The 3 Best Senior-Friendly National Parks

National parks are one of America’s greatest treasures. Whether you’re interested in seeing the red rocks of the sunny southwest, lush deciduous trails in the east, or the vast open plains of the north, there are senior-friendly national parks that have activities for everyone in these enclaves of natural beauty.

In fact, there are more than 400 natural park sites across the country. You probably know quite a few from their popularity alone. Yosemite, the Everglades, and even Death Valley are bucket list destinations for many travelers’. But national parks also include areas of historical importance, like George Washington’s Birthplace, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Flight 93 Memorial.

These parks and sites encompass 21,000 combined miles of trails, which would take the average person 7,000 hours to complete. Even the most seasoned hikers would be hard-pressed to accomplish such a feat!

For seniors who like to hike, or those simply eager to see the country’s many natural wonders, visiting national parks is a wonderful hobby. Before visiting a national park, check to see if any sites have an entrance fee since 109 national parks do charge admission. To save money, you can buy an annual senior pass to access all the parks for just $20!

If accessibility is a concern, do some research before you go. Certain parks are challenging to traverse, while others are fully handicap accessible. Luckily, plenty of national parks have wheelchair access, accessible trails, and even audio tours, making them incredibly senior-friendly. Here are a few of the best national parks for seniors.

1. Acadia National Park in Mount Desert Island, Maine

Photo by Rajiv Krishnan: the northeast tip of the U.S. lies Maine, a breathtakingly beautiful coastal state with so much to offer. Acadia National Park is one of four parks in Maine and features Cadillac Mountain (the highest peak in the northeast), Thunder Hole, and Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, considered one of the most picturesque in the state.

Fortunately, many of these attractions are easily accessible to seniors. The park has a free shuttle service, the Island Explorer, to take visitors to the most popular sites within Acadia, including the Jordan Pond House Restaurant.

Many of Acadia’s stunning features are also wheelchair accessible, as well as the visitor centers and restrooms. Seniors can also take advantage of designated handicapped parking available throughout the park. If you’re looking for a more rustic experience, there are even several wheelchair-accessible picnic areas and campsites in the park. 

Photo by ALTEREDSNAPS : Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina

This 469-mile road is the most visited national park in the country. Technically designated an All-American Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway traverses 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties. The road also crosses through two other national parks—Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Since the entirety of this parkway can be enjoyed from the comfort of your car, it just might be the most senior-friendly national park on the list. No matter what time of year you drive, you’ll see the wonder of nature on full display. And when you need to stop, you can take advantage of several accessible visitor centers, restrooms, and educational programs. Stop-offs include scenic overlooks, accessible trails, fishing spots, and campsites, too.

3. Indiana Dunes National Park in Porter, Indiana

This little-known national park is on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Indiana Dunes National Park boasts 15,000 acres with almost every terrain imaginable—rivers, wetlands, sandy beaches, dunes, forests, and plenty of wildlife. Even though Indiana’s climate isn’t the warmest, visitors can enjoy this park year-round, with sites to delight and surprise in winter, spring, summer, and fall.

One of the best parts of Indiana Dunes is the large-wheeled wheelchairs they offer to help handicapped guests access the beaches. The park also has devices to help the hearing impaired and features accessible visitor centers, restrooms, trails, and picnic areas. Seniors hoping to fish can also make use of the accessible fishing pier.

We’ve shared our top three picks, but there are many more national parks seniors can comfortably enjoy. So do your research, make your plans, and get out there! America’s national parks beckon.


image credit: shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

Pete Blasi