A trip to Yellowstone National Park is a definite bucket list item; and the good news is, there are many wheelchair-accessible trails and attractions in America’s first national park. And although everyone knows there’s an accessible boardwalk at Old Faithful, here are a few insider tips I picked up on multiple Yellowstone visits while researching Barrier-Free Travels; Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (get the book on Amazon)
Admire Old Faithful From Afar
Yellowstone visitors usually rush for a good seat around Old Faithful to see the timely eruption. Truth be told, the view is a little better from afar. So check out the geyser from the nicely accessible Visitor Education Center on your next visit. Not only does this newly constructed building offer excellent wheelchair-access, but large picture windows line the front of the building so there’s a great view of the eruptions. It’s also the perfect vantage point in inclement weather.
Look for Bison on Fountain Flat Drive
Fountain Flat Drive, which is just south of Firehole Lake Picnic Area along the road to Old Faithful, is a favorite spot for bison to graze. Although you can also see these massive animals plodding along the park roads, it’s nice to see them in front of a natural backdrop. There’s accessible parking at the end of the three-mile road, with room to get out and check out the animals over in the tall grass. And if you come up empty in the bison department, there’s also a good view of Ojo Caliente hot spring from this spot.
Don’t Miss This Great Photo Op Near Old Faithful
Kepler Cascades, which is a small pullout just south of Old Faithful, is definitely worth a stop. Wheelchair-accessible parking is located near a curb-cut that leads up to a barrier-free overlook on the Firehole River. From there you’ll get a magnificent view of the water crashing down over the rocks. It’s a great Yellowstone photo stop — and most folks completely miss it.
Enjoy a Picnic at Lake Yellowstone
This small picnic area – that unfortunately lacks a name — is located near the north end of Gull Point Road, about a half-mile north of Gull Point Picnic Area. There are just two tables there, but they are located on a level pad and they offer a great view of Yellowstone Lake surrounded by the mountains. Parallel parking is available on a level asphalt area, just steps from the tables, so this spot is especially good for folks who can’t do distances. And even though the tables lack extensions, there’s still room on the end of each one for a wheelchair.
Check Out the Museum of the National Park Ranger
Housed in a historic building that was once an army barracks, and then a ranger station, the Museum of the National Park Ranger is located north of Norris Geyser Basin, just down the road from Norris Campground. Accessible parking is located in front of the museum, with a paved level path to the front door. Inside there’s good pathway access around exhibits that describe ranger duties in the different parks, and include displays of ranger equipment, uniforms and emergency supplies. There’s also a mock-up of a back country ranger cabin, and a small display that depicts what the museum building looked like when it served as an army barracks. Add in a nice collection of historic photos, and a scenic river view from the back porch, and you have a multitude of reasons to visit this impressive museum.
Visit Secluded Frying Pan Spring
Frying Pan Spring, which is located north of Norris Campground on the west side of the road, makes a good stop on the way to Mammoth. There’s no striped parking in the pullout, but there’s usually enough room to parallel park an accessible van in the small paved area. A .08-mile level boardwalk leads from the parking area over to this unusual spring, that’s roughly shaped like a frying pan. There’s also a bench at the end of the boardwalk, if you’d like to sit and admire the view. The best part is, you’ll most likely have this site to yourself too, as it’s not included on any of the park maps, and it really doesn’t look like much from the road.