Now that my newest national park title is released (www.barrierfreeolympic.doc), it’s time to sit back and reflect on my time in Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades national parks. Even though these Washington state gems contain some pretty rugged terrain, they also boast a veritable treasure trove of accessible trails, attractions and lodging options. And although it’s hard to pick just one favorite, here are my top five accessible travel finds in Washington’s national parks.
Kautz Creek Trail
Located in Olympic National Park, Kautz Creek Trail offers an accessible stroll through a forest that is still recovering from the 1947 glacier generated debris flow. The wide level boardwalk leads out to an overlook and ends in a crushed granite covered viewing area that has a few benches. There are interpretive plaques about the debris flow along the way, and there’s an excellent view of Mount Rainier from the overlook.
Longmire to Sunrise Drive
One of the most accessible things to do in Mount Rainier National Park is to take the 56-mile scenic drive from Longmire to Sunrise. Although the drive takes about two-and-a-half hours straight through, it’s best to allow a whole day for it, as you’ll want to stop and enjoy the views along the way, as well as spend some time on top. And even though the windshield views are breathtaking on the drive up, they are even more spectacular on the trip back down the hill.
Sol Duc Hot Springs
Hit the hot springs in Olympic National Park at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. There’s excellent access to the pool area which features a number of pools which are filled with natural spring waters of varying temperatures. The Large Mineral Fountain Pool (101°) and the Freshwater Pool (50° – 80°, depending on the season) feature ramp access. There is also a portable pool lift available for those pools or for the Medium Mineral Pool (104°), which isn’t ramped. A loaner wheelchair is available on a first-come basis.
And over on the Pacific Coast, Kalaloch Lodge is a very romantic and accessible place to spend a few days. This property features a nicely accessible duplex cabin that includes a large kitchen, a living room with a wood burning stove and a bedroom with two queen-sized beds. Best of all it has a very accessible bathroom with a roll-in shower. And if you’d like to explore the area, the cabin also comes with a pair of binoculars. A true jewel of Olympic National Park!
Gorge Creek Falls
Last but not least, you can get a great look at Gorge Creek Falls over in North Cascades National Park, from two grated footbridges along the highway. There’s level access out to the bridges, where you can look down through the grates and get a bird’s eye view of Gorge Creek Falls. There’s also an accessible quarter-mile trail on the other side of the parking lot that offers a distant look at the falls, as well as Gorge Creek Dam. A very scenic stop, for sure!
For more information on accessible trails, lodging options and itineraries in some of America’s favorite national parks, visit www.barrierfreenationalparks.com.