Once home to cowboys and gold seekers of the Old West, Colorado is now a place for adventurers and explorers who want to let the good times roll.
South-west-ish, on the map of America, Colorado boasts rich cultural heritage. Its many and varied outdoor recreational pursuits put it in a special ‘healthy state’ category. The geography is spectacular, and ranges from alpine mountains, high plains, deserts, sand dunes, rivers, and deep craggy canyons.
Colorado’s cities have a particularly laid-back personality. Denver, the capital, is a cultural haven. There, you’ll find beautiful 19th century architecture with a youthful edge, thanks to its vibrant street art scene, cool food markets, pubs with innovative chefs, brewers, and mixologists.
Accessible attractions in Denver, Colorado include the Denver Zoo, Botanic Gardens, Denver Art Museum, and Denver Center of Performing Arts. It’s also home to the epic Red Rocks Ampitheatre – a must for an outdoor summer concert experience, with accessible seating. Plus, sports fans will feel right at home sharing a city with the Denver Broncos.
Heading north from Denver, you’ll find Fort Collins – a university town with a growing culinary scene, filled with local produce and a reputation as the craft beer capital of Colorado. Fort Collins is surrounded by beautiful natural areas, many with paved and accessible trails, like the Fossil Creek Trail (8.3km). The Poudre Trail (20km) follows the meandering course of the Poudre River, and there are beautiful areas along the river’s banks to check out (including Butterfly Woods, Riverbend Ponds, Kingfisher Point, and Arapahoe Point). There are plenty of short trails for quick joints, and there are also interpretive loops available.
A number of centers and associations throughout Colorado have developed adaptive activities, with trained instructors and state-of-the-art equipment. From hiking trails and rock climbing, to skiing and showshoe tours, Colorado offers a variety of year-round activities for people travelling with a disability, seeking both indoor and outdoor adventures.
Here are some more of the great range of accessible experiences in Colorado, for travellers of all abilities.
U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs is a fantastic accessible and interactive museum. Some of the universal design technologies incorporated into the space include open captions, audio description tracks, assisted listening, and accessible exhibit spaces. The museum is American Disability Act (ADA) compliant throughout.
Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center
While the rugged terrain certainly adds to the atmosphere of the Pikes Peak summit, it’s not always easy to navigate. It’s the highest summit of the Southern Front range of the Rocky Mountains.
One of the most ambitious adaptations in the Summit House Visitor Center is the upgrade to the outdoor experience (construction completed in 2021). The upgraded facilities provide maximum accessibility to guests of all ages and abilities. Guests can navigate to multiple points of interest on the summit, no matter their mode of mobility. The new building and exterior walkways are all ADA-compliant, including the new connecting walkway through the centre of the summit.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway
For railway buffs, this is a Colorado must-see! Take a nine mile rail journey to the summit of a mountain, surrounded by breathtaking scenery and wildlife aplenty. Not only is this the highest railway in the United States, it’s also the highest cog railway in the world.
The Broadmoor & Manitou Springs Pikes Peak Cog Railway’s train platforms are ADA accessible, with a new elevator for guests to use. At the top of the mountain, you’ll find a new ADA-compliant visitor centre complex, elevators, ramps, toilets, and other assistive inclusions.
Pikes Peak is one of the only high-altitude destinations in the world that is easily accessible for people who live with disabilities.
Wilderness On Wheels (WOW)
Wilderness On Wheels Foundation’s mission is to stimulate the development of access to natural outdoor environments for people who live with disabilities. One of the most significant WOW accomplishments is the construction of a mile-long, 8ft-wide boardwalk, 60 miles west of Denver near Grant.
The accessible path starts at 9,100ft (2773m) and goes all the way to the top of the 12,300ft (3749m) mountain. It’s open from Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) to mid-October, and it’s free! If you want to hang around to enjoy more than the view, there’s great fishing and camping at the site, including overnight cabins.
Colorado Jeep Tours
How about off-road adventures in Colorado? Check out Colorado Jeep Tours. Based in Cañon City, they offer interpretive tours of the Royal Gorge, Red Canyon, and the historic gold mining district of Cripple Creek and Victor. Take in the glorious scenery while learning more about Old West history, geology, and palaeontology (plenty of dinosaur sites to see!).
All tours are done in American Sign Language (ASL) for d/Deaf and hearing-impaired clients.
Crested Butte has an adaptive sports centre which offers one of the only downhill mountain biking programs in the world for people with disabilities. High-tech bicycles, propelled entirely by arm strength, are also available for road cycling.
Colorado Accessible Accommodation
With all of this outdoor splendour and activity, you’ll want to kick back in fine accommodation that suites your needs.
Marble Distilling Co.’s The Distillery Inn is the only luxury accommodation located between Vail and Aspen Snowmass. It’s the perfect Colorado-cation base camp for adventures during spring and summer. It’s also the only inn in the world housed within a working distillery. Each room, including the ADA-compliant room, is outfitted with hand-selected sustainable materials, sophisticated finishes, and the most comfortable beds that side of the Rockies.
Sports fans should make a beeline for The Rally Hotel, a new baseball-themed hotel beside Coors Field in Denver. They offer eight accessible rooms, welcome guide dogs, accommodate guests with vision impairments with staff assistants, and have ramps to make access easy. (Plus, Coors Field itself has accessible seating and entrances.)
National Parks in Colorado
Colorado boasts 12 National Parks and Monuments that provide wheelchair-accessible touring information.
If you want to explore the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, book a special sand wheelchair in advance. This equipment will help you access the famous dunes, and also the lovely camping and picnic areas.
The Colorado National Monument has accessible campsites, picnic areas, ranger talks, and scenic overlooks. Be sure to check out the breathtaking Book Cliffs View and Devils Kitchen Picnic Area.
Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it also has accessible campgrounds, scenic overlooks, and historical sites. Our top picks are the Cliff Palace overlook and the Mesa Top Loop Road.
If you want to avoid crowds, and maybe squeeze in some stargazing, head to one of Colorado’s quieter National Parks, Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This hidden gem has four overlooks and a wheelchair-accessible campsite. To learn more about the area, visit the visitors’ center, where The Black Canyon Movie can be accessed with headphones and audio descriptions on request.
Find out more about accessibility in Colorado National Parks here.
Resources For Planning An Accessible Colorado Vacation
There’s so much to see, and so much to do! So, start planning now for your accessible Colorado vacation with these resources:
- TrailLink has a great list of wheelchair-accessible Colorado trails.
- The Colorado Springs Visitor Center showcases accessible museums and other attractions.
- The Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau keeps a list of wheelchair-accessible services and tours
- Local Denver company, Aspen Medical Supply, offers wheelchair and scooter hire, with delivery available throughout Colorado
- Go to colorado.com where experts can help you plan your trip from start to finish
This feature was produced in partnership with Colorado Tourism. It appeared first in Travel Without Limits magazine – you can subscribe here.