Accessible Adventures: 6 Spots for Barrier-Free Fun in Wisconsin
Travelers with mobility challenges may wonder about the accessibility of certain activities that, at first thought, seem unaccommodating. For an afternoon of fun, explore the following Wisconsin expeditions with an open mind and create an adventure to remember.
More of a visual person? Check out this map from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to learn about accessibility features throughout our state park system. Happy exploring!
Waterfalls are enchanting. The soothing flow from high to low, always moving forward on the journey. The gentle sound of cascading waters that resonates within us. Wisconsin geography is speckled with these captivating spots, but some are much easier to access than others.
Formed of archaic lava outflows, the tawny tumble of Copper Falls State Park can be experienced from the half-mile portion of the Doughboys Trail designated as disabled access. The Dells of the Eau Claire Park is another highly accessible area to enjoy the falls, with a paved path leading up to a prime viewing space.
Explore A Treehouse
The rustic ascent to a treetop dwelling may be one of those distinctive activities which transports us to reminiscent days of our childhood, but likely doesn’t shout barrier free — unless you swing by the Monk Botanical Gardens. Two towers of this endearing treehouse have been mindfully built to accommodate all. Crafted with wide ramps and roomy reading nooks that soar into the surrounding pine forest, the leafy hideout overlooks a tranquil pond and humming wildlife.
Hit The Waves
Since the Great Lakes region is doused in pristine water landscapes, cheerful memories of hitting the summertime waves are adored by Wisconsinites of all ability levels. Adaptive kayaks provide greater support and stability than a typical kayak and are available for use at Buckhorn, Devil’s Lake, Perrot, Mirror Lake and Council Grounds state parks.
To get up close to the water easily and comfortably, beach wheelchairs are a solid alternative to usual wheelchairs and provide great maneuverability along the shoreline — try one at Bradford Beach in Milwaukee or Kohler-Andrae, Whitefish Dunes, Big Bay, Buckhorn or Harrington Beach state parks. For more information on adaptive outdoor equipment availability at Wisconsin state parks, visit the DNR’s Open the Outdoors webpage.
The Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan (SEAS) believes in the positive impact of connection with water recreation, and the opportunity for everyone, regardless of physical ability level, to enjoy boating. SEAS offers adaptive sailing lessons and outings to individuals with physical impairments and tailors the sailing services to create the most fun experience possible.
For sailors with very limited mobility, a hoyer lift fixated to the dock can be used to safely transfer into the supportive seat on the sailboat, with multiple options available to allow the sailor independence and freedom in navigating the Lake Michigan waters. Chart your course in the wind and waves, and check out SEAS adaptive information page.
Rendezvous With Nature
Take a mellow cruise through the wilderness at Sandhill Wildlife Area. For 14 miles, a one-way auto trail winds along a diverse landscape that rests in what once was Glacial Lake Wisconsin, making this a hidden gem of accessibility with a vibe that’s as beautifully outlandish as a safari in Wisconsin. View wildlife including a bison enclosure from the auto trail or choose one of the many offshoot hiking trails — some are quite wheelchair friendly, while others are extremely rugged, so choose your own adventure.
Or, head to Eagle Tower in Peninsula State Park. The tower’s 850-foot wheelchair accessible ramp does a scenic loop through beech tree forest before opening to a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan at the top.
Gallivant In Gardens
See the wings of butterflies take flight in a vibrant kaleidoscope at the Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin. In an accessible setting, visitors can wander a large wildflower maze with a relatively level terrain of mowed grass, learn about more than 100+ species of butterflies that are innately connected to Wisconsin, and socialize with these swift creatures of beauty in their floral humble abode.
Looking for a more sensory-friendly experience? Richard Bong State Recreation Area in Kansasville has visitor’s center and Nature Explore outdoor classroom that welcomes visitors of all ages, abilities, and sensitivities and includes nature art, music and movement activities, water exploration, and more. Dig into the heart of nature and make outdoor memories that will last a lifetime.
Can't get enough of the outdoors? Keep on exploring with these four accessible hiking trails not to miss!