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5 Tips to Tackle Wheelchair Hiking


Going for a hike may seem daunting, but for wheelchair riders, the numerous physical and mental benefits of hiking are a powerful motivator.  Staying active and exercising regularly are key components to maintaining physical health, but hiking goes beyond the simple benefits of exercise.

There is abundant scientific proof that outdoor hiking and increased time in nature decreases stress and depression, while simultaneously, increasing creativity and happiness.  

As if that’s not enough motivation to get out on the trail, there’s also the America the Beautiful Access Pass, otherwise known as the  National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, a free lifetime pass available to US citizens (or permanent residents of the US) who have been medically determined to have a disability.  (Get yours here.)

With that in mind, we’ve pulled together five key tips to make it easier for wheelchair riders to get outdoors and out on the trail.

1. Do Your Hiking Research2

Take away the fear of the unknown by arming yourself with detailed information about the trails in your area. Thanks to the information age, it’s now possible to scout the accessibility of the trails in your area before you ever leave the house.  Most parks, especially at the State and Federal level, provide information about which trails are fully ADA-accessible on their website. Often, the information provided will even describe the surface texture of the trail, as well as difficulty level and incline.

Even when the official websites for trails fall short, there are additional online resources being created all the time to share experiences and information regarding trail accessibility, like Traillink.com, AmericanTrails.org, and this state by state guide to accessible trails.  

2. Invite Friends to Go Wheelchair Hiking 

Wheelchair Hiking3

Hikes are a great group activity, especially on beautiful spring days.  Not only will it be fun to have someone to chat with along the way, it will also keep you motivated; it’s a lot harder to bail on plans if you know someone is counting on you.  

Make sure you invite a friend who is on the same page about the type of hike you want to take.

If you’re envisioning a leisurely afternoon enjoying the outdoors, it’s probably not a good idea to invite the friend of yours who considers every outdoor trek a chance for an endurance trial.  This friend should also be someone you’re very comfortable with, especially the first few times you hit the trail, in case you do need to traverse any unexpected terrain.  

3. Get the Right Hiking Gear

Going on a hike is possible for everyone – regardless of mobility level –  with the help of the right equipment. There are lots of different types of equipment that’s useful out on the trail.  The GRIT Freedom Chair, comes with mountain bike tires, so it’s a great option for riders hoping to test out trails of more varied difficulty.  

The Freedom Chair’s levers use the biceps and pecs to propel, as opposed to the shoulder muscles that are used with a pushrim, which means it’s also a great option for riders hoping to build up their arm strength.

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The Trailrider is another good option for anyone with more limited arm movement.  Created specifically for accessing the wilderness and affectionately described as “a cross between a wheelbarrow and a rickshaw” the Trailrider has one wheel, and is be propelled with the help of friends acting as “sherpas” in front and behind.

Not sure what type of off road chair is right for you? This guide offers a basic overview on everything out there.

When it comes to gear, it’s also important to remember the basics: you should always bring along a hat, sunscreen, bug spray, and an extra long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt, just in case.

4. Bring Snacks & Stay Hydrated 

Even if you’re only planning a short hike, it’s important to bring a water bottle and a snack.  Your body works hard on a hike, so it’s important to give yourself the fuel you need.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix, oranges, apples, and beef jerky are all good snack options – just make sure you bring a combination that includes protein and carbohydrates. Snacks are important, but bringing water is crucial. Even short bursts of exercise require lots of water: a good guideline is drinking 6-12 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes.

Remember, it’s important to start hydrating before – not during – a hike, so your body is prepped and ready.  Experts recommend drinking at least 16 ounces or water prior to leaving the house.

5. Search for Groups in Your Area that Organize Hikes

wheelchair hiking 5

Participating in group hikes planned by local organizations is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people in your community. In addition to events and activities planned by private adaptive sports organizations, State Programs often provide additional opportunities.

For example, our friends in Massachusetts at the Department of Recreation and Conservation has a Universal Access Program and recently purchased a fleet of GRIT Freedom Chairs in order to start a new adaptive hiking program for park goers.

So what are you waiting for? Get out and enjoy life around you in an accessible state park today!

Download Discovering: Accessible US Travel Guide for Wheelchair Users

Discovering-Coverlowres240x240In this book, you’ll discover a state-by-state directory of accessible travel destinations across the United States.

