Roll into Nature
Gentle Trails to Scenic Places
If you’re recovering from a knee or hip replacement, or you have a longer lasting mobility impairment, there are now many attractive outdoor destinations for you in Vermont.
In the last few years, collaborations among nonprofit organizations and local, state, and federal agencies have created boardwalks where you can easily see wetland wildlife. Expanded rail trails skirt the shores of rivers and lakes, and most state parks have smooth, gently graded short interpretive trails.
The Green Mountain Club routinely gives trail suggestions suitable for all ages, but until now we haven’t had a full and rich list of possibilities for outdoor enthusiasts with less mobility. We narrowed the list to a selection of scenic vistas accessible by car, and a sample of new and interesting wheelchair-accessible trails.
Accessible by Car
- Burke Mountain Toll Road, East Burke. The parking lot at the top of this paved road connects to a 200-foot, ADA-accessible path to a south-facing overlook. There is a slight grade that may not be suitable for all visitors. $5 per car. Get there.
- CCC Road, Willoughby State Forest, Sutton. This beautiful three-mile gravel road between Routes 5 and 5A can be walked with trekking poles as well as driven and passes a scenic overlook with views of Lake Willoughby and Mount Pisgah. It has significant elevation change. Get there.
- Mount Horrid Overlook, Brandon. This roadside stop along Route 73 offers views of a beaver pond and the Great Cliff. Take binoculars to look for moose and Peregrine falcons. Get there.
- Mount Philo State Park, Charlotte. Drive to the top of the mountain for views of the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks. There is a park entrance fee. Get there.
- Mount Mansfield Toll Road, Stowe. Travel to the top of Mount Mansfield by car (no RVs, bikes, or motorcycles) for sweeping views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. $24 per car, plus $9 per passenger. Get there.
- Mount Ascutney Parkway, Windsor. The 3.7-mile drive to the summit of this historically rich state park passes multiple picnic areas. The parking lot at the top offers nice views. Modest toll per car and per passenger. Get there.
- Okemo Mountain Road, Okemo State Park, Ludlow. This 4.5-mile road winds through the ski area, giving visitors an up-close view of the mountain’s scenery. A short trail to the summit fire tower provides an option for companions. Toll-free. Get there.
- Mount Equinox Skyline Drive, Sunderland. Stop at one of many overlooks, parking lots, and picnic areas along this 5.2-mile drive, which is the longest privately-owned paved toll road in the U.S. $20 per car, plus $5 per passenger. Get there.
- Mollie Beattie Bog, Brighton. This 200-foot wheelchair-accessible boardwalk in the Silvio O. Conte Wildlife Refuge reaches a black spruce woodland bog that’s home to the rare bog sedge plant. Get there.
- Moose Bog, Wenlock Wildlife Management Area, Island Pond, Brighton. This popular wildlife viewing area located off Route 105, 7 miles east of Island pond, has a 1-mile accessible trail that includes a boardwalk. Get there.
- Lewis Pond Overlook, Silvio O. Conte Wildlife Refuge, Warren’s Gore. In addition to spectacular views, this observation area has plenty of seating. Get there.
- Sentinel Rock State Park, Westmore. A 1-mile accessible trail off Hinton Hill Road overlooks Lake Willoughby and the Green Mountains and reaches the glacial erratic the park is named for. Get there.
- Raven’s Ridge Natural Area, Monkton. Traveling a 935-foot accessible boardwalk to a 0.3-mile-long accessible trail gives you a chance to spot bats, bobcats, and rare plants. Get there.
- Eshqua Bog Preserve, Hartland. The Nature Conservancy and the New England Wildflower Society oversee a 460-foot accessible boardwalk past lady slippers and other orchids. Get there.
- Brighton State Park Nature Trail, Brighton. Approximately 800 feet of accessible mixed-surface trail brings visitors to a beautiful wetland and informational displays. Get there.
- Coming soon! CCC Camp 55, Willoughby State Forest, Sutton. The Friends Of Willoughby State Forest in partnership with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation are cooperating with the Division of Historic Preservation to bring CCC Camp 55 back to life. The development will include two wheelchair-accessible trails, one around the swimming hole and one from the old forester’s house to the picnic area. Located off Route 5. Get there.
- Thundering Falls Boardwalk, Killington. Nine hundred feet of accessible boardwalk on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont, built and maintained by the Green Mountain Club, crosses an extensive wetland and connects to a smooth gravel switchback path to a platform at a 140-foot waterfall. Get there.
- West River Trail, Jamaica State Park, Jamaica. The 16-mile trail is a converted railway with a packed gravel surface. If you plan to stay the night, the Briar lean-to in the campground is wheelchair accessible. Get there.
- Stowe Recreation Path, Stowe. This 3-mile paved path follows the West Branch of the Little River, offering views of the mountains and easy access to shops and restaurants. Get there.
- Waterbury Center State Park Trail, Waterbury. A 1,500-foot accessible trail, built in 2010, skirts the Waterbury Reservoir. Get there.
- Otter View Park, Middlebury. The paths in this 15-acre park are accessible, and take visitors through a wetland to Otter Creek. Get there.
- Kent Pond Fishing Platform, Gifford Woods State Park, Killington. This campground has several wheelchair-accessible cabins, as well as a roadside fishing platform on Kent Pond. Get there.
- Killington Resort gondola, Killington. Visitors in wheelchairs can ride the gondola to the summit, where they will find sweeping views of Vermont. Leaving the gondola requires five steps, but staff can help. Get there.
- Robert Frost Trail, Ripton. The first 0.3 mile of the interpretive trail is a boardwalk suitable for wheelchairs or walkers. The rest of the trail is more suitable for visitors who can use trekking poles. Get there.
- Hildene Homestead, Manchester. The estate of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert, has a 600-foot accessible boardwalk over a wetland where you might spot turtles, frogs, and herons. There is an admission fee. Get there.
- Smugglers’ Notch Boardwalk, Stowe. You can explore wetlands, see a beaver dam, and admire the notch from this new 660-foot accessible boardwalk on the Long Trail. Get there.
- Winooski River Footbridge, Bolton. The 224-foot Long Trail suspension bridge, built and maintained by the Green Mountain Club, is accessible from the Duxbury Road (south) side of the Winooski River. It was a long time coming: The Vermont legislature appropriated $500 for it in 1912, but it wasn’t finished until 2015. Get there.
For more information on wheelchair-accessible trails, visit trailfinder.info.
GMC’s The Walker’s Guide to Vermont is another helpful resource for those looking for gentler trails.
We know this list isn’t complete. If you know of other attractive possibilities, please email [email protected]. We will update this list as we learn of new trails.
This list originally appeared as an article written by Krista Karlson in the Spring 2019 Long Trail News. Krista Karlson is a journalist and recent graduate of Middlebury College. Her work has appeared in Backpacker, Anglers Journal, and REI Co-Op Journal, among other places.