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Accessible trails and camping

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Accessible Trails and Camping

A wheelchair user hiking on a trail 6
A wheelchair user hiking on a trail 6
Hiking and other outdoor activities, like camping, are becoming more and more accessible to individuals who have a disability. Individuals of all abilities profit from trail use, and more diverse users leads to greater public support of the trail. A trail is an outdoor route that was designed for pedestrian recreational use or as a pedestrian alternative to a motorized vehicular route. [3] Trails include a route through a forested park, a shared-use path when one of the designated functions is for pedestrian use, or a back-country trail. There are 2 types of trails, accessible and assessed. An accessible trail is usually paved or made from packed stone dust and ranges from one-quarter to three-quarter miles in length. An assessed trail is constructed from dirt and offers a more rugged experience. [8] The US Access Board, which is also referred to as the United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, is the governmental organization in control of developing accessibility guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act. [2]

Where do Accessibility Guidelines Apply?

Accessibility guidelines apply only to those trails constructed for pedestrian use, not those primarily designed for horseback riding, skiing or ATV uses. If a trail is designated as a multi-use trail, and one of the uses is for pedestrians, then the guidelines do apply to that trail. Furthermore, the guidelines apply only to newly constructed trials, not currently existing trails. The accessibility guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to federal land management agencies, which includes the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers and non-federal entities that alter facilities for the Federal government.

Guidelines for Trail Construction

Accessibility on Trails4
Accessibility on Trails4
When concrete, asphalt or boards are used as the trail surface, no barrier should be greater than 2 inches in height. [6] When resting places are provided next to the trail, a turning space is required. Accessible trails are not required to be paved, but should be “firm and stable”; this can include materials such as packed crushed stone, crushed and compacted gravel, packed soil or other synthetic materials that are firm and stable. [6] Other guidelines include a clear tread width of 36 inches, and if a boardwalk or bridge is used, less than ½ inch of space between individual boards is required. [6] Current grade requirements for trails are 5% for any distance, 8.33% for up to 200 ft, 10% for 30 ft, 12% for 10 ft, and 14% for 5 ft such as in a drainage area. The slope across the width of the trail should be no greater than 5%.[6] Interestingly, many of these standards are the same as those proposed by sustainable design criteria, with “sustainability” meaning the wise use of a resource that allows for continued use, which is also a major goal of many natural parks and recreation areas. [2]


Accessible Camping 6
Accessible Camping 6
Camping is also within the reach to those who have disabilities. Many camping areas are now offering smooth, paved paths with lesser inclines making it easier to propel a wheelchair over a path. Camping sites within a facility must also be accessible to individuals with disabilities. [1] The required number of accessible camping units has been set based upon the total number of camping units within a specific camping facility. For example, when there are greater than 200 camping units at a facility, the number of accessible sites must equal 8+2% of the number over 200. [3] These accessible campsites must be similar and integrated into the sites that are available to others without disabilities. [3] Furthermore, these accessible campsites must be connected via accessible routes to other accessible features, such as the restroom or other constructed facilities. [3] Other ways to make a campsite accessible include the following: create a wide, hard and level space so that accessible RVs with lifts can be accommodated easily. Make the hook-up sites level so that an individual can access them. Make the campground office accessible by using ramps; finally, all bathrooms should be made accessible. [9]

External Links

Accessible Trails in the U.S.

Accessible Camping in the U.S.


1. Regulatory Negotiation committee on accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas (1999) Retrieved December 1, 2009 from:

2. National Trails Training Partnership: Accessible Trails (2007) Retrieved December 1, 2009 from:

3. Draft final accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas (1999) Retrieved December 1, 2009 from:

4. National Parks: Accessible to Everyone- Accessible Trails in National Parks Retrieved December 1, 2009 from:

5. National Parks: Accessible to Everyone- Parks with Accessible Camping Retrieved December 1, 2009 from:

6. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Recreation Educational Services Division Greenways and Trails Program ADA Accessibility Guidelines (2007) Retrieved December 1, 2009 from:

7. Wheelchair User (2010) Retrieved December 1, 2009 from:

8. Department of Conservation and Recreation Retrieved December 1, 2009 from:

9. Handicapped Travel Club Inc. (2009) Retrieved December 2, 2009 from: