Editor's Note: This is the eighth post in our ABCs of Accessible Trails series, which details the best accessible trails in State and National Parks across the country. Take a look at our previous posts for more: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts
The America the Beautiful Pass, otherwise known as the The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, is a free lifetime pass available to US citizens or permanent residents of the United States that have been medically determined to have a permanent disability. Passes can be obtained via phone, online, or in person at any of these recreation sites.
Hiawatha National Forest
Located in the scenic Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Hiawatha National Forest has something for everybody, with shorelines along Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan -- three of the five great ones. There is abundant wildlife, miles of rivers and streams, and dozens of waterfalls. Plus six historic lighthouses!
There are several accessible trails to check out. The Colwell Lake Hiking Trail and the Monocle Lake Interpretive Trail are both about 2 miles long, and surfaced to be fully wheelchair accessible. There is a good chance of spotting wildlife here.
Isle Royale National Park
Check out the self-guided Windigo Nature Trail, which crosses fern-filled cedar lowlands and hardwood forests of maple and birch. An all-terrain chair such as the GRIT Freedom Chair is recommended for this trail. The visitor center at Windigo has accessible restrooms near the dock, through the surface is uneven accessing them. The building entrance is fully accessible, but be prepared for a 19% grade to reach it.
Sterling State Park
Located within an hour of Detroit, Sterling State Park has great recreational opportunities on its 1,000 acres. From swimming, boating, and fishing to camping and wildlife viewing, there's a lot to do! The Sterling Marsh Trail is a 2.9 mile loop that circles the marsh. It is an accessible interpretive trail that borders Lake Erie.
Chippewa National Forest
In addition to the beautiful lakes and wetlands, Chippewa National Forest is home to the highest breeding population of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 United States. Over 150 pairs of the birds live in the Forest and they are often seen soaring near the larger lakes or perching in old growth trees. While they are a threatened species in Minnesota, careful management has helped maintain a health population.
For a chance to spot these magnificent birds, explore the Heartland State Trail. This 47-mile paved multiple-use trail is located almost entirely on level, abandoned railroad grade. It runs past lakes, rivers, streams, and towering hardwood forests.
Lake Shetek State Park
Check out a crushed quartzite rock trail that starts at the picnic area and continues along the lake shore to the boat landing, across the causeway, and around Loon Island. This loop will take you 1.5 miles. With an all-terrain chair you can also explore portions of the paved bike trail which start at the park office and continue along Smith Lake and Lake Shetek for 3 miles.
Wild River State Park
There is a great wheelchair-accessible trail that runs from the Trail Center to the Visitor Center, and then continues to the picnic area and camper cabins all the way to the campground. You'll get to take in some great views on this 2.6 mile long trail.
Hillside National Wildlife Refuge
The Alligator Slough Nature Trail is a great place to explore. This 0.6 mile accessible nature trail will take you through a bottomland hardwood forest with a bald cypress and water tupelo slough accessed from the South Levee Road. There is great bird-watching and opportunities for wildlife photography.
Saint Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge
There is a 3 mile nature trail which varies in difficulty. The South Trailhead has 0.5 mile section of mostly flat terrain. Along the way there is a cypress overlook, open fields to view wildlife, and a photoblind. The surface of the trail is limestone rock, so most wheelchairs should be fine.