The ABCs of Accessible Trails: Kansas, Kentucky, & Louisiana

Editor's Note: This is the sixth 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, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa

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.


Quivira National Wildlife Refuge - Migrants Mile Trail

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1955 to provide and protect vital habitat for migratory waterfowl in the Central Flyway. It’s 22,135 acres feature a unique combination of rare inland salt marsh and sand prairie. Many opportunities exist for the visitor to explore this oasis of the Great Plains.


The Migrants Mile Trail trail has two loops, each about 1/2 mile in length.  The inner loop is paved, and offers close views of freshwater marsh, a pond, prairie, and a woodlot. Visitors can expect to see an abundance of wildlife - in addition to the many migratory waterfowl the wildlife refuge is home to beaver, coyote, rabbits, deer, muskrat, gophers, racoon. squirrel and the eastern woodrat. Pro tip: the best wildlife viewing can be found on Wildlife Drive, a 5.15 mile loop with a gravel surface, easily navigated by Freedom Chair riders.  Anyone who is not equipped for gravel can head to the Birdhouse Boulevard Nature Trail, a paved .2 mile trail.


Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve - Bottomland Nature Trail 

Allgrass Prairie National Preserve was established in 1996. It is the only unit of the National Park System dedicated to the rich natural and cultural history of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. This 10,894 acre portion of the once vast tallgrass prairie is being preserved as a critical resource for the benefit, education, and enjoyment of this and future generations. It is a unique private/public partnership between the National Park Service (the primary land manager) and The Nature Conservancy (the primary landowner).

The Bottomland Nature trail is a crushed limestone hardened trail that has two loops, one that is 0.5 and a second option that extends 0.75 mile. Visitors will experience a developing bottomland prairie restoration area, while gaining an understanding of its rarity as a natural plant community and its importance in the human history of the Flint Hills region. Other features of the trail include an information trail-head kiosk, five interpretive waysides, benches, and a comfort station.  Pro tip: Visitors who are not using an all terrain wheelchair should plan to visit the trail during dry weather, as rain may affect the integrity of the trail's surface.


Shawnee Mission State Park - SMP Paved Trail

Shawnee Mission Park is home to a number of fantastic amenities as well as a beautiful 120-acre lake. Our beautiful scenic lake is a very popular spot for boating, fishing, sail boarding, and much more. The park also has eleven spacious shelters, numerous picnic areas, nature trails, play areas, an archery range, a 53-acre dog off-leash area, a disc golf course, and is a great place to enjoy mountain biking and horseback riding.

The SMP Paved Trail is a two mile loop that offers park visitors the opportunity to enjoy scenic views of the entire park including Shawnee Mission Lake, which extends for 150 acres.  Travelers will also enjoy beautiful views of ponds, marshes, forests, and meadows along its lengths.  Pro tip: Those looking for additional cardio can access an additional 11 miles of paved trail on the Mill Creek Streamway Trail, which is connected to the SMP paved trail at the west end of the park.


Cumberland Gap National Historical Park - Overlook Trail

Known as the first great gateway to the west, Cumberland Gap is a prominent V-shaped notch in the Cumberland Mountains that was used by wildlife, Native Indians, explorers, hunters and pioneers wishing to pass through the mountains. The Gap is situated on the Kentucky-Virginia boundary approximately one-quarter of a mile north of the point where Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee meet.

A level, paved 1/4 mile trail offers visitors of all mobility levels the opportunity to taking in the spectacular view from Pinnacle Overlook.  With an elevation of 2,440 feet, this is undoubtedly the most visited - and awe inspiring - area within the park.  Accessible restrooms are available near the overlook, and accessible drive-in campsites are available at the park's Wilderness Road Campground.


Jenny Wiley State Park - Dawkins Line Rail Trail

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park is sure to offer something for everyone. With both 1,100-acre Dewey Lake and an Olympic-size swimming pool, the park is a water lover’s paradise. If swimming, fishing or boating isn’t your style, consider taking in a Broadway-style show at the popular Jenny Wiley Theatre.

