Our team at Corken and Company believes Colorado’s beauty and landscape should be enjoyed by everyone which includes wheelchair-accessible hikes. You may see your weekend warrior friends on Instagram hiking away this summer. Hiking doesn’t have to be limited to those who put miles of the trail beneath their boots. Under dry conditions, even some dirt paths are accessible to wheelchair users, stroller pushers, and less surefooted folks. Any one of these three lakes and four waterfalls could easily be the coolest trip of your summer.
At a cool 8,688 feet and 9,475 feet above sea level (respectively), you’ll find lower temps and gorgeous views of the Continental Divide’s rugged peaks on two easy, 0.7-mile trails around Sprague Lake and Bear Lake in Colorado’s most popular national park. Hard Packed dirt trails and gentle grades make the loops accessible for people of most mobility. At Sprague Lake, watch for moose and elk grazing along the trail and wading in the placid lake. At the busy Bear Lake trailhead, the access point to numerous crystal lakes, rocky peaks, and waterfalls. In addition, enjoy the wheelchair- and stroller-friendly loop around Bear Lake. Hallett Peak lifts its square-cut east face above the water while Longs Peak, the park’s 14,259-foot highpoint to the south, reflects in the still surface.
You need a reservation to visit Maroon Lake, located at 9,585 feet in the Maroon Bells Scenic Area southwest of Aspen, but the Colorado icon is well worth the forethought and planning. After parking at the lake or riding the wheelchair-accessible shuttle bus (where Fido is welcome!). From Aspen Highlands, reach the trailhead and a one-mile round-trip, out-and-back trail that’s a mix of paved and packed-dirt segments. Sure, you’ve seen pictures, but there’s nothing like drinking in the majesty of the Maroon Bells looming beyond the alpine lake in person. Lush greenery lines your path, while the rust-colored twin domes of fourteeners North Maroon Peak and Maroon Peak dominate the skyline. You’ll see why Maroon Lake is the most photographed site in the state.
A 3.5-hour drive west on I-70 and a 0.2-mile round-trip out-and-back are all that separate you from the triplet waterfalls at Rifle Falls State Park. The trail includes a relatively flat path—at times paved, hard-packed dirt, and gravel—leads to the base of three 70-foot-high falls. At 6,510 feet above sea level, you won’t be much higher than you are in the Mile High City. However, thanks to the surrounding mineral-rich travertine rock and lush greenery, you’ll feel like you’re on a tropical island.
Tucked into a rock-walled canyon above Steamboat Springs, 280-foot-tall Fish Creek Falls thunders down from 7,550 feet above sea level. A 0.6-mile round-trip out-and-back traverse on a paved trail leads to an airy overlook with stunning views across the canyon. (If you’re interested in more mileage and elevation gain, check out the trail to the upper falls.) Summertime visitors are treated to a splendid roar and rising mist as the waterfall tumbles down a vertical cliff. Watch out as it crashes and splashes into the creek far below. In winter, look for ice climbers slowly ascending the frozen fall’s sheer leaps.
A drive through scenic North Cheyenne Cañon Park in Colorado Springs is worth the travel from Denver alone, but it’s not complete without a stop at Helen Hunt Falls. This picture-perfect waterfall, named for a famed 19th-century writer and proponent of Native American rights, is visible from a hairpin turn on the road. Park at the Helen Hunt Falls Visitor Center for information about the area’s history and geology, then follow a short wheelchair- and stroller-friendly paved trail to a viewing platform below the horsetail falls, perched at 7,190 feet above sea level.
Waterfall and Alpine Lake Safety Tips
- The above trails are wheelchair- and stroller-friendly under dry conditions. Rain, snow, and mud can affect the terrain, so check the weather ahead of your visit.
- Bring appropriate clothing, including sun protection such as a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, and use it, especially in high-altitude areas that are exposed to the sun’s potent rays.
- Carry enough water and snacks for the day.
- If you feel dizzy or queasy, the cause could be altitude sickness, dehydration, heatstroke, or something more serious. Don’t wait to become incapacitated. Return to the trailhead and seek medical attention.