Arizona goes above and beyond when it comes to accessibility. Not only is it home to one of only two centers in the nation specifically designed for people with disabilities–Ability 360–but its outdoor excursions beckon to all. Whether you build a road trip based on the following guide or work one or two accessible adventures into your existing plans, you’re sure to find out why Arizona is one of our favorite states in the lower 48.
Learn more about Arizona’s pledge to accessibility, here.
This story was created in partnership with Visit Arizona.
1. Journey Into the Earth at Kartchner Caverns State Park
One of the only caves in the world with wheelchair-accessible trails, Kartchner Caverns State Park, in Benson, is a must-see for travelers of all abilities. This extensive limestone cavern was discovered in 1974 and has quickly become one of the most beloved caves in the world. This extensive limestone cavern was discovered in 1974 and became one of Arizona’s 30-plus state parks in 1999. While its legal history is fascinating, the pristine formations within the cave itself are the real showstoppers. Kartchner Caverns contain one of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites, the world’s most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk, the world’s first reported occurrence of “turnip shields,” and more. All that is to say, a cave tour at Kartchner Caverns will impress all visitors—whether it’s your first time going through a cave or your fiftieth.
2. Light Up the Night at Desert Botanical Garden
Did you know that Arizona comes to life after the sun goes down? The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix gives visitors a closer look with their popular Flashlight Nights series. Every Saturday from sunset to 9 p.m., nature lovers of all kinds congregate on the paved walkways of the garden to spot hidden treasures with the beams of their flashlights. Flowering cacti, scurrying mice, and other nocturnal surprises await—including a bar with refreshments and treats to make your visit extra enjoyable.
3. Go on a Safari at Bearizona Wildlife Park
You don’t have to journey overseas to go on safari. Simply road trip to Williams, the Gateway to the Grand Canyon and Bearizona Wildlife Park for the experience of a lifetime. Here you can drive through the 160-acre park in your own vehicle while keeping an eye out for some of North America’s most exciting wildlife. Rescue mountain goats, wolves, bison, and black bears all call this area home. Want to spot smaller creatures? Discover them in the paved walk-thru area known as Fort Bearizona, where winding, paved paths take you through the homes of resident otters, armadillos, and even a porcupine named Turbo who loves to do tricks for treats. Two onsite restaurants, Canyonlands Restaurant and Bearizona Grille, offer food and drink favorites for when your appetite has you ready to feast like a bear.
4. Explore the Grand Canyon: By Rail or By Plane
No trip to the Grand Canyon State is complete without viewing its namesake: Grand Canyon National Park. The south rim is conveniently outfitted in paved trails that make wheelchair access simple, and for those hoping for a more adventurous take, we recommend boarding the Grand Canyon Railway, where sightseeing is complemented by a realistic train robbery reenactment, horses and all. Otherwise, Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters takes passengers of all abilities soaring high above the Colorado River. Their 45-minute flights are a spectacular way to experience one of America’s most iconic treasures.
5. Go Skiing at Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff
The fact that there’s great skiing in the Southwest is another reason why Arizona tops our bucket list. Northern Arizona is truly a great place to hit the slopes in the winter months. Visit Arizona Snowbowl, a cozy resort tucked into the western slope of Mount Humphreys, the tallest point in the state. Their adaptive ski team will guide you through a day on the mountain safely and with a smile, to ensure that you get to experience the thrill of the downhill, unencumbered.
6. Spend a Day on the Lake with Arizona Adaptive Watersports
Arizona is truly one-of-a-kind when it comes to accessibility. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Bartlett Lake with Arizona Adaptive Watersports. Here, people of all abilities—including those with learning and mobility challenges—are guaranteed to have the time of their life on the water in a safe, supportive environment. Whether you’re hoping to simply spend the afternoon fishing or want to try out waterskiing or kayaking for the first time, AZ Adaptive Watersports has the equipment and know-how to make it happen.
7. Visit Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Arizona is home to more than 22 unique state parks and monuments, and many feature wheelchair-accessible trails, viewpoints, and adventures. In particular is Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, located just 30 minutes outside of downtown Flagstaff. This area is a living monument to geology. One thousand years ago, the volcano here erupted in a grand display of lava flows and cinder deposits. Today, wildflowers, pine and aspen trees have repopulated the area, while the evidence of its violent history is still very much alive. Try Bonito Lava Flow trail, a .3-mile wheelchair-accessible paved trail that gently meanders through a field of cinders with expansive views.
8. Access All of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Don’t be discouraged by the thought of dusty displays and aging infrastructure—the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona is anything but stuffy. This diverse destination is home to beautiful gardens, wildlife habitats, interactive exhibits, and even a hummingbird aviary. It also gets a five-star rating for accessibility. Not only are all of the buildings wheelchair accessible, but the museum maintains a small fleet of electric convenience vehicles available on a first-come first-serve basis. ASL interpreters are also available, as are tours for those with visual disabilities. Service animals are also welcome where permitted (although it might be best to avoid the mountain lion enclosure).
9. All Aboard the Dolly Steamboat
In the shadow of the Superstition Mountains (just an hour outside of Phoenix) you’ll find a red-and-white-painted steamboat docked on the calm shores of Canyon Lake. The crew of the Dolly Steamboat welcomes visitors with physical limitations (and service animals) aboard one of three cruises: the scenic nature option, twilight dinner cruise, or astronomy dinner tour. No matter which you select, you’ll enjoy cruising in a climate-controlled environment and enjoying the sights. Keen-eyed cruisers might spot bald eagles, desert bighorn sheep, and stately saguaro cacti.
10. Find Petroglyphs on a Nature Trail
For those visiting the eastern side of Phoenix, accessible outdoor opportunities are right out the back door. The 1.9-mile out and back White Tank Waterfall Trail is a great way to spend the morning in nature. Paved and with a gentle grade for .8 miles, it is wheelchair-friendly. While the final portion contains rocky steps to the waterfall viewpoint that isn’t easily rollable, there is rarely any water running unless it has recently rained. The petroglyphs visible on the lower part of the trail, however, are year-round.