people staying in nearby St. George. The three-mile Whiptail Trail begins near the park entrance and runs along the base of this sandstone canyon, before it terminates at the Upper Galoot Picnic Area. The trail is wide, paved and mostly level, and it’s a good option for most wheelchair-users and slow walkers. There’s also a shaded picnic table, an accessible restroom and water available in the lower Galoot Picnic Area. Although the picnic table isn’t technically accessible, it requires a short roll over a level grassy area, and is doable for most folks.
Bryce Canyon Shared Use Path
This nicely accessible trail begins outside of Bryce Canyon National Park at the shuttle staging area at Ruby’s in Bryce Canyon City, and travels 2.4 miles to the park entrance. After that it continues another 2.6 miles to Inspiration Point. And the good news is, the entire five-mile length is paved, level and wheelchair-accessible. It also connects with the shuttle system at the visitor center, general store, lodge, Sunset Point, Sunset Campground and Inspiration Point, so you can do as much of the trail as you like, then hop on the shuttle and return to your car.
Pa’rus Trail – Zion National Park
Last but not least, the 1.8-mile paved level Pa’rus Trail in Zion National Park follows the Virgin River, and runs from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to Canyon Junction. The trailhead at Zion Canyon Visitor Center is located to the left of the visitor center shuttle bus stop, while the Canyon Junction trailhead is just a short level walk from shuttle bus stop 3. Some manual wheelchair-users will require assistance on the Canyon Junction end of the trail, as the grade is a bit steeper than 1:8 for a short stretch on that end. It’s best to start the trail on the Canyon Junction end, as it’s much easier to go down this stretch with assistance, than it is to climb up it.