Far and away, the vast amount of accessible hiking trails across Wisconsin are some of the best options for adventurous hearts looking to engage in outdoor recreation, but may require a bit of creativity in doing so. Through experiencing the uplifting and empowering elements of nature, these top picks for explorers with mobility challenges are perfect for spending sun-soaked days amidst beautiful Wisconsin landscapes.
Hartman Creek State Park — Waupaca
What’s to love? Abundant wildlife, winding trails, pristine spring-fed waters and wildflowers galore.
Accessible attributes: Surrounded by lush green landscape, Hartman Creek provides unparalleled peace and tranquility that is sure to capture your heart. The best way to experience the park is by voyaging along any of several relatively level paths. Other portions involve some minor incline changes and hills, and paths vary in composition, including pavement, gravel and grass.
Strolling beside the shimmering waters of Hartman and Allen Lakes, be prepared to feel immersed in wildlife. Stop by the spacious accessible fishing pier for panoramic lake views or cast out a line to lure plentiful panfish. Trek across the flat segment of horse trail near Hartman Lake, and you’re likely to see some majestic equine travelers. Visit the bridge above the cascading dam, or move on to the next bridge for a scenic overlook of a pond blanketed in lily pads — peering closely will almost certainly welcome a sight of painted turtles. And since many picnic areas in the park can be accessed with ease, break up your day with some shady rest under the towering pines of the Whispering Pines area.
What’s to love? Expansive boardwalks, extensive biodiversity and ample birding opportunities.
Accessible attributes: This enchanting natural area boasts well-maintained boardwalks and trails that extend for five miles. The Trail of Reflections loop is a one-half mile crushed granite circuit that is designated accessible for those with mobility concerns, and easily connects to the Frog Chorus Trail.
Venture onto the roomy wetland boardwalk, and soon your ears will perk to the orchestral melodies of wood frogs, spring peepers, chorus frogs and toads — it is an ensemble you won’t want to miss! Meander toward the Moses Creek Trail boardwalk to absorb views of thriving wildlife on the viewing deck, complete with a scope that is swiftly accessed from a sitting position.
In essence, Schmeeckle Reserve is a spectacularly accessible area that offers outdoor recreation opportunities for people of all ability levels. If you’re visiting in spring or fall, join in on the seasonal celebration by hiking your way along the torch-lit trails of Schmeeckle’s Candlelight Hikes.
What’s to love? An island landscape of mighty geological formations, mystical lagoons and rustic sands.
Accessible attributes: A multifaceted jewel set within the Lake Superior basin, Madeline Island is home to the astounding Big Bay State Park. One outstanding accessible element of Big Bay is the colossal boardwalk that spirals through a timeworn gorge. Journey downward along the boardwalk to feel enveloped in a profound sense of wonder as the surrounding forest of red and white pines soar above you.
Continue traveling the half-mile boardwalk to greet the open air of the Sand Spit and Bog State Natural Area. This interpretive trail provides an opportunity to build knowledge and appreciation of the many extraordinary varieties of foliage which thrive in this unique area. An added accessible bonus on your excursion to Big Bay is the ferry ride that takes you to Madeline Island. With seagulls gliding in the crisp blue sky over head, the ferry will sweep you across the crystal teal waters of Lake Superior to your destination.
Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve — Grafton
What’s to love? Wheelchair-friendly trails and captivating views of Lake Michigan.
Accessible attributes: For more than a half-mile, absorb the picturesque scenery of Lake Michigan and stroll along lofty bluffs at this alluring nature preserve. While some stairs are the gateway to closer access of the gorge area, these can be avoided by staying on the Lion’s Den Trail, where you’ll find directional markers to guide you along the most barrier-free routes.
Amp up the scenic hiking options by making a weekend of your trip! Keep the adventure going at Harrington Beach or Kohler-Andrae State Park, each located within a thirty-minute drive and complete with ADA cabins for fully accessible lodging.