10 Tips for Planning Your First Accessible Outdoor Adventure

Illness, injury, and age shouldn't keep you from living your life to the fullest.

Where the sidewalk ends, adventure begins. Research shows that spending time outdoors offers serious physical and mental health benefits. The natural light helps to elevate your mood and if you make being outside a goal, you'll be getting more exercise, too!

From the beach to the campsite to the trail, there are so many beautiful places to explore. And thanks to new technologies, more places are accessible than ever. Read on to get started:

1. Consider what activities you would enjoy

Is there an activity you used to do that you would like to get back to? Is there a new activity you’d like to try? Perhaps you enjoy simply having quiet time in nature, in which case you might enjoy fishing, bird watching, or tending a garden. Maybe you like feeling the sun and the sea breeze, so you could think about spending time at the beach or even sailing.

Make a list of activities you would like to do outdoors.

Need ideas? Check out this list from Disabled Sports USA.  

2. Imagine places you would like to visit

It might be some place you’ve been many times before, or a place you haven’t been but have been wanting to go to. Many State and National Parks have accessible trails that are paved or hard-packed for easy access. Perhaps you’d like to visit a nearby beach, plan a road trip, or just spend more time in your own backyard!

Write down outdoor places that you would like to visit. 

3. Discuss your ideas with friends or family

Outdoor adventures are a great opportunity to spend time with loved ones. Away from the hustle and bustle of daily life you can focus on just spending quality time together.

Talk to those closest to you about the activities and places you are interested in.

4. Make sure to have the right equipment

Just like any sport or activity, it’s important to make sure you have the right equipment. Depending on the adventure, you might already have everything you need! If your outdoor adventure is to a State or National Park, there are likely paved accessible trails that any wheelchair will work on.  Headed to the beach or the trail? Soft sand and mud can be difficult to traverse with a standard wheelchair, but special all-terrain chairs make it much easier. Some equipment may be available to rent or borrow locally.

Research your options.

Read the Complete Guide to All Terrain Wheelchairs
Consider putting a visual reminder on your fridge!

Consider putting a visual reminder on your fridge!

5. Set a goal

Think about what you’d like to accomplish on your outdoor adventure. Perhaps there is a certain distance you’d like to push or a scenic view you’d like to see. A visual reminder will keep you excited.

Post a photo or a written reminder of your goal in a place you can look at frequently.

6. Keep it simple

If you’re just getting started with outdoor activities, keep your plans simple. Visit a local park before you plan a multi-day National Park adventure. Planning smaller goals and steps will keep you motivated and help you to reach your ultimate adventure goal.

7. Be flexible

There are so many beautiful places to explore outdoors, but sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate with your plans.  Under normal circumstances a trail might have no obstacles, but weather might cause it to be impassable. Don’t be afraid to turn around or vary your route. Safety first!

Check the weather before you head out and be prepared to add or shed clothing layers.


8. Get advice

As you’re thinking about where you’d like to go and what you’d like to do, don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions. Planning a trip to a park? Try calling them ahead of time to ask what accessibility features are available. Find out if they have a ranger station and make that your first stop when you arrive. If somebody posts about their outdoor trip online, send them a message or post a comment and ask for tips! 

9. Enjoy the journey!

Get ready to have a blast. Mother Nature has so much to offer! From beautiful mountains to wooded trails, there’s surely something to enliven your spirit. Don’t rush through too quickly. You’ve taken time and effort to be out there, so stop, smell listen, see. Take your time to absorb the unique surroundings so you can carry the memory with you long afterwards.

10. Share your experience

Maybe the only thing better than going on an adventure is sharing it with others! Not only will people enjoy seeing you so happy doing something you love, but perhaps it could motivate someone else, who doesn’t think they could have their own accessible adventure, to take that first step.

So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your accessible outdoor adventure!

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