The ABCs of Accessible Trails: Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa

Editor's Note: This is the fifth 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, Idaho


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.


Beall Woods State Park - Tulip Tree Trail 

Located on the banks of the Wabash River in southeastern Illinois, Beall Woods State Park attracts visitors from around the world who are interested in experiencing one of the few remaining tracts of virgin timber east of the Mississippi River. At Beall Woods, visitors can see trees 120 feet tall and more than 3 feet in diameter. Besides hiking, Beall Woods also offers visitors a quiet, relaxing setting for camping, picnicking and fishing.

The Tulip Tree Trail's paved surface is a chipped, but perfectly serviceable, 1.5 mile accessible trail for those looking to enjoy the scenic upland forestry. Visitors can grab one of several self-guided brochures at the park's visitor center for information on tree identification and the beautiful spring wildflowers that grow along the trail. 


Goose Lake Prairie -  Prairie View Trail

Early settlers to Illinois, in an attempt to describe the unfamiliar terrain they were encountering, referred to it as “a sea of grass with pretty flowers.” Today, Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area serves as testimony to the prairies that once covered nearly 60 percent of the state...In addition to furnishing a look into Illinois’ past, the prairie provides important nesting habitat for endangered or threatened birds, such as the Henslow’s sparrow.

Just as the name suggests, Prairie View Trail offers a visitors a fantastic view of the beautiful grassy terrain.  Depending on the route, travelers can enjoy a 3.5 mile or 1 mile trail through the park, the shorter of which boasts a hard packed accessible surface good for pushrim riders, while the longer may be more suited to all terrain wheelchairs like the Freedom Chair.  Regardless of the path you choose, rest assured that wildlife sightings are abundant, and the trail's inhabitants include deer, coyote, red fox, muskrat, beaver, and badger, among others.


Giant City State Park - Post Oak Trail 

With its breathtaking natural beauty and unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation, a trip to Giant City State Park near Carbondale is sure to delight visitors of all ages. From camping and horseback riding to fishing and rappelling, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise. Visitors will marvel at the many wilderness trails. Especially popular is a hike on Giant City Nature Trail, home of the “Giant City Streets” - huge bluffs of sandstone formed 12,000 years ago.

The Post Oak Trail is 1/3 of a mile long, and its paved surface makes it universally accessible for every level of ability.  Wind along the top of the beautiful sandstone cliffs and spot wildlife in the small pond en route.  Pro Tip: more adventurous riders with all terrain wheelchairs should also check out Giant City Nature Trail, a mulched trail with wooden walkways that includes some uphill portions.



Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore - Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk 

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore hugs 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan and has much to offer. Whether you enjoy scouting for rare species of birds or flying kites on the sandy beach, the national lakeshore’s 15,000 acres will continually enchant you. Hikers will enjoy 50 miles of trails over rugged dunes, mysterious wetlands, sunny prairies, meandering rivers and peaceful forests.

The newest area of the national lakeshore, the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, is entirely accessible, allowing visitors of all abilities to access the lakefront and beach as well as a public pavilion, the restored 900 foot breakwater, and an accessible fishing pier. Scenic views along Lake Michigan can be enjoyed in every season, even wintertime when a shelf ice forms along the beach's edge.


Yellowwood State Forest - Jackson Creek Trail 

Yellowwood State Forest is located in the rolling hills of Brown County Indiana. The forests’s 23,200 scenic, sprawling acres offer three pristine lakes, hiking and horse trails, abundant wildlife, and overnight campsites easily accessible to the public. With its close proximity to Brown County State Park, the quaint village of Nashville, Indiana, T.C. Steele State Historic Site, Monroe Reservoir, Morgan-Monroe State Forest, McCormick’s Creek state Park and Indiana University, visitors can enjoy a wide variety of acivities.

Yellowwood State Forest's Jackson Creek Trail is a 1.5 mile hard packed dirt trail that offers visitors the opportunity to adventure through a scenic and ethereal wood.  Enjoy a variety of terrain and forest types and lakeside views along the way.  Information is available for those interested in a self-guided interpretive tour.


Fort Harrison State Park - Harrison Trace Trail 

Fort Harrison features one of the biggest sledding hills in the area. Spring is the season to walk with the woodland wildflowers in full bloom across the park. Summer is the perfect time for a canoe trip down Fall Creek, the major water feature that runs through the north side of Fort Harrison. Autumn brings warm, sunny days and breathtaking fall colors to this, the last forested corner left in Marion County.

Harrison Trace Trail is a 2.5 mile paved trail that offers easy access to Duck Pond.  Beginning at the Delaware Lake Picnic Area the trail follows the rolling upland above fall creek, with an abundance of trees and wildflowers lining the path.  Keep in mind that though the trail is paved, it is not flat, so wheelchair riders should prepare for more exertion than the "easy" rating denotes.  Pro Tip: This is a great trail for Freedom Chair riders to utilize their levers' hill hold feature.



Lamson Woods State Preserve - Fairfield Loop Trail 

Lamson Woods is a 43-acre woodland preserve located on the southeast edge of Fairfield. This hilly, wooded area was willed to the city of Fairfield by Carrie Lamson Ross in 1893. Originally “Lamson’s Pasture” was a park that included Fairfield’s first golf course. The golf course was in a pasture for cows and pigs along a small woodland, and was dubbed “cow-pasture golf”.

The Fairfield Loop Trail extends for 16 miles and connects two major preserves.  While there are about 2.5 miles of pavement, the majority of the trail is made of crushed stone, so it's a great option for adventurers with Freedom Chairs or other all terrain wheelchairs who are looking to challenge themselves.  Those who take on the challenge will be rewarded with scenic woodlands, meadows, and prairie.


Lake Manawa State Park - Lake Manawa Trail 

Lake Manawa State Park is one of the most popular outdoor recreation facilities in the Omaha/Council Bluffs metropolitan area. The park’s 1,529 acres encompass a beautiful 753 acre natural lake. Lake Manawa was formed during a flood in 1881 when a portion of the river channel was cut off by the meandering of the great Missouri River. Over the years, the resulting “oxbow” lake became a major outdoor recreation center for millions of visitors. “Manawa” is a Native American term meaning “peace and comfort”.

Lake Manawa Trail's paved section will see visitors loop west around the lake, and includes a lovely section on a short bridge over Indian creek. This section is great for beginners and riders of traditional push rim wheelchairs and provides lovely scenery.  Pro Tip: Freedom Chair riders and those with other all terrain wheelchairs will have the opportunity to explore eight additional miles of unpaved mountain biking trails.


Big Creek State Park - Neal Smith Trail 

Big Creek State Park is one of the most beautiful recreation areas in central Iowa. Whether you are boating, fishing, swimming, hunting or enjoying any of the many other outdoor activities this park and the adjacent federal and county parks provide, you are sure to enjoy your stay.

The Neal Smith Trail is a paved 26 mile asphalt path that runs through a portion of Des Moines itself, then follows the Des Moines River for most of its route, skirts massive Saylorville Lake and finds its conclusion at the beach at Big Creek Lake. Whilst enjoying the scenic views, visitors should keep their eyes peeled for wildlife, which is abundant, including beaver, muskrat and deer. Pro tip: stop off at the Saylorville Lake Visitor Center of NW Horseshoe Road to take a break and explore the outdoor butterfly garden.


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