Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Yellowstone National Park's Accessibility Features

by Kevin Hansen, Information & Data Specialist

large wooden sign at the entrance of park stating Yellowstone National Park
photo courtesy of nps.gov
Are you looking for a vacation in the great outdoors but unsure if going to a National Park is right for you? I recently traveled to Yellowstone National Park and the following is what I found in regards to park accessibility. 

One of the best features of Yellowstone is its accessibility for wheelchair and scooter users. The park allows motorized wheelchairs, scooters and service animals.  In fact, Yellowstone has miles of accessible trails to walk or roll on. Other accessibility features include devices and services for low vision, blind, hard of hearing and deaf individuals. 

Geyser eruption of Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park at dusk
photo courtesy of nps.gov

Old Faithful Geyser is the most popular destination in Yellowstone. At Old Faithful you will find miles of accessible paved or wooden paths for sightseeing. Once you have parked in the parking lot, there is a ramped deck walkway that surrounds Old Faithful with plenty of seating to sit and watch the next eruption. With miles of accessible ramps and paved road, wheelchair users can easily go and view hot springs, rivers, mud pits and more geysers.

photo of a gentlemen in a wheelchair reading a sign at Yellowstone National Park - there are a dozen or so other people behind him some on benches and some standing

photo courtesy of nps.gov

Most of the paths or trails in the park have ramps and are designed for the safety purposes of everyone. The natural underground water from geysers makes it too dangerous in some places to walk on the soil, hence Yellowstone's extensive elevated wood planked paths.  

Yellowstone also offers accessible camping sites. Each site has at least one and up to five accessible camping spots. If camping in a tent isn’t for you there are accessible hotels or cabins in Yellowstone.  You might have to call ahead to make sure you can reserve an accessible room. The Dunraven and Cascade lodges are just two of the many options for hotels or cabins to stay in.   

photo of two wheelchair users on wooden pathway with hot springs on their sides
photo courtesy of blog.amsvans.com
Yellowstone also offers wheelchair rentals. Rentals are available at every lodge except the Roosevelt location. Furthermore, at Yellowstone park, you will also find access to fishing in lakes and rivers.

Yellowstone offers films that include assistive listening devices and closed captioning. Some of the films have audio descriptions available as well. 

In addition, if you call ahead and make arrangements three weeks in advance, they will provide sign language interpreters at the ranger stations for you. Finally, the park newspaper is available in Braille and large print for the public at the visitor centers.

If you would like to travel to a national park, go to the National Park Service website to view and read about all of the different national parks that the U.S. offers. Once you find the park that you would like to visit, click on "plan your visit" and look for the accessibility options. For Yellowstone they have a PDF file that you can view online or download and print out called Accessibility in Yellowstone. This guide breaks down the different park attractions and the accessibility of each area within the park.

With their accessibility features –and some study and preparation in advance—Yellowstone and other National Parks do allow individuals with disabilities to get out into the wilderness and enjoy nature .



  1. I firmly beleive that persons with disability should have the opportunity to get into the wilderness and enjoy nature. I am positive there must be some way to make it happen. Briany from New Jersey

  2. Wow! This is interesting information about Yellowstone. The experience that I have with Yellowstone is very different though it has been a very long time since I was there. My family and I went to Yellowstone for a summer vacation and while touring the park, I was in a very bad accident. I attempted to cross a curvy road to look at some snow, but was hit by a Winnebego motorhome while walking across. The motorhome was travelling at about 40 mph. To make a long story short, it seems the Park staff was not prepared for any kind of accident. I lay in the road for an hour and a half waiting for a rescue helicopter to come and get me and fly me to the nearest hospital which was in Idaho Falls. Supposedly, the helicopter was having engine problems. Traffic was backed up for miles both ways as I lay in the middle of the road. My body was experiencing massive convulsions and thank God that some nurses and a doctor just happened to be traveling in the park at the time. They were able to stabilize me until the rescue helicopter arrived. As a matter of fact, this accident happened on July 18. That was 27 years ago today. I am glad to hear that Yellowstone is now so accessible (prepared) for accommodating the needs of individuals with disabilities. Who knows, maybe what happened to me had some influence on them making these changes.