Author: Debbie Tullos
Many of us take for granted that getting out to enjoy nature is as simple as lacing up our hiking boots and hitting the trail, but negotiating roots, rocks and inclines isn’t in the scope of ability for everyone. Here’s a closer look at some of the locations in North Carolina parks that let everyone get a little closer to nature.
Raven Rock State Park: Longleaf Loop Trail
The Longleaf Loop Trail at Raven Rock State Park is a short, wheelchair-accessible natural surface trail with educational displays along the way. You’ll see evidence of how the park uses various ecosystem management techniques, like prescribed fires, and you’re likely to see native wildlife like adorable fox squirrels.
Goose Creek State Park: Palmetto Boardwalk Trail
Goose Creek State Park offers beautiful scenery along the Pamlico River, with miles of trails including the Palmetto Boardwalk Trail. This rambling, wheelchair-accessible boardwalk allows nature-lovers to stroll or roll across a freshwater marsh.
A junction with Tar Kiln Trail head can be found at the base of the boardwalk.
Pisgah National Forest: Looking Glass Falls
While the actual trail down to Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest has a steep grade, there is an accessible wooden observation deck just off Hwy. 276 which allows this spectacular view. Parking may be a bit limited during busy times, as there is only parallel parking along the shoulder of the road with no designated handicap-accessible spaces. Clearance on the paved shoulder, however, should allow most people plenty of room to safely maneuver.
Morrow Mountain State Park Fishing Pier
If your favorite outdoor activity is casting a line out to see what’s bitin’, Morrow Mountain State Park is set up to help you pass the time with ease. This fishing pier, newly constructed in the fall of 2021, was built in partnership with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
Carolina Beach State Park: Flytrap Trail & Fitness Trail
The Flytrap Trail takes you through several types of ecosystems and terrain. It’s a wheelchair-accessible loop through pocosin wetlands, longleaf pine, and wiregrass savanna communities. Parts of the trail travel along wooden boardwalks, while other sections are natural, slightly sandy stretches. Depending on the season, rangers host weekly guided Carnivorous Plant Hikes or Biological Wonderland Hikes. These guided hikes are the best way to learn about the remarkable surroundings, including rare native plants like the famous Venus Flytrap. The trail also puts on a beautiful show of spring wildflowers.
The Fitness Trail is actually located in a little patch of forest outside the gates of Carolina Beach State Park, just off 7th Street. You’ll need to park at the Carolina Beach Recreation Center and cross the street to enter the trail, which is very well marked with an entry archway. This wheelchair-accessible natural and gravel surface loop has several exercise and activity stations set up along the way.
More Information about Accessibility in North Carolina Parks
These are just a few highlights in a few parks of the many ways North Carolina parks are working to make the outdoors more available and accessible to everyone. See below for more complete information about all types of accessibility within North Carolina State Parks, and all activities available at each park:
- NC State Parks Handicap Accessible Trails
- Complete List of Accessibility at All NC State Parks, including parking, etc.
- NC State Parks List with full amenities included
- NC State Parks Events and Programs