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More tips for accessible hiking

Ski slopes full of downed trees.

The slopes of Ski Apache are shown here, along with downed and damaged trees. The steep terrain has made this restoration project difficult to begin, but work is on track now, thanks to one specialized company willing to tackle the challenge. Forest Service photo by Denise Ottaviano.

To meet these guidelines, trails must have a firm, stable surface. Paving is not required. Grades are generally five percent or less. As a matter of perspective, ramps are generally 8.33 percent or less. There may be short lengths of grades up to 12 percent, followed by a short length of level trail where visitors can rest.

Always check with the national forests or grassland you’re visiting if you have specific questions.

Short hikes listed by state

Click here for a list of short hikes organized by state.


Wheelchairs and mobility devices

Any wheelchair or mobility device that meets both parts of the legal definition of a wheelchair (36 CFR 212.1, Forest Service Manual 2305.05 and ADA Title V, Section 508c, for use in Wilderness areas) is allowed to be used anywhere foot travel is allowed on the National Forest System.


Service animals

A man sitting with his dogA service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.

Other species of animals, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the under this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability.

Animals those whose sole purpose is to provide emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship, or to serve a crime deterrent, do not qualify as service animals under this definition.

There is NO requirement for any type of service animal certification, registration, identifying vest or other standardized identification. Service Animals are only required to be “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability”. An individual with a disability may train their own service animal.

A person with a service animal has the right to be accompanied by their service animal. However, they are also obligated to control the service animal in a way that is appropriate to the setting and that complies with the law. This includes housebreaking the animal. Control may be maintained with a leash, tether, or harness. However, in the event that this is impossible or impractical due to disability or safety, the animal may be controlled via voice commands, signals, or other mechanisms.


Before you go

  • Before you head for the trail, check that national forest or grasslands website to make sure the trail is open that day.
  • Before you head for the trails, let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
  • It's a good idea to have a buddy hike with you—especially if it's your first time.’
  • Be sure to take water and a fully charged cell phone. A cell phone can be a useful tool, but don’t rely on it exclusively. Take a map and compass, and know how to use them. 
  • Stay on the trails; stepping off trails can damage them and cause soil erosion.
  • Keep your distance from any wild animals you encounter.
  • Check if pets and other animals are permitted on the trail (service animals are always allowed)
  • Make no open fires and bring no glass on the trails.
  • Help keep our trails and forests beautiful. Pack out your trash and leave only footprints.


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