By Vanessa Infanzon

With 2023 being designated as the Year of the Trail in North Carolina, counties around the state are promoting hiking trails to historic sites and waterfalls, through marshes and woodlands, and over bridges, dams and creeks. These trails offer an invitation to view nature and learn a bit more about our state. Better still: everyone is invited. Many paths — paved, crushed gravel or boardwalk trails — are easy to navigate with a wheelchair and have wide lanes for people with vision impairments. Some paths are ADA Accessible, following the guidelines set by the federal government.

“Most people do not understand the difference an ‘accessible’ trail means to those who have special needs, disabilities of any nature or mobility challenges,” says Wake Electric member Laura Alden, whose daughter Sarah presents with cerebral palsy, affecting her intellectual and developmental functioning, as well as overall motor abilities. “Individuals in need of an accessible trail may struggle with the unevenness of gravel, and in particular, the slope or incline of a path. Persons with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, mobility challenges or those in need of assistive equipment, have a need for a smooth and predominantly flat surface to navigate gait, momentum and endurance. 

“Being able to feel and to know that your Parks & Rec teams have made an effort to be inclusive in their trail plan makes a world of difference to be able to get some fresh air, natural sunshine and enjoy nature.”

Here is one of seven accessible trails to get you started:

#2: Creekside Park in Archdale
Randolph County |
Three miles of paved trail meander through Creekside Park, following and crossing over Muddy Creek. The trail is part of the Piedmont Legacy Trails, a network of paths within several North Carolina counties. Creekside’s trail takes visitors past remnants of a flour mill dam built in the late 1800s and across a bridge, known as part of the first trading route from Fayetteville to Winston. Stop at the workout stations around the main loop, play disc golf or try the orienteering course. The trail leads to several amenities, including an ADA Accessible pirate-themed playground.