If you’re searching for an activity where you can see beautiful views, find manageable hikes, and even sunbathe on accessible beaches, the U.S. National Parks system is a great place to look. With over 2,000 federal recreation sites (including parks, forests, and seashores), our national park system provides something for everyone.
If you’re a senior looking to spend some time in nature, then these seven parks are the best options, combining accessibility, affordability, and uniquely American splendor.
National Parks Discount for Seniors
People ages 62 and older can buy discounted national parks passes. At $20, the Annual Senior Pass gives the pass holder one year of unlimited access to any national park. At $80, the Lifetime Senior Pass gives the pass holder unlimited access to any national park for the rest of their life.
For comparison, an all-ages annual pass costs $80, and there’s no option for a lifetime pass. Senior passes can also give you discounts on campsites and other park amenities. To learn more about this special pass for seniors, read our full guide to National Parks discounts for seniors.
To begin, let’s acknowledge that older adults are not a monolith, and they have differing abilities and vacation preferences in general, like any other age group. However, to create this list, we looked for national parks that are not only beautiful, but also accessible in terms of wheelchairs, vision impairment accommodations, deaf or hard of hearing accommodations, free ground transportation, and campgrounds and facilities that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We also took pricing into account, prioritizing parks that offered one-day and even free passes.
Acadia National Park, Maine
About one million people with cognitive, mobility, hearing, or vision issues visit Maine’s Acadia National Park every year. Located on miles of the state’s rocky coast, the park offers free and wheelchair-accessible Island Explorer buses, which stop throughout the park’s carriage road entrances, trailheads, and campgrounds regularly.
Those who need accommodations can also request pickups from up to three-quarters of a mile off the regular bus route. Service animals are allowed on all park trails, and the park can accommodate the deaf or hard of hearing with live audio description, sign language interpretation, or assistive listening devices.
Additionally, those with mobility issues are able to use the following other power drive mobility devices (OPDMD) such as:
Other nontraditional wheelchairs and micro-mobility devices
The following trails are compatible with OPDMDs:
Cadillac Summit and Loop Trail
You can also use them in carriage houses such as:
Marshall Brook Fire Road
Valley Cove Road
Man O’War Brook
If you’re tired of hiking, hang out on Echo Lake Beach using a beach wheelchair with inflatable tires. There are even wheelchair-accessible carriages for a relaxing horse-and-buggy ride!
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
You may think of the Grand Canyon hiking trail as one that’s steep, rugged, and narrow, and you’re right. However, the park allows for seniors with mobility issues to enjoy the amazing views and walk on paved walkways toward the top of the canyon.
There are no private vehicles allowed in Grand Canyon National Park, save for around the park’s hotels. Rather, everyone gets around through shuttle buses, all of which have ramps and space for wheelchairs under 30 inches wide by 48 inches long. Additionally, you can bring your service animal on the shuttle buses, as well as on trails and facilities. While you may not be able to hike down the bottom of the canyon comfortably, you can certainly take advantage of the amazing scenery toward the top of the canyon.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Known for its naturally gorgeous Lily Lake, Bear Lake, and Coyote Valley Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park also boasts scenic overlooks, trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds for everyone to enjoy. Seniors with mobility issues can use all-terrain wheelchairs for dirt or snow-covered roads as well as rockier trails, and can reserve them without fees.
On top of that, three out of the five campgrounds on the site are wheelchair-accessible: Moraine Park, Glacier Basin, and Timber Creek. There’s a free shuttle bus service with wheelchair lifts and tie downs, service animals are permitted, and you can use Electric Personal Assistance Mobility Services (EPAMD), which includes Segways, on the following park trails:
Coyote Valley Trail
Lily Lake Trail
Holzwarth Historic Site Access Road
Sprague Lake Trail
Additionally, you can use EPAMDs on sidewalks, in parking areas, or on any roads closed to motor vehicles unless otherwise posted.
Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania
For the history buff out there, you’ll love learning about our nation’s past at the Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania. The good news is that the battlefield itself is free and open every day from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Aside from special exhibits, the museum and visitor center are free, as well.
We recommend taking a private two-hour tour with a Licensed Battlefield Guide. Tours are available daily on a first-come, first-serve basis, or you can book one in advance. But what makes these tours so accessible for seniors is that you can take one on a car or a bus in addition to a bicycle. Car tours are more expensive than bus tours, but note that double-decker bus tours aren’t wheelchair-accessible. Here are the car tour prices:
Number of people per vehicle
1 to 6
7 to 15
16 or more
And the bus tour prices are as follows:
Age of visitors on bus tour
5 and under
6 to 12
13 and older
Price of bus tour
After your tour, visit the Eisenhower National Historic Site and the David Willis House to soak up even more history.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, Florida
Located in St. Augustine, Florida, this fort was built by the Spanish in order to defend Florida and the Atlantic trade route. The oldest masonry fortification in the continental U.S., this national monument is another great place to visit if you want to learn more about U.S. history. Accommodations for older adults and people with disabilities include:
Service animals permitted
Free accessible parking
Rental wheelchairs available
Wheelchair-accessible lower level
Paved pedestrian walkways, for the most part
Redwood National and State Parks, California
Want a vacation with a variety of activities? Meet the Redwood National and State Parks, which includes not only the acclaimed Redwood Forest but also prairies, rivers, hills, trails, and even beaches. The best part? They’re all completely free, not to mention accessible for seniors, with ADA-compliant campsites and parking. Two campgrounds have ADA-accessible cabins, and you can rent wheelchairs and beach wheelchairs. While not all trails are paved, even the gravel ones are well-compacted enough to be accessible to those with mobility issues.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Last not but not least, experience the naturally beautiful wildflowers, waterfalls, and wooded hollows of Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park; over 200,000 acres of nature to explore, to be exact. See animals like songbirds, deer, and bears in their natural habitats, and stay in accessible overnight lodgings like Lewis Mountain, Skyland Resort, and Big Meadows Lodge.
All picnic grounds and campgrounds are accessible, as is the Limberlost Trail. Plus, the park offers assisted listening devices for ranger programs and park films, so even those who are deaf or hard of hearing can join in on the learning (not to mention the fun)!
Getting older doesn’t mean that national parks aren’t a viable option for your next vacation. Rather, the National Park Service (NPS) wants people with disabilities to benefit equally from its indoor and outdoor attractions. For more information, find a park on the NPS website. The site will tell you which campgrounds, trails, and other features of the national park are wheelchair-accessible, and how the park accommodates the hearing and vision-impaired. Once you find a park, check out our page on the national parks pass for seniors, which can save you money on your travels.
Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here