Grand Canyon National Park celebrates its 100 birthday today; and although the canyon itself has been around for thousands of years, access upgrades are continually added to the facilities that dot the rim. From accessible trails, tours and attractions, there’s no shortage of activities for wheelchair-users and slow walkers in one of America’s favorite national parks. Here are a few favorites.
Bright Angel History Room
Located just off the lobby of the Bright Angel Hotel on the South Rim, the Bright Angel History Room features exhibits that chronicle the history of the Fred Harvey Company, El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge. There is level access to the room through a wide doorway, and plenty plenty of space to maneuver a wheelchair inside. Exhibits include artifacts from these two Harvey Houses, as well as old photos, an 1880 Harvey House dinner gong, and even a vintage Harvey Girl uniform. There’s also information and photos about a Harvey Indian Detour excursion, which took train passengers on a five-night trip to nearby Native American sites.
Trail of Time
The 1.3-mile Trail of Time follows the South Rim from the Yavapai Geology Museum to Verkamp’s Visitor Center. This paved, level trail helps visitors understand the magnitude of geologic time. The geologic timeline is marked by brass medallions embedded in the pavement; while interpretive exhibits and displays along the way encourage visitors to connect the visible rocks in the canyon to the geologic timeline. Wheelchair-height viewing scopes are available and accessible pictograms point out the wheelchair-accessible route. It’s an accessible and educational interpretive trail.
Xanterra South Rim Bus Tours
If you’d like to leave the driving to someone else or don’t have any accessible transportation, then consider one of Xanterra’s (www.grandcanyonlodges.com) narrated bus tours of the South Rim. Choose from the one-and-a-half-hour Sunrise Tour that covers the west end of the park, the two-hour Hermits Rest Tour, the four-hour Desert View Drive Tour or the ever popular one-and-a-half-hour Sunset Tour that concludes with sunset at a popular canyon viewpoint. Accessible buses are available with 48-hours advance notice, but it’s best to reserve space as far in advance as possible, as these tours fill up quickly.
The Tusayan Museum, which is located between Lipan Point and Moran Point, is a must-stop along Desert View Drive. There’s level access from the accessible parking areas to this small museum, which features exhibits about the ancestral pueblo people who inhabited the site 800 years ago. Outside, a quarter-mile accessible trail winds around the former pueblo site, with interpretive signs along the way. There’s also level access to a small shaded picnic area across from the museum, which has a few accessible tables. And since it’s not marked as a picnic area on the park map, it’s usually not crowded.
Cape Royal Trail
Last but not least, don’t miss the Cape Royal Trail, located on the North Rim at the end of the scenic drive. The views along this paved accessible route are to-die-for, with a teaser glimpse of Angels Window just a short walk from the parking lot. The canyon views continue, and near the .4-mile mark the trail branches off to the left towards Angels Window. It’s just a 300-foot stroll out to the accessible overlook, which offers a panoramic canyon view with the Colorado River in the distance. Plus there’s a comfy bench perched on the rim, so you can sit and enjoy the scenery for a spell. Back on the main trail, it’s just a short walk out to Cape Royal, which offers an equally impressive display of eye-popping canyon views..