These Special Wheelchairs Make Hiking Trails Accessible for Everyone

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Explorers in need of assistance can finally enjoy the scenic views provided by the hiking trails at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, thanks to new specially designed all-terrain wheelchairs.

The Track Chairs are part of a program introduced by the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers dedicated to the care of the park. The chair provides park visitors with hiking mobility assistance on specific park trails making it easier to navigate steep or sandy slopes. The Track Chair’s unique design also ensures that no damage is done to the trails themselves by maintaining low pressure on the ground.

“We wanted to be able to provide a hiking experience for people to get into the quiet areas of the park… you can see things from the road but it’s so different to being able to have that quiet time in the woods and to find a bit of a break from the everyday,” Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes representative Jeanne Esch, who is a wheelchair user herself, told Travel + Leisure.

Visitors wanting to use the chair can make a reservation at least three days in advance during the season starting in May through Oct. 20. A volunteer helps visitors learn to use the chair before going out on the actual trail.

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“We’ve been seeing people from every age range using it,” Esch said. “Our volunteers always return to say it’s worth the time to see the amount of smiles the program is able to bring.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: FriendsofSLBE via Instagram



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