A great trail for a good cardio work out, the Dawkins Line Rail Trail is a paved trail that follows the old Dawkin Line railroad bed for 18 miles.  Opened to the public since 2013, the trail has retained it's historical vibe thanks to the 24 trestles along it's lengths as well as the Gun Creek Tunnel, which is 662 feet long.


Paintsville Lake State Park - Kiwanis Walking Trail 

Paintsville Lake State Park sits on the shores of one of the most scenic lakes in eastern Kentucky. With steep cliffs and wooded coves along the shoreline, this lake provides 1,140 acres of boating, skiing, and fishing pleasure. The lake has a full service marina where you can rent a fishing, pontoon, or houseboat. After a day on the lake, relax on one of the 32 developed camp sites around the lake. The mountain homeplace sits adjacent to the lake and offers visitors a look at life from the late 19th century. Paintsville Lake State Park is a true mountain gem.

The Kiwanis Walking Trail - which is 1.6 miles long and offers visitors gorgeous views of the lake and it's supported wildlife - is rated "easy" but it has not been officially rated "accessible", which means it may be a better option for riders with all terrain wheelchairs.  However, Paintsville Lake State Park itself has done a wonderful job of making sure that all of the areas are accessible to visitors of every ability.  This includes a scenic overlook of the Lake at the end of a short paved trail, the campgrounds, restrooms, parking and the camp's amphitheater.



Sabine National Wildlife Refuge - The Wetland Walkway

The Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex consists of four federal wildlife refuges located in southwest Louisiana: Cameron Prairie, Sabine, Lacassine, and Shell Keys. Each of these national wildlife refuges was created to support, protect, and provide winter habitat for migratory waterfowl. These refuges are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which is a national network of lands consisting of more than 540 refuges and thousands of waterfowl production areas throughout all 50 states, and U.S. territories, all of which are administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Wetland Walkway is a 1.5 fully accessible boardwalk that brings visitors across a freshwater marsh, an observation tower with viewing scopes, five trail rest shelters with benches, and an accessible restroom. In this refuge, wildlife abounds: In addition to migratory waterfowl, keep your eyes peeled for large wading birds, muskrat, raccoon, marsh rabbit, and alligators.  Pro tip: fishing and crabbing enthusiasts can enjoy opportunities all year round at several wheelchair accessible fishing piers.


Chemin A Haut State Park - Bobcat Trail

One of the most stunning features of Chemin A Haut State Park is not on the land, but rather in the bayou below. Among the many beautiful cypress trees that line the bayou, there is one that stands out among the rest. This majestic cypress, known as The Castle, towers above the others and is more than 1000 years old. Canoers can experience this ancient wonder close up along the Bayou Bartholomew Paddling Trail. Along with canoeing and kayaking, visitors can enjoy fishing along the banks of the bayou and in nearby Big Slough Lake, on the edge of the park.

The Bobcat Trail is a 1.1. mile long hard surfaced trail that begins at the picnic area and brings visitors along the scenic high banks of the Bayou Bartholomew.   Look closely for the opportunity to see over 115 species of fish who inhabit the Bayou, and fishermen would do well to remember that in order to preserve the delicate ecosystem - only shore fishing is allowed.  Pro tip: ADA compliant cabins are available to visitors looking to stay overnight, and visitors with American the Beautiful Pass are also entitled to a 50% discount on camping fees.


South Toledo Bend State Park - Lakeview Nature Trail 

Pleasantly located on several small bluffs that extend over and into the Toledo Bend Reservoir, South Toledo Bend Reservoir State Park offers a scenic, waterfront view from many vantage points. While the reservoir is nationally recognized as a destination for bass fishing tournaments, visitors to the park can also enjoy other outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, cycling, birding, camping and enjoying the many forms of wildlife in the area.

The Lakeview Nature Trail is a 1/2 mile paved trail that provides views of the scenic reservoir that the park - one of Louisiana's newest - surrounds. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles, as the area remains a popular nesting ground for our nation's symbol.  Pro tip: If you choose to stay overnight in the accessible lodging, be sure to plan for a barbeque, as an accessible grill is also provided! 


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