Wheelchair accessible national parks in Europe offer a fun and interesting way to explore the natural landscapes of the region. While there are many parks within the popular cities, venturing outside of the usual spaces to take in the scenic vistas that expose the natural landscapes gives you even more opportunity to fall in love with Europe. These 5 national parks listed below are some of the most accessible in Europe. Depending on the region, there is a range of natural features like rivers, valleys, mountains, and glaciers to explore, all with wheelchair accessible hikes, visitor centers, and driving trails.
1: Saxon Switzerland National Park – Germany
The first national park on the list of most wheelchair accessible national parks in Europe is Saxon Switzerland National Park, located in the German free state of Saxony near the Saxon capital Dresden. The name may be confusing, as Saxon is also called “Saxon Switzerland,” a nod to it being a free state in Germany. The national park is a protected section of central Europe that strives to preserve the natural landscape. National parks are considered rare in this portion of Europe, as much of the land has been used for development or is influenced by humans. Establishing the national park provides an opportunity to preserve the untouched nature and educate people in the natural environment.
Saxon Switzerland National Park would be a great place for a getaway because it is a unique space that isn’t far from Dresden, making it an optimal space to get out of the city. Exploring Dresden offers plenty in terms of art and architecture, and while you’re nearby it’s definitely a great opportunity to include the national park in your activities. The major attractions in the national park, including the fortress, open air stage, park center, and look-out tower, are all wheelchair accessible. There are several walks and hiking paths that offer wheelchair access and space to customize your visit.
2: Vatnajökull National Park – Iceland
Vatnajökull National Park is actually a park network throughout Iceland that works to highlight the natural landscapes and gives visitors and residents a space to interact with the preserved natural accents of the region. In total, there are 7 parks, each with their own unique features such as glaciers, volcanic zones, and mountain vistas in addition to natural hiking spaces. This range of national parks gives visitors space to explore all that Iceland has to offer. Each park has its own set of hiking trails to explore and connect with the location.
Vatnajökull National Park is a great place for a getaway because you can enjoy the busy city, as well as take in the mountains and glaciers all in one trip. Exploring Vatnajökull National Park is also wheelchair accessible, with the parks having driving tours in addition to hiking. The hiking trails are labeled with colors in terms of difficulty and there are trails that are wheelchair accessible, both for those requiring assistance and those operating a wheelchair without assistance. Accessible parks include Jökulsárlón / Hornafjörður which is known for the glaciers in the region, and Skaftafell, which is a popular hiking location.
3: Oulanka National Park – Finland
For a national park that showcases the power of water, Oulanka National Park in Finland is an amazing destination. This park is known for its waterfalls, brown trout, and natural beauty. The visitor center is the best place to start, as it is along the riverbank and has a plethora of information about the waterfalls, trails, and surrounding area as well as a cafe for a post-hike meal. The park is open throughout the year, but the best time to visit for hiking is during the warmer summer months when the ground is no longer frozen and the visitor center cafe is open.
Oulanka National Park is wheelchair accessible, offering the entire park as a suitable destination for everyone all year round. There are specifically labeled wheelchair accessible hiking trails, which are easily navigated when the ground has thawed, such as the Könkään kuohu Trail, a 15 to 20 minute hike to see the water and sandy banks while hearing the rapids and venturing into the forest. This trail starts at a parking area, has a campfire spot, and a toilet, but you should bring your own toilet paper. Another wheelchair accessible trail is the Napapiirin nopia trail, an hour-long hike that winds through the forest and along the river. This park is a great getaway for hiking enthusiasts to connect with nature.
4: Gran Paradiso National Park – Italy
The establishment of national parks helps to preserve the natural landscape of the area, which is exactly what Gran Paradiso National Park in Italy is working to do. The park is open to the public, but its main purpose is to maintain the biodiversity of the area while educating visitors about the environment and serving as a space to conduct scientific research around the ecology. Another big aspect of this national park is supporting sustainable tourism. This park is an amazing getaway because it is one of the most well known parks in Italy and it highlights one of Italy’s wildest and most natural landscapes.
Gran Paradiso National Park calls itself an “accessible paradise” and has put many accessible additions in place, not only to fulfill the accessibility requirements of the state but to also provide a space for all visitors to enjoy. The park is broken down into 6 different regions, each corresponding to a natural valley. In each area, there are spaces like visitor centers, hiking trails, and restaurants that are all wheelchair accessible. While the accessibility portion of the website is still a work in progress, there are many areas of the park that are accessible to everyone including wheelchair users.
5: Hohe Tauern National Park – Austria
If you’ve ever wanted to visit the Alps, but aren’t that into skiing or winter sports, visiting Hohe Tauern National Park gives you the perfect opportunity to spend time in the Alps, as this park is the largest protected area in the Alps. This park has a little bit of everything including forest space, mountain lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and glacial mountain peaks. A visit to this park is the peak in relaxation and connecting with nature, offering a unique look into the natural vistas and landscapes of the Alps, all while contributing to the protection and preservation of the land.
Hohe Tauern National Park is wheelchair accessible, although it is suggested that visitors explore with the help of a ranger to act as a guide. There is a wheelchair accessible hiking trail, with an intermediate experience level. The hike starts at a parking lot and treks up in elevation along the water, crossing a bridge to a forest play and rest area. Hikers can continue along the trail to visit a mountain village. This beautiful destination is the perfect getaway, as it’s a quiet and luxurious way to explore the Alps outside of the usual activities. There’s a lot to see, from hiking intimately in the mountains to driving around the park to take in the view.
No matter where you’re headed to on your next trip, consider visiting wheelchair accessible national parks in Europe while you’re there. National parks are the perfect way to support the sustainability of the local landscape while getting a unique look into the natural ecology of the area. Taking a hike in the forest, resting along the river, or snapping a photo of the scenic vista, is the best way to remember your trip and decompress from the grind of daily life.
Check out more of our blog posts!
- The 5 Best Accessible Hiking Trails in the UK
- 5 Adventurous Wheelchair Accessible Experiences in Europe
- Where to Go Adaptive Snow skiing or Snowboarding in Europe
- 5 of the Most Underrated Cities in Europe for a Wheelchair User
About the Author:
Cory Lee is a wheelchair user, travel addict, and accessible travel writer. On his blog, Curb Free with Cory Lee, he hopes to inspire others to roll out of their comfort zones and see all the beauty our world has to offer.