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6 Adventure Trips You Can Do in a Wheelchair

A growing number of outfitters are offering options for adaptive athletes

(Courtsy AccesSurf)

A growing number of outfitters are offering options for adaptive athletes

Recently, I got a letter from an Outside subscriber who said this: “I’d love to do any of the suggestions you raised for a bucket list, but I’m in a wheelchair. I can walk about 100 yards, but that’s it. It doesn’t hold me back too much—I just got back from Denali, and last year Yellowstone, but I’m not hiking or climbing mountains. How about writing an article about adventure trips for those who are wheelchair-bound?”

Dave, this one is for you.


Honolulu, Hawaii


Learn to surf on specialized boards with help from some of surfing’s best instructors through AccesSurf, which hosts free workshops for anyone with a disability once a month at White Plains Beach Park, 40 minutes from Honolulu. If you’re already an experienced surfer, the program’s Hawaii Adaptive Surf Team, formed in 2014, provides coaching to those who want to give competition a try.

Backcountry Skiing

Telluride, Colorado

(Telluride Adaptive Sports)

At Telluride Adaptive Sports, through a partnership with San Juan Mountain School, you can sign up for a customized backcountry ski tour suitable for sitskiers. You’ll learn the basics of backcountry safety and get outfitted with a lightweight sitski, and then a harnessed guide will you tow you uphill using ropes. This is one of the only programs in the country offering guided uphill backcountry travel for skiers with disabilities. The program also offers heli-skiing through Telluride’s Helitrax.


San Francisco, California

(Courtesy Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors)

With the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors, you’ll sail through the San Francisco Bay, around Treasure Island, under Golden Gate Bridge, and past AT&T Park aboard a specially rigged keelboat or an accessible Hansa dinghy. The boats are weighted to keep them stable and upright. Participants with limited use of their upper body can use boats with electronic joysticks to steer the helm. The group takes sailors of all experience and ability levels out every weekend, year round.


Bozeman, Montana

(Access Unlimited)

Jess Alberi sustained a spinal cord injury while elk hunting in 2008. Seven years later, he and his friend Steve Miller formed a Bozeman nonprofit called Access Unlimited to help those with life-altering injuries experience the outdoors. Today, the organization offers guided fly-fishing trips around southwest Montana for anyone with a range of disabilities. You’ll fish for trout in a customized boat floating down the Madison and Yellowstone Rivers and stay in a plush riverside lodge. Costs range per trip, and many trips are subsidized through donations.

Sea Kayaking

Phippsburg, Maine

(Courtesy Maine Adaptive Sports)

Maine Adaptive Sports offers summertime paddling trips that start in a pond in Range Ponds State Park, then advance to the mellow, Class I Androscoggin River in Bethel, and eventually head out for a more-advanced ocean kayak leaving from Sebasco Estates in Phippsburg, Maine. The program also offers trips—all of which are free for participants—ranging from fly-fishing, cross-country skiing, and road cycling.

Mountain Biking

Killington, Vermont

(Courtsey Vermont Adaptive)

This past summer, Vermont Adaptive launched one of New England’s first adaptive mountain bike programs. You can bring your own equipment or borrow one of the program’s specially built off-road hand cycles, handmade in Crested Butte, Colorado. You’ll ride trails around Killington, Warren, and Montpelier with a guide to show you the way.

Filed To: Maine / Telluride / Surfing / Fishing / Adventure / Sports / Climbing / Colorado / San Francisco / Bozeman
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.