As Earth Day approaches, I always look for ways to experience nature and help our local open spaces. Of course, many of us like going outside on a sunny day, enjoying the varied landscapes the Bay Area has to offer. POST has preserved over 80,000 acres of beautiful lands, benefiting both the environment and people who love outdoor adventures. For many, outings need to be carefully selected due to mobility issues; luckily, our parks and preserves offer accessible trails that are designed with them in mind.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990 and aims to ensure that everyone has access to all aspects of life, including the opportunity to explore nature. Efforts have been made to follow certain standards for accessibility for many trails so that anyone can enjoy them — they are relatively flat, making them easy to navigate with a wheelchair, mobility scooter, walker or cane. The paths are also wider to allow people to pass each other and are free of steep grades.
These easy access trails are wonderful ways for anyone to celebrate Earth Day! Many families enjoy them because everyone can join in, from toddlers to grandparents. They are a good entry point for new hikers, allowing them to build up stamina for more difficult adventures. For people with visual impairments, they provide a path that is easy to follow and has extra space for those hiking with guide dogs or friends describing the scenery. Of course, accessible trails are especially appreciated by groups that include people with varied abilities, allowing them to enjoy their outdoor sojourn together.
In POST’s working area on the Peninsula and in the South Bay, I have a few favorite spots of my own:
All 1.9 miles of trails in the Ravenswood Preserve in East Palo Alto are accessible. Set near the foot of the Dumbarton Bridge at the end of Bay Road, the preserve includes part of the Bay Trail, and its tidal marsh is home to a wide variety of birds. The main trail at Bay Rd. is 1.4 miles each way with overlook platforms at each end.
During spring wildflower season, the 2.4 mile Martin Murphy Trail at Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch Park is beautiful, although it can be quite warm at midday since there is little natural cover. Many species of birds frequent this area and there are accessible picnic tables with shade structures as well. The parking area is at E. San Martin Ave.
For a beach adventure, try Año Nuevo State Park, which has a 0.27-mile accessible boardwalk as well as the longer Año Nuevo Point Trail (1.3 miles each way) that meanders along coastal bluffs and includes four overlooks, giving views of beaches and wildlife. The part of the trial that overlooks the famous elephant seals is closed during breeding season (December 15 – March 31), but there is an ADA compliant way to view the elephant seals during this time, which includes transport in a wheelchair accessible van. You need to call ahead to reserve a space on these weekend excursions: (800) 444-4445.
As with all hikes, be sure to check the preserve’s website for important information before you set off on your trip!
How do you find these amazing trails – and others like them? Good question! Here are some resources to explore that can help you find trails to meet your needs:
A reminder to everyone using public trails: Please be sensitive to others. Move to the side if someone needs to pass you. If someone asks for help, be ready to provide it, but don’t assume anyone needs it. You will encounter all kinds of people on the trails including families, new hikers and people in wheelchairs. Those who are blind or visually impaired may be hiking with guide dogs, canes, or guides. There are more blind hikers than you might think, and you may encounter them on non-accessible trails as well. For example, Randy Pierce is a blind hiker who, with his guide dog Quinn, is scaling the tallest peaks in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
So, don’t be deterred in your quest to experience the great outdoors! Grab your family or your friends (or both!) and find the hiking trails that suit you. Take advantage of the hundreds of thousands of acres of open space preserved by POST and its partners on the Peninsula and in the South Bay and hit the trails that are best for you— you won’t be sorry you did!
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more