As a physically disabled hiker with a service dog, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to plan an outdoor adventure with access needs that aren’t typically addressed in guidebooks. I spend hours scouring reviews, trail descriptions, and researching local history before I ever visit a park.
While no trail can ever be accessible to everyone, these lesser-known spots are inviting for slow walkers, disabled people using mobility devices, and families with small children.
Mica View Trail, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona
Come to see the iconic saguaro cactus in its full glory, as well as Gila Woodpeckers and Gilded Flickers who make their homes in nest holes within the cacti. If you’re eager to hit the trail, head to the Mica View Trail (North) in Saguaro National Park East, which offers views of Tanque Verde Peak and Mica Mountain. The hike begins and ends at a wheelchair accessible picnic area (throughout the park, there’s one accessible table at every picnic area and the ground surfaces in all picnic areas are compacted soil and gravel) so you can top off your outing with an al fresco meal or snack.
- Trail length: 1.5 miles round trip (0.7 miles each way).
- Location elevation: 2,179 feet.
- Elevation gain: 40 feet.
- Typical width: 4 feet and up.
- Typical grade: Flat to gentle slope.
- Trail material: Hard packed trail aggregate.
- Trailhead location: Park at Mica View Picnic Area.
- When to visit: Open year-round. Cactus and wildflower blooms begin in February and March, then in late April the majestic saguaro begins to bloom. By June, the fruits are beginning to ripen.
- Special considerations: Drinking water is not available within the park, so bring a quart per person per hour of hiking. Service dogs must be kept on a 6-foot or shorter leash. In the summer months, the temperature climbs above 100 degrees Fahrenheit—park rangers recommend you complete your hike and get back to your vehicle by 10 a.m. Hiking is not recommended on days when the temperature is above 110 degrees. In July, the Sonoran Desert monsoon season begins, and flash floods are a concern.
Arboretum Main Trail, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, Arizona
Visit the largest and oldest botanical garden in the state where roughly 4,000 species of plants are on display. You’ll be met with beautiful wildflowers, succulents, cacti, and other plants from deserts across the globe, as well as interesting geology and local Sonoran Desert vegetation. More than three miles of trails wind through the garden, but the Arboretum Main Trail is the central artery through the park.
- Length: 1.5-mile loop.
- Location elevation: 2,431 feet.
- Elevation gain: 131 feet.
- Typical width: 3 ft and above.
- Typical grade: Gentle incline (estimated grade of 5 percent or less) with steep sections. The portion of the trail with a gentle slope is the western part of the loop. There is a very steep (over 12 percent) section with switchbacks at 0.4 to 0.9 miles when going clockwise.
- Terrain: Sections of paved bridges with railings, smooth packed dirt trail, and gravel/rock surface.
- Trailhead location: Visitor center, next to the accessible parking lot.
Also at the arboretum: Wheelchair accessible picnic tables, hummingbird and butterfly garden, rose garden, desert legume garden, and children’s garden. Private cart tours are offered for visitors who need help navigating the trail.