Planning a Parkway Trip for Disabled and Differently-Abled Visitors
While the Parkway offers no shortage of challenging hikes and rocky outcroppings to explore, it also has something for all ages, developmental ranges, and mobility levels.
The uninterrupted natural setting and tranquility of a drive on the Parkway is a popular pastime for many. Scenic Overlooks along the Parkway roadway are paved, with beautiful views easily accessible to all visitors. For easy reference, we provide here some ADA Accessible Trails & Attractions.
Caution is recommended near the sidewalks and short walls along overlooks for the elderly and children, as these often create a boundary for very steep drops beyond. If balance is unstable for anyone in your party, it is better to stand back and enjoy the view, hold the hand of your young or elderly companions – or even remain in your vehicle to comfortably look out into the peaks and valleys below.
Extreme caution is always in order for all visitors near waterfalls and streams, where rocks are slippery and waters fast moving.
All Accessible Sites on the Parkway
Full list of NPS facilities, picnic areas, and camp sites along the Parkway
Most Parkway facilities such as Visitor Centers and Picnic Areas are Wheelchair Accessible. You will also find most regional visitor centers in the communities surrounding the Parkway are ADA-accessible.
Otter Lake Loop Trail, Virginia, Milepost 63.1 (handicapped-accessible observation deck on the lakeshore).
Abbott Lake Trail, Peaks of Otter, Virginia, Milepost 85.6, is the only paved ADA-compliant trail on the Parkway, but there are others that are more easily accessible for those with mobility challenges.
Mountain Industry Trail at Mabry Mill, Virginia, Milepost 176.2. Paved path explores entire exhibit area.
High Piney Spur, near Cumberland Knob, NC, Milepost 218.6. Short paved trail to viewpoint.
Cone Manor area, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blowing Rock, NC, Milepost 294. Accessible ramp leads down from Manor House parking area to accessible gravel carriage roads for visiting the manor and nearby vistas.
Bass Lake Loop, Moses Cone Park, Blowing Rock, NC, Milepost 294.6 exit to US 221 and Bass Lake parking area near Blowing Rock. Easy gravel lake loop likely accessible from parking with a wheelchair connection to parking area.
Price Lake Trail, Price Park, NC near Blowing Rock, Milepost 297.2 (pictured at top). Wheelchair accessible ramp leaves south end of Lake View Overlook and is accessible for about 3/4 mile to lake shore observation deck. This section includes accessible creekside fishing spots. Also a TRACK Trail interpretive path. From same parking, trail goes north into campground as paved trail in scenic setting and nearby Price Lake Overlook has an accessible fishing deck.
Linn Cove Viaduct, NC, paved trail goes under span from Linn Cove Visitor Center, Milepost 304.4, NC. Confirm that the visitor center parking lot is available on the NPS website; the access to the visitor center is gated when the center is closed for the season.
Mount Mitchell State Park, NC. Accessible paved trail to peak and top of summit tower. Leave Parkway to state park at Milepost 355.3.
Folk Art Center, Asheville, NC, Milepost 382. Paved 0.4-mile loop.
Waterrock Knob, Milepost 451.2. Very steep paved path to viewpoint; pavement does not extend to the top of the knob.
The Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association, USDA Forest Service, and The Autism Society of North Carolina partnered to offer The Adventure Zone at the Cradle of Forestry Historic Site, located in Pisgah Forest not far from the Parkway .
The Adventure Zone was designed to help children and adults with autism become active in the outdoors and gain a better understanding about the natural world – though the hands-on activities are of interest to kids (and kids at heart) of all ages.