ABCs of Accessible Trails: Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi

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, ArizonaArkansas, Colorado, CaliforniaConnecticut, Delaware, FloridaGeorgia, Hawaii, IdahoIllinois, 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

Explore a rugged, isolated island, far from the sights and sounds of civilization. Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale offers unparalleled solitude and adventures for backpackers, hikers, boaters, kayakers, canoeists and scuba divers. Here, amid stunning scenic beauty, you’ll find opportunities for reflection and discovery, and make memories that last a lifetime.

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

Imagine a forest of half water! Over 400,000 acres of the Chippewa National Forest are actually lakes and wetlands. The Chippewa contains two of Minnesota’s five largest lakes, and eight different types of wetlands each with distinct plant and animal life. Sixty seven of the 314 wildlife species that make their home on the Chippewa National Forest are dependent on lakes and wetlands.

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

The word “Shetek” is Ojibwe for “pelican,” a bird which visits Lake Shetek during the summer and fall. The park contains the largest lake in southwestern Minnesota, which forms the headwaters of the Des Moines River. Expect great fishing for walleye, northern, crappie, and bullheads. Loon Island, a 45-acre island on Lake Shetek, is accessible on foot via a causeway and includes an interpretive trail.

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

Wild River State Park is located along 18 miles of the beautiful St. Croix River. The park attracts people who enjoy camping, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, interpretive programs, self-guided trails, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Day visitors can enjoy a leisurely paddle down the St. Croix River from the Sunrise river access to the southern park river access.


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

Hillside NWR was established in 1975 via the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act for the conservation, maintenance and management of the wildlife resource and habitat. The majority of land comprising the refuge was transferred from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after the completion of the Hillside Floodway/Yazoo Basin Headwater Project.

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

The 24,589-acre refuge located in southwest Mississippi contains a diverse array of habitat types consisting of bottomland hardwoods, cypress swamps, upland hardwoods on the loess bluffs, small cliffs made from a specific type of wind-blown sediment. The Refuge also has moist soil impoundments, reforested areas, fallow fields and accreted land. Flooding from the Mississippi River occurs from winter through early summer preserving a naturally functioning bottomland hardwood system and a bountiful diversity of fish, wildlife and plant species.

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. 

Did we miss an accessible trail that should be included? Share it with us in the comment section and be sure to sign up for our newsletter to get stories, updates, and offers straight to your inbox!