The Grand Canyon is among the most awe-inspiring natural features in the United States. Grand Canyon National Park follows 278 miles of the Colorado River and stretches into the nearby uplands. It is so beautiful that when Teddy Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in 1903, he stated that it is “absolutely unparalleled throughout the world” and that we must “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is.”
Despite this sentiment, it wasn’t until 1919 that Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act, formally making it a federally operated park that would be protected as such. In addition to countless types of unique flora and fauna, the park is also home to the ancestral lands of eleven different Native American tribes.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is one of the most stunning examples of the power of erosion caused by the path of the Colorado River. The combination of size, depth, and exposed rocks from a time long before humanity is simply breathtaking. The National Park Service is committed to making this great natural wonder available to everyone. This means that there are numerous opportunities for folks with limited mobility to take in the sites and learn about the significance of this massive geological formation.
All of the shuttle buses in the park are wheelchair accessible, though some larger wheelchairs may not fit on the buses. Although the park service seeks to make the activities as accessible as possible, some of the park features were built long before ADA laws were passed, so in some cases, those with mobility issues may require assistance.
The National Park Service provides numerous perks to those who can provide proof of permanent disability. First and foremost, individuals with disabilities can apply for the Interagency Access Pass; a free, non-transferable lifetime pass to all of our nation’s national parks. A Scenic Drive Accessibility Pass can also be obtained from the park service, allowing permanently disabled visitors and their travel buddies to drive some scenic roads that are not typically available to the public. Most of the Ranger Programs and Special Events are also wheelchair accessible such as the Guided Rim Walk and the nighttime Astronomy Programs located on the South RIm.
Grand Canyon National Park makes it easy for disabled travelers by providing an abundance of accessible areas complete with wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. All areas of the park have gift shops, service stations, and lodging options that are fully accessible. To book your fully accessible lodging, check out the Grand Canyon Website. The Mather and North Rim campsites also provide wheelchair-accessible sites but do not have hookups for electricity or RVs.
Wheelchairs are available for rent at Bright Angel Bicycles next to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on the South Rim. On the North Rim, free wheelchairs are provided on a first-come, first-served basis through the North Rim Visitor Center.
Top Accessible Activities in Grand Canyon National Park
There are dozens of specific activities for disabled folks to participate in. The NPS provides a comprehensive guide of activities created by the National Park Service that are suitable for all ages and abilities.
The North Rim area is open from May 15th through mid-October, with two impressive scenic drives possible from this area. The Port Imperial drive is 11 miles one-way and takes you to the highest point in the park, Point Imperial, at 8,803 ft above sea level. From this location, you can overlook the expansive Painted Desert and catch glimpses of Navajo Mountain in Utah and the Vermilion Cliffs.
Following the Cape Royal Road, you will be taken on a 32.5-mile one-way drive with various natural features. You can take in beautiful sights such as Greenland Lake or take a break at Vista Encantada Picnic Area. Despite its name, there are more than a few picnic tables at this enchanting spot, sporting some of the best canyon views from the North Rim.
On the South Rim, the Grand Canyon Village sports a long list of accessible activities. The Trail of Time is a 1.3-mile wheelchair-accessible trail between Verkamp’s Visitor Center and Yavapai Geology Museum which has a beautiful tactile map of the entire canyon. There are many opportunities to seed and touch samples of the Grand Canyon’s rocks and gain a better understanding of the area’s geology. Mather Point also has wheelchair-accessible views of the Grand Canyon and Phantom Ranch, the only lodging below the canyon rim. The Hermit Road and Desert View Drive are magnificent rides with great windshield views of famous landmarks and vistas along the South Rim.
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Wheelchair-Accessible Holiday Events at Grand Canyon National Park
Christmas is a fantastic time to visit the Grand Canyon and can be one of the better times to go weather-wise if you are trying to beat the heat. The El Tovar Hotel is considered one of the best places to stay west of the Mississippi. They have excellent attention to detail and decor during the holiday season and even serve a traditional Christmas dinner and a selection of warm holiday cocktails. Just be sure to make your reservations well in advance for this hot spot to stay!
Christmas time is also a great time to see the Grand Canyon Inversion. During the winter season, the air at the bottom of the canyon sometimes becomes cooler than the air at the top, causing massive cloud formations below the rim. Though this event is never guaranteed because it is subject to the weather, it often happens during wintertime. The phenomenon creates glorious views of the canyon’s formations seemingly rising out of the clouds.
Practical Tips for an Accessible Visit to the Grand Canyon
Traveling in the Grand Canyon as a tourist with limited mobility can come with some hurdles, but is far from impossible in today’s day and age. If you’re planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, and someone in your party uses a wheelchair, scooter, or other mobility device, keep the following in mind:
- Always make sure to check the weather. Some days can be very hot, especially along the Southern Rim.
- Make sure to dress appropriately and equip your mobility device with a fan if needed.
- Drink LOTS of water.
- Know the dimensions of your wheelchair in advance if you plan on using the park’s shuttle buses.
- If you’d like to drive yourself, make your reservation with Wheelchair Getaways to book your rental van in advance.
The Grand Canyon is arguably the most opulent natural wonders in the United States. Everyone deserves the chance to feast their eyes on the stunning views and participate in fun and adventurous activities. Wheelchair Getaways has over 200 locations in the United States – many of which are just a stone’s throw from some of the country’s top national parks! If you’re looking for safe, comfortable, and accessible transportation for your next trip, find our closest location and book your rental today!