6 Adventure Trips You Can Do in a Wheelchair
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.