“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”
That’s what they say, right? We haven’t been to Colorado as a family, and it’s probably not the first place that comes to mind for accessibility, which is why I’m so excited for this guest post from Exploryst. Exploryst is Colorado’s first travel website for EVERYONE. I asked if they could put together a guide of some of Colorado’s best, wheelchair accessible destinations for us. Now we’re ready to visit! For more information or to contact Exploryst directly, please feel free to reach out to Angela Wilson, Founder & CEO at email@example.com.
If you require accessible activities, people assume that Colorado is not the place to go.
“I’ll be stuck in the car most of the time since its rugged and mountainous.”
“I can’t enjoy the mountains because I have low vision.”
“My disability will not allow me to enjoy my time.”
Accessible Adventure in Colorado
Main Airport: Denver International Airport (DIA) – 100% wheelchair accessible. Check out the DIA conspiracy theories that have run rampant over the past several years. Technically, Colorado is classified as one of the Mountain states, but only about half of its area lies in the Rocky Mountains. No matter the time of year, Colorado offers something for everyone, no matter your disability.
Along with being the most populated and visited city in Colorado, Denver is also the most accessible to the spectrum of disabilities. Colorado visitors with any level of mobility restrictions, hearing loss, or low vision will be delighted to know that there is much for them to see and do in the Mile High City. Whether you plan to stay in Denver or just pass through, here are some of the best things to do.
Allow 2 hours – ½ day for this activity
In the heart of downtown Denver, the 16th St. Mall is the premier downtown strip. This mile long pedestrian promenade is chock-full of things to see and do. The route is lined with historic buildings, outdoor cafes, skyscrapers, shops, retail stores, and restaurants. There are also numerous fountains and plazas which offer daily special events and entertainment.
This pedestrian walkway is as accessible as any paved ground, and there is a wheelchair accessible shuttle that runs the length. All disabilities are welcome. If you are visiting Denver, this is a must have on the itinerary.
Allow 1-3 hours for this activity
The Denver Botanic Gardens is one of the largest in the United States. The peaceful gardens house a wide array of thriving plant life that’s hard not to appreciate. Be sure not to miss the therapeutic horticulture programs which allow visitors to see, smell, touch, hear, and taste the sensory garden, which was designed in 2009 in collaboration with the Denver Office of Disability Rights.
The entirety of the indoor/outdoor garden is mostly accessible by wheelchair; a map of accessible routes is available, with in-person assistance always close by. Wheelchair rentals are currently unavailable, so be sure to bring your own to enjoy this relaxing activity. Tours are available throughout the year which may help visitors who are blind or have low vision fully appreciate the gardens.
Allow 2+ hours for this activity. For a great way to spend a day, the huge Denver Art Museum holds a vast collection of works, which spans American Indian, African, Asian, European, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic Art, and more. The Native American galleries is especially vast, with pieces covering many tribes and cultures from throughout North America. The museum also houses modern and contemporary art galleries which feature both well-known and emerging names in diverse mediums. Additionally, you can always count on the Denver Art Museum to host exciting and interesting revolving exhibitions.
The accessibility options here are world class, and every public area and restroom in the museum is wheelchair accessible. Standard manual wheelchairs are available for visitors free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis at the Hamilton Building’s welcome center. Portable stools are available throughout the museum and can be used for seating in our galleries. For deaf and hard of hearing visitors, ASL interpreters are available (with 5-day advance notice) and open captions or transcripts are available in English and Spanish for all exhibition videos. Please review the museum’s accessibility page for more information about the extensive services for blind and low vision visitors, neuro-diverse visitors, and customizable and adaptable tours.
Allow 3-5 hours for this activity
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Colorado during baseball season, Coors Field in the heart of Denver houses the MLB team the Colorado Rockies. Sports fan or not, taking in a game of America’s Pastime is always a fun and exciting experience. Beer, hot dogs, nachos, popcorn pairs well with the roar of the crowd while the sense of comradery with fellow patrons connects you closer to Colorado then you could have ever thought. If you are adventurous, try the local delicacy, Rocky Mountain Oysters.
If baseball is in its offseason, you could still take a fully accessible tour of Coors and behold colorful Colorado from inside one of the most recently constructed MLB parks in America. Being a newer park means Coors was built with accessibility in mind. There are approximately 1,000 accessible and companion seats throughout Coors, all with an open line of sight. Also, the guest relations center offers devices to assist both hard of hearing and low vision guests. Coors field is a landmark in Denver, and its commitment to being accessible means you don’t have to miss it.
If you are more adventurous and want to take a road trip out of Denver, here are some really great places to go.
Staunton State Park and Track Chair Program – Pine, Co (0:50 from Denver)
Allow 2+ hours for this activity. This gorgeous state park about 40 miles southwest of Denver is the perfect location for those with any disability to take in the majesty of the Rockies. This newer state parks opened in 2013. Because of that, it is no surprise that this park participates in the revolutionary Track Chair Program. From June – November, this park offers allows you to reserve a track wheelchair fit to tackle tough terrain (included in the cost of park admission). There are currently three track chair trails that offers spectacular views of Pikes Peak, Lions Head & Mount Rosalie. Besides the trails, the park also has an ADA quality fishing pier (and adaptive fishing equipment) to allow everybody who wants to fish the opportunity.