These accessible travel suggestions are part of the Get Out & Enjoy Life [GOEL] program that is a joint educational initiative between Wheel:Life, a global community of wheelchair users, and SPORTS ‘N SPOKES magazine, published by the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

More than 70,000 wheelchair users from 108 countries took part in Wheel:Life resources in 2014.

You’ll find that each chapter of this book provides easily-accessible destinations that are fun and engaging for friends who use wheelchairs. Discovering is an easy, encouraging read that will help you explore all kinds of travel destinations and family fun spots, whether you are new to using a wheelchair or a seasoned pro.

Please note that not every state in the US is featured in this travel guide, just the ones that we have included in our GOEL program to date.

GET DISCOVERING HERE

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Pursuing Health and Happiness with Malaise Wheelchair Fitness

Editor’s Note: Justin Malaise grew up in small-town Wisconsin as a ...

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Former Ms. Wheelchair Illinois Continues to be a Voice for the Community

Editor’s Note: Born with spina bifida, Kim Brown has been a ...

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Dare to Discover the World of Accessible Travel With Handiscover

Editor’s Note: Sebastien Archambeaud has always loved traveling, so ...

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Made for Kids! The Pediatric Hydrophilic Cure Catheter + Free Backpack Program

Parents only want what’s best for their children and keeping them ...

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Wheeling, Driving, Bowling, Preaching, Parenting…Johnny Hudson Does It All Hands-free!

Editor’s Note: Johnny Hudson was born in 1977 with unforeseen ...

Pat Dougherty explains FreeWheel to a new fan at a recent Abilities Expo.
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The Abilities Expo is Coming To Boston!

Boston awaits with open arms. This September 8–10, head over to the ...

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Comfort Conversations: Change Starts with You – Becoming an Advocate

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...

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WheelchairTravel.org: Blazing the Trail Towards an Accessible World  

Editor’s Note: After sustaining severe burns during a car accident ...

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The Artfully Gifted Foundation – Serving Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

Editor’s Note: The Artfully Gifted Foundation (a non-profit) was ...

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How the SCRS-IL Can Help You Live Independently

Editor’s Note: When triple degree holder Jose Gonzalez returned ...

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Peter Arballo Never Gave Up on Himself — Neither Should You

Editor’s Note: Peter Arballo was born in Southern California to ...

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Full Speed Ahead with Endurance Racer Michael Johnson

Editor’s Note: Michael Johnson of Lansing, Michigan, started racing ...

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The Extraordinary Life of Triple Amputee Monica Vickers

Editor’s Note: Monica Vickers was born in 1954 missing both legs ...

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Rick Hayden Rolls on Capitol Hill for Your Rights

When Rick Hayden visited the US Capitol last week, he went with your ...

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Gear Up for Abilities Expo Chicago

Calling all Midwesterners — Abilities Expo is coming to Chicago! As ...

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Run, Jump, and Throw Stuff with Angel City Sports

Editor’s Note: Clayton Frech is the CEO and founder of Los ...

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Sled Hockey with Coach Koz

Editor’s Note: Sled hockey (also known as sledge hockey) is almost ...

Summer Solutions with STYLEDWEL
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Summer Solutions with STYLEDWEL

Editor’s Note: Mary Marshall, founder of STYLEDWEL, created ...

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Following Your Inner Guidance with Kristina Rhoades and How National Ramp is Helping Her Do It

Editor’s Note: Kristina Rhoades is a mom, wife, speaker, writer, ...

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Comfort Conversations: Finding Encouragement Through Peer Support Groups

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...

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Allen Beauchamp on Life, Love and Hockey

My name is Allen Beauchamp, and I’m 43 years old. I live in a ...

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Yoocan Get Empowered!

Editor’s Note: Inspired by a family member with disabilities, Moshe ...

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Introducing the Cure Ultra: Ready to Use Catheter for Men

Cure Medical has unveiled the new 16-inch Cure Ultra™ Intermittent ...

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Refuel and Rejuvenate At Abilities Expo New York Metro

East coasters, or anyone within striking distance, gear up for ...

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Criptaedo: Breaking Boards and Barriers

Editor’s note: Paul Brailer, aka Criptaedo, was born with spina ...

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Rolling Forward with Amputee Advocate Stella Sieber

I’m currently 63 years old and live in Durham, North Carolina. ...

