The Outbound Collective has gathered a list of their top ten accessible adventures in the southeast. Note that these activities are not shared in any particular order and though they’re fun to do as stand-alone activities, they would also make for a great road trip if you decided to string them together.
1. Enjoy Sunrise or Sunset from the Blue Ridge Parkway Near Asheville, North Carolina
We’re partial to Asheville, one of the coolest adventure hubs in the southeast, in large part because of the seemingly endless amounts of fun things to do outdoors, many of which are free. You can float the French Broad River, run along the Mountains to Sea trail, mountain bike in Pisgah National Forest, and of course, drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can link up with the Parkway about 6 miles from downtown Asheville and then pull off at any number of overlooks (The Lane Pinnacle Overlook is one of our favorites) for watching and photographing the sunrise or sunset. You’re almost guaranteed to get a sweet photo for your Instagram feed and you’ll experience one of the most beloved pastimes for legions of people in the southeast, both locals and visitors alike.
2. Explore Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia
If you overate at brunch (hey, we get it, there are so many great places to get a bite in Savannah) then head on over to Forsyth Park. There are roughly 30 acres to wander around in, laze on a blanket in the sun, and enjoy a space free from cars. Also, one of the coolest things about Forsyth Park is its Garden of Fragrance, which is located west of the bandshell. It’s filled with Meyer lemon trees, jasmine, roses, and other aromatic plants that were planted specifically to help create a unique experience for people who are visually impaired.
3. Splash Around at Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key, Florida
While visiting the local swimming pool will always be a fun way to spend time outdoors, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as swimming in the open water be it a lake or the ocean. Especially when there’s the possibility of seeing fish, sponges, and cool shells. Bahia Honda State Park, located in the Florida Keys, is a great spot to help new swimmers, young and old, get their first taste of open water swimming. The park has a long stretch of shallow-water shoreline where you can help a beginner swimmer or snorkeler ease into the activity. The state park concessionaire also rents snorkeling gear as well.If snorkeling isn’t your thing, no worries, there are a ton of other different outdoor activities to explore at Bahia Honda State Park including fishing, boating, picnicking, kayaking, and even staying overnight in a cabin. Cabin #2 can sleep up to four people and it has a wheelchair lift as well as an outdoor deck.
4. Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, Florida
Everglades National Park is an incredible place teeming with all kinds of wildlife including manatees, crocodiles, alligators, and over 300 species of birds including egrets, herons, and cormorants. It also happens to be roughly 40 miles from Miami which makes it a great day trip or weekend adventure for lots of people in the southeast.
From the visitor center, you can take a 2-hour, wheelchair accessible, guided tram tour (it’s recommended to register ahead of time) through Shark Valley along the 15 mile Tram Road. It’s an open-air tram so you’ll be able to experience nature from a safe but still exhilarating distance. You can also walk, or even ride a bike (electric bikes are allowed) on Tram Road which will give you plenty of opportunities to see wildlife.
Heads up: Rideshare apps will sometimes be able to locate a driver and vehicle to take you to the Shark Valley Visitor Center but it can be very difficult to find a way back to the city. Be sure to make arrangements for transportation both ways if you are going to be taking an Uber or Lyft.
5. Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina + Tennessee
You’re in luck because one of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in the southeast, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, doesn’t charge an entrance fee. You can hike, drive the very scenic Cades Cove Loop, check out some of the exhibits at the visitor centers, and even potentially spot a bear at this World UNESCO Heritage Site without having to spend a cent. If you decide you’d like to camp, you will need to pay a fee but it’s a worthy investment because you’ll be able to spend a night under the stars in one of the most biodiverse places in the country. There are ADA campsites at Cades Cove Campground, Smokemont, and Elkmont. In addition to paved, level sites, raised fire rings, and accessible picnic tables, some of the sites have electricity so that adventurers can use medical equipment.
6. Photograph Dukes Creek Falls, Georgia
Who doesn’t love a beautiful waterfall that sits along a winding, picturesque scenic highway? Everyone, right? Dukes Creek Falls is one such waterfall and it’s located in the Chattahoochee National Forest in North Georgia. Driving the Russel-Brasstown National Scenic Highway and then stopping at the falls is a great way to spend a day. (The scenic highway is a little over 40 miles of fee-free road that is one of the prettiest drives in the southeast; especially in the fall during leaf-peeping season.) There’s a viewing deck at the falls that is wheelchair accessible so that everyone can get a chance to experience this natural wonder. The path to the overlook is about .10 mile long.
7. Enjoy 180-degree views from Bald Rock in Cheaha State Park, Alabama
The Doug Ghee Accessible Trail that takes you to Bald Rock in Cheaha State Park is one of our top picks not only for incredible views but also for birdwatching. (This spot is also part of the Alabama Birding Trails system.) Keep your eyes peeled and your ears tuned for pine warblers, woodpeckers, hawks, and other bird species that you’re likely to see along the quarter-mile boardwalk trail. Or simply spend time in nature on one of the numerous benches in what is not only the oldest park in Alabama but also the highest point in the state.
8. Check Out Looking Glass Falls in Brevard, North Carolina
Brevard, North Carolina has been dubbed ‘The Land of Waterfalls’ not only because of the sheer number in the area (250+) but also because of stunners like Looking Glass Falls. While some of these beauties require going deep into the woods to find Looking Glass Falls and it’s 70-foot drop can actually be seen and heard from the side of the road. After heavy rain, the waterfall can be loud and thunderous so be sure to roll the windows down in your vehicle for the full experience. Additionally, free parking is available along the road and a short boardwalk with stairs that lead down to the plunge pool.
9. Take an Eco Boat Tour in Blue Spring State Park, Florida
Just 33 miles north of Orlando is a sweet little oasis called Blue Spring State Park. Though there are hiking trails and backcountry All-Terrain Segway tours here, we’re drawn to this park because of the potential to see manatees in the St. Johns River. You can observe them from the shoreline and observation boardwalks or while aboard an open-air, wheelchair-accessible pontoon boat. (Be sure to make reservations for the boat ahead of time as trips can fill up quickly.)
10. Wander the Trails in Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina
One of our all-time favorite places to visit in South Carolina is Edisto Beach State Park. Not only does it have two beautiful campgrounds, one has great ocean views, the other is tucked under a lush canopy that offers a nice bit of shade in the summer, but it’s also got four miles of accessible trails. Two of our favorites are the .7 mile long Scott Creek Trail and the 1.7 mile Spanish Mount Trail. Both are wide and have very minimal elevation gain. Note: the only accessible bathroom in the park is in the Live Oak Campground.
Before setting off on any of these adventures, consider packing the following gear items to help keep you comfortable and happy (see below):