Garden of the Gods – Colorado Springs, CO (1:13 from Denver)
Allow 1-3 hours for this activity. Garden of the Gods is a public park and designated as a National Natural Landmark. The Garden of the Gods Park is popular for hiking, technical rock climbing, road and mountain biking and horseback riding. It attracts more than two million visitors a year, making it the city’s most visited park. There are 21 miles of trails.
Wheelchair- Accessible-There are plenty of accessible parking and restrooms at most large parking lots. The paved 1.5-mile Perkins Central Garden Trail takes you in to the heart of the park and passes the bases of the highest rock formations. There is a 30-foot change of elevation on the trail, but there are level spots every 50 feet, and plenty of places to sit down and rest.
Blind/Low Vision – There are guided nature tours, but no adjustments that goes beyond the standard tour language.
Deaf/Hard of Hearing – Brochures about the area have detailed information, but nothing is readable during tours or nature walks.
Royal Gorge Bridge – Cañon City, CO (2:18 from Denver; 1 hour from Colorado Springs)
Allow 1-2 hours for this activity. The Royal Gorge Bridge is 1,000 feet above the Arkansas river and is one of the biggest suspension bridges you will find. It is built over a breathtaking canyon.
Begin your Colorado adventure experiencing 360° of adrenaline packed rides and breathtaking views at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park! Home to America’s highest suspension bridge, Colorado’s #1 Bucket List Zip Line, and World’s Scariest Skycoaster, the park has something for everyone.
Wheelchair- Accessible –The visitor center, gondolas (round-trip only), theater, and bridge are all wheelchair accessible.
From the Owners:
Although there are areas of the park that are not accessible by wheelchair, much of our park is physically accessible. The visitor center, gondolas, theater, and bridge are all wheelchair accessible. Chairs must be no wider than 30″ to fit onto the gondola. There is no wheelchair ramp on the South deck of the gondola, however, so you do need to ride it round trip back to the visitor center. You can reach the attractions on the south side via the bridge. We also have a golf cart available on a first come, first served basis that is wheelchair accessible. We do not have wheelchair rentals here at the park due to maintenance and liability reasons, but you are welcome to bring your own.
Cloudscraper Zip Line
The zip line restrictions are set by the ride manufacturer and we must strictly enforce them for safety reasons. The minimum weight requirement of 100 pounds is especially important. If the winds are high in the gorge, they increase the minimum weight to ensure the rider can make it all the way across. We don’t know what the minimum weight will be in advance. If they must up the minimum weight, it will be posted at the beginning of the cue line and announced to those waiting in line before they purchase their ticket. If it changes after the ticket is purchased, a refund will be given. Our website does alert guests that wind can change the weight requirements on this ride. We ask guests to confirm CURRENT weight restrictions before purchasing ticket.
We recommend guests with spinal or neck injuries or pregnant women do not ride the zip line. All others are at their own discretion and must sign the waiver of liability. Our insurance does not allow us to assist any guest into or out of the zipline chair. Guests ride the gondola to the south rim, then walk up a short hill to the zipline tower. They need to be able to climb the stairs to the zip tower (about 20), get into the chair (which is like sitting in a chair) and hop out of the chair at the end of the ride (about 2’ to the platform). A guest can get assistance from someone in their group if they need help getting onto the ride or off. If that is the case, they need to have someone at each end of the ride to help.
There is a video presentation in the Plaza Theater that is available for viewing on the half hour and is about 20 minutes in length, giving a rich video history of the park. There are three early news reals at the start that are not captioned, but the film itself is.
Colorado Jeep Tours – Cañon City, CO
Allow ½ day – full day for this activity. Colorado Jeep Tours, in Canon City, offers YEAR-ROUND, off-road Jeep tours throughout the gold mining regions of Victor and Cripple Creek, the Royal Gorge, and Red Canyon. These informative and scenic tours include information about geology, paleontology, and western history. Come see the most beautiful trails in south-central Colorado.
Please contact them before booking if you have any disabilities. They should be able to provide the assistance you need to have a great adventure. Accessibility -If you can be assisted into the jeeps, they can strap you in and you are ready to go. Tour guides are trained to provide descriptions for blind/low vision clients. Tour information is available on iPads for deaf/hard of hearing with ASL and written descriptions of the entire tour.
Great Sand Dunes National Park – Mosca, CO (3:45 from Denver, 2:36 from Colorado Springs)
Allow 3 hours to ½ day for this activity. Open all day and night year-round, the tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Experience a starry sky on moonless nights, or a surreal walk on the dunes under bright full moonlight.
Hiking the dunes is one of the most popular park activities. Great Sand Dunes protects the tallest sand dunes in North America, with the legendary Star Dune towering at 755 feet. Visitors can climb and explore any part of the 30 square mile dune field, but in summer it’s recommended to do so in the early mornings or evenings to avoid the heat of the day.
Accessibility – Check out a free sand dunes wheelchair at the visitor center and explore into the dunes beyond the parking area. Reserve a child or adult chair in advance at 719-378-6395. Please contact the park directly for more information about other disability accessible options.
We visited the Sand Dunes before we were married and had our son, so we did not utilize the sand dunes wheelchairs. You probably won’t be able to get to the top of the dunes, but it should still be a great ride.