Yellowstone National park is the quintessential road trip destination. Many folks have fond memories of packing up the family station wagon and heading over to Wyoming to experience this national treasure in their youth; while others have the nation’s first national park on their bucket list. I was pleased to be able to spend two months there last year while I researched Barrier-Free Travel; Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (www.BarrierFreeYellowstone.com); and in that time I left no stone unturned in my search for cool accessible trails and attractions. And although it’s hard to pick one favorite, here are my top five accessible Yellowstone must-dos.
Midway Geyser Basin
Although Old Faithful is probably Yellowstone’s most famous geyser, Midway Geyser Basin offers some equally stunning geothermal features. A nicely accessible mile-long boardwalk circles past Excelsior Geyser, Turquoise Pool, Opal Pool and Grand Prismatic Spring – the largest hot spring in the park. Plan a visit for early in the day though, as the parking lot fills up quickly in the afternoons, especially on weekends.
Firehole Lake Drive
This one-way loop drive winds past Firehole Spring, Giant Fountain Geyser, White Dome Geyser and Firehole Lake before it reconnects to the main park road. There are some great windshield views along the way, and plenty of spots to pull over and admire the geysers. There’s also a quarter-mile accessible boardwalk at Firehole Lake that leads past Steady Geyser, and travels over a hot cascade of steaming water, before it passes Black Warrior Lake and loops back to the parking lot. Best of all, no bus traffic is allowed along Firehole Lake Drive.
North Rim Trail
This accessible slice of the North Rim Trail can be accessed from the parking lot for the Brink of the Upper Falls on the east side of the park. Instead of heading down to the brink (which isn’t accessible), take the right fork and continue along the North Rim Trail. This scenic route crosses over the historic Canyon Bridge and offers a great view of Chittenden Bridge in the distance. Unfortunately the access ends just before Chittenden Bridge, but it still makes for a lovely 1.6-mile out-and-back hike. And the beautiful part of it all is that the bus loads of tourists that stop at the brink, never make it out to this trail, so it’s also relatively peaceful.
Forces of the Northern Range
This hidden gem, which is tucked away along the road between Tower Junction and Mammoth Hot Springs, is marked only by a small brown “self-guided trail” roadside sign. The half-mile accessible boardwalk winds through the sagebrush and shrub-lined landscape and features scenic views of Yellowstone’s Northern Range in the distance. Interpretive plaques that detail the flora, fauna and geology of the area are dotted along the boardwalk, and several short spurs lead out to secluded areas that are lined with benches, so folks can sit back and admire the scenery. It’s a well designed trail, with magnificent views of the surrounding landscape.
Lake Hotel Dining Room
Alter you’ve worked up your appetite on all these trails it’s time for a lunch break, and my hands down favorite place to dine in Yellowstone is at the Lake Hotel Dining Room. There’s good access to the hotel and plenty of room to maneuver a wheelchair around the dining room. The menu is filled with vegan, gluten-free and organic selections, and includes a nice offering of soups, salads and healthy entrees. Try the sautéed trout, a salmon wrap or the always popular bison burger. As an added bonus, the dining room also offers a commanding – and scenic — view of Yellowstone Lake.