Because of a fairly level terrain, Florida boasts an abundance of accessible trails and boardwalks. In fact, you might say that I hit the jackpot in the accessible trail department when I visited the state to research Barrier-Free Travel; Favorite Florida State Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite accessible trails in Florida. Some are at popular tourist spots, while others are a bit off-the-beaten-track, but they’re all a good choice for wheelchair-users and slow walkers.
Located in the Everglades, behind the Royal Palm Visitor Center, the Anhinga Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park. This .8-mile trail, which was renovated in 2016, begins as a paved path from the visitor center, before it transitions to a wide level boardwalk around the sawgrass marsh. A shaded viewing platform is located midway along the boardwalk, and there’s ample opportunity to catch a glimpse of alligators, turtles and a wide variety of wading birds. And if you get tired, no worries – there are plenty of benches along the way too.
Churchhouse Hammock Boardwalk
This quiet little boardwalk trail is located off Highway 19 in Crystal River, across the street from Crystal River Mall. Don’t be put off by the urban location though, as this peaceful boardwalk seems a world away from city life. Accessible parking is available in the small lot, with level access over to the boardwalk trail. The .3-mile boardwalk is wide and level, with low bumpers along the way to allow wheelers an optimal view of the surrounding forest. There are benches to sit and take a break on the boardwalk, and the vegetation offers a welcome respite from the midday sun. Although the access ends when the boardwalk transitions into a rut-filled primitive trail, it still makes a nice out-and-back stroll.
Indian RiverSide Park
Indian RiverSide Park is one of Florida’s true hidden gems. This 63-acre Jensen Beach park sits alongside a sleepy little lagoon, and affords wheelchair-users and slow walkers an accessible oceanside experience. There’s accessible parking in the first lot, with level access over to a 3/4-mile paved trail that circles a small lake. About midway along the trail there’s a short hard-packed dirt path over to a butterfly garden. At the end of the trail a short paved pathway leads over to an oceanfront picnic pavilion with an accessible table. And don’t miss the 780-foot long fishing pier, which features benches along the way. Last but not least, if you’d like to go for a swim, there’s access down to the beach on the nearby city trail.
Suwannee River Trail
Although the entire .8-mile length of the Suwannee River Trail is not accessible, the first portion may be doable for some wheelchair-users and slow walkers. The hard-packed dirt trail begins in the main parking area of Suwannee River State Park, and although there are a few tree roots along the first section, they are easy to dodge. The trail winds through an oak forest, and crosses the park road near the boat launch, and then leads out to a level bridge across the Lime Sink Run. Alternatively if you’d like to bypass the roots along the first section of the trail, just follow the paved park road to the boat launch, then turn right on the Suwannee River Trail and head over to the bridge. It’s about the same distance as the riverside trail, but it’s a much smoother — and more accessible — route.
Nature Coast State Trail
This 32-mile multiuse trail is paved, fairly level, and is an excellent choice for wheelers and slow walkers. The hub of the trail is in Fanning Springs, and from there you can set out in whatever direction tickles your fancy. The west branch of the trail terminates in Cross City 12 miles down the road, and features some beautiful views of the Suwannee River along the way. If you want to get away from the crowds, then take the east branch of the trail 7 miles to Trenton. And last but certainly not least, the south section of the trail skirts a beautiful hardwood hammock for 9 miles, before it terminates in Chiefland. And if you can’t manage the whole distance of these branches, then set out in your favorite direction and do as much as you can.
Pepper Creek Trail
Located in Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, the .75-mile Pepper Creek Trail offers a pleasant stroll through the forest. Part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the paved trail is especially popular in the fall and spring, when you can spot migratory warblers, vireos and thrushes along the way. And with benches dotted along the route, there are plenty of places to sit back and take a break.
Located in Everglades National Park, behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center, the Bobcat Boardwalk is a good place to get a look at – and a listen to – the swamp inhabitants. This wide level boardwalk winds over the marsh, through a mature gumbo limbo forest. There’s a wheelchair accessible overlook along the way, and although you may hear bobcats rustle in the underbrush, they are usually pretty shy. That said, it’s still a good place to spot alligators, and the forest canopy provides some welcome shade on hot days.
Kirby Storter Boardwalk
The Kirby Storter Boardwalk is located along Highway 41, about 30 miles west of Shark Valley. Part of the Big Cypress Natural Preserve, this half-mile boardwalk offers a comprehensive view of the surrounding wetlands. There’s level access to the boardwalk which travels through a young cypress marsh, before it transitions to a mature pop ash and red maple forest dotted with orchids. The forest canopy shades the trail until it opens up to a full swamp at the end of the boardwalk. There are interpretive signs along the way, and a bench at the end of the line to enjoy the swamp view. It’s a good place to spot alligators, especially during mating season. And since most people pass right on by this scenic stop, you may even have it all to yourself.