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Stroke by Stroke: Moving Forward with Mallory Weggemann

Editor’s Note: At 18 years old, Mallory Weggemann walked into the ...

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Comfort Conversations: Finding Your New Normal After a Spinal Cord Injury

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...

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Glenn Moscoso: Wheelchair Daddy

Editor’s note:  Glenn Moscoso is a husband and father living with ...

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Avoiding Slippery Slopes with Garth Walker and National Ramp

Editor’s Note: After selling his prior business, Garth Walker went ...

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The National Sports Center for the Disabled: Finding Self-Confidence through Personal Challenge

Editor’s Note: The National Sports Center for the Disabled, founded ...

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Wheeling around the World with Susie Twydell

Editor’s Note: Based in England, Susie Twydell, an avid traveler ...

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Amplitude Media Group: Closing the Information Gap

Wheel:Life is thrilled to announce their newest community partner, ...

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Accessible Hiking, Camping and Fishing? WOW!  

Editor’s Note: Wilderness on Wheels (WOW) is a foundation and a ...

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Comfort Conversations: Events, Free Packs, and More with James “Woody” Beckham

Editor’s Note: The Woody Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit ...

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Jenn Sexton Shares Her Secret for Independence: An Extra Long Cure Catheter

Jenn Sexton was five weeks pregnant when she and her husband, Thomas, ...

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Glen Schlotterbeck: Reinvent Yourself!

Editors note: As a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Glen ...

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Educate, Energize, and Enlighten at Abilities Expo Los Angeles

The Abilities Expo is back in Los Angeles and gearing up to show you ...

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Juan Sebastian Betancourt: Changing the Way Businesses Serve People with Disabilities

Editor’s Note: Juan Betancourt is on a path to change the world for ...

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AccessibleIndonesia: Making Travel Accessible in a Non-Accessible Country

Editor’s note: Kerstin Beise, a German physiotherapist, who also ...

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A Lesson on Living Life to the Fullest with Hydred Makabali

Editor’s note: Hydred Makabali, born and raised in England and now ...

Up/Down Team Champions (Top L to R) Shane Hayden, Harold Collins (Seated L to R) Gary Bowling, Kenneth Hill, and Don Law
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Knocking Down The Pins of Life with Wheelchair Bowling Champion Kenneth Hill

Editor’s Note: Fifty-year-old Kenneth Hill from Plainfield, ...

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Take Your Wings and Fly with Denise Horn

Editor’s Note: Fifty-six-year-old Denise Horn of Janesville, ...

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Ashley Hutson Wilson Beat a Small Chance of Survival to Live a Full Life

Editor’s Note: Thirty-one year old Ashley Hutson Wilson from Kyle, ...

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Jam with Mel Bergman: Creator of Wheely Guitars

Editor’s Note: Mel Bergman of Camarillo, California, is the ...

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Gary “Tiger” Balletto: Champion Prize Fighter Who Rolls with the Punches

Editor’s Note: You can capture a ferocious wild tiger and put him ...

9 Robby Heisner
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Meet Robby Heisner: Creative Entrepreneur on Wheels

Editor’s Note: Robby Heisner of Smyrna, Georgia ...

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The National Rifle Association’s Adaptive Shooting Program with Dr. Joseph Logar

Dr. Joseph Logar Editor’s Note: Dr. Joseph Logar has his doctorate ...

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The Rollettes Take On an E.P.I.C. Project to Empower Others

Editor’s Note: Chances are, you’ve seen these ladies ...

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Speak Up Now to Save Your Wheelchair: Fight Medicare Cuts

Your window is narrowing to preserve access to mobility equipment – ...

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Go Further Together with GRIT: Stories of Community Support

Our friends at GRIT, the makers of the revolutionary Freedom Chair, ...

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Paralyzed Veteran’s Mom Awarded Dream Trip by ElDorado Mobility

Editor’s Note: Serving our country as a military service member is ...

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Wheelchair Karate: Attack the Attacker with Kenneth Perry

Editor’s Note: Kenneth Perry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ...

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Ditch Your Chair to Sit-Ski the Slopes with Tom Cannalonga 

Editor’s Note: Fifty-two-year-old Tom Cannalonga lives in Edison, ...

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Welcome to Wheel:Life

We are so glad you’re here! Wheel:Life is a global initiative ...

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