Many Maine cities and towns have convenient, wheelchair-accessible, multi-use pathways, from Portland’s Back Cove Trail to Fort Kent’s Riverside Park Trail System. But away from town centers, wheelchair-accessible hiking trails are also abundant. There’s even one on Washington County’s rugged Bold Coast.
We’ve gathered information on this trail, as well as wheelchair-accessible hikes at Acadia National Park and state parks, plus online resources for handicapped-accessible multi-use paths in Maine. Some trails spotlighted here comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards; others don’t, but are level and smooth enough for most wheelchairs.
With rocky shores and soil and myriad mountains and hills, most Maine hiking trails will never accommodate wheelchairs. But the government and land trusts are committed to increasing the number that do. That benefits not only wheelchair users and others with mobility-limiting disabilities, but the elderly, families with young children and anyone out for an easy hike, perhaps with a less able-bodied loved one.
Acadia National Park
Maine’s only national park is one of the country’s most accessible, partly because of the carriage roads built in the first half of the last century. Given the mountainous terrain in the Mount Desert Island park, not all 45 miles of carriage roads are suitable for wheelchairs, and road conditions may limit access. Depart from Bubble Pond or Eagle Lake parking areas to get to the most wheelchair-friendly carriage roads; ask at the visitor’s center or check the park’s “Accessibility Guide” for route options (type “accessibility guide” in the search box on Acadia’s website; the guide has lots of information about accessibility, though some is out of date).
One of the most handicapped-accessible areas of the park is the Sieur de Monts section at the base of Dorr Mountain. South of downtown Bar Harbor, near the intersection of Park Loop Road and Route 3, is an ADA-compliant boardwalk, part of the Jesup Trail, that links hard-packed trails at Wild Gardens of Acadia with the 1.5-mile Hemlock Road. The road and garden trails don’t meet ADA standards, but many wheelchairs users can comfortably traverse them. Sieur de Monts Nature Center is handicapped accessible.
At the top of the park’s Cadillac Mountain, a short ADA-complaint path leads to one of the summit viewing platforms. Jordan Pond Nature Trail, a 1-mile loop near the popular park restaurant, Jordan Pond House, also meets ADA standards, as does about a half-mile along Ship Harbor Trail, which leads to a small cove. Trailhead parking is on Route 102A, near Seawall Campground, as is parking for the 1.4-mile round-trip on Wonderland Trail, which travels to a peninsular tip and is recommended for “adventurous and hardy” wheelchair users.
Maine State Parks
Most of Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands’ 48 state parks and historic sites have handicapped-accessible parking and bathrooms and a wheelchair-accessible path to the “primary feature of interest,” such as a beach or historic fort. Steep, rocky trails limit access at many parks, but several have trails or trail networks that are either ADA-compliant or accommodate most wheelchairs.
Range Pond State Park in Poland is Maine’s only completely handicapped-accessible state park. Its two miles of trails include a half-mile along the namesake pond. A smooth promenade runs along a beach with a “swimming transition dock” for wheelchair users. The park has two handicapped-accessible playgrounds (such playgrounds are also at Sebago Lake, Mount Blue, Damariscotta Lake, Lake St. George, Swan Lake, Moose Point, Lily Bay and Cobscook Bay state parks).
At Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport, the ADA-compliant White Pines Trail, a three-quarter-mile round-trip, has interpretive panels and benches. The terminus on Casco Bay overlooks Googins Island, the site of an osprey nest. Guided nature programs are offered at the park throughout the year.
ADA-compliant paths at the 43-acre Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth lead to dramatic bay and open ocean views from atop massive headlands of distinctive metamorphic rock.
Way Down East at Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec work is underway to make the Coast Guard Trail handicapped accessible. The first half-mile of the trail, which heads to a bluff with sweeping views of Passamaquoddy Bay looking toward Lubec village, can already accommodate most wheelchairs.
Moose Point State Park has more than a mile of easy trails, including Moose Trail, a half-mile path to the shore that isn’t ADA-complaint, but accommodates most wheelchairs. Other trails here will appeal to wheelchair users who can handle more challenging trails. At Ferry Beach State Park in Saco, a 1.2-mile trail network is suitable for most wheelchairs, and the long, flat, shaded access road has a few benches. Beach-accessible wheelchairs for handicapped visitors are available at most state park beaches, including this one.
All 12 state park campgrounds, except at Warren Island, have handicapped-accessible campsites. More are being added this year. The state’s general operations budget, as it did last fiscal year, has money for ADA-compliant improvements at state parks. In the past, such funds have come from bond issues.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust
Bog Brook Cove Preserve
Rock outcroppings and cobblestone beaches accent long stretches of tree-topped cliffs along the undeveloped Bold Coast between Cutler and Lubec at the northern end of Maine’s coast. There’s great hiking at state and land trust preserves in this remote region but no shore road showcasing the views. At Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s 1,770-acre Bog Brook Cove Preserve off Route 191, one of five of its preserves in this area, an existing driveway made with fill was transformed into a handicapped-accessible trail. About a quarter-mile long, it passes through grassland en route to a promontory that overlooks a rocky beach and has outstanding views of Canada’s cliff-walled Grand Manan Island. This is the only ADA-complaint trail at any of the trust’s 100-plus preserves, but it’s eying sites for additional ones. Several of its lands have level paths or roads that can accommodate some wheelchairs, and it’s trying to improve accessibility where possible by adding features like parking lots with views.Androscoggin River Trail
Online Resources For Handicapped-Accessible Multi-Use Trails
The national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy lists wheelchair-accessible rail-trails by state on its web site, www.traillink.com (go to “Find Trails by Activity” at the bottom of the homepage). Though not up to date, the Maine Department of Transportation’s 2010 guide to bicycle/pedestrian trails has information on handicapped-accessible mult-iuse trails statewide (enter “bicycle and pedestrian trails” in the search box at www.maine.gov/mdot). Though “handicapped accessible” isn’t yet a search option at www.MaineTrailFinder.com, it has detailed information on trails of all sorts statewide.