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What is Adaptive Hiking?

What is Adaptive Hiking: Hiking is for everyone and adaptive hiking was developed to enable people with any disability to hike. We live and thrive in times when everyone deserves a chance to actively participate in all kinds of outdoor activities. Hiking is one such activity.

Adaptive hiking is a popular form of hiking that allows all individuals having disabilities to participate in various types of hiking activities. If any individual has any kind of disability, hiking or any kind of adventure sport automatically takes a back seat.

What is Adaptive Hiking
Photo by Josh Willink

In earlier times, no special equipment was available for people with disabilities; hence, this provision was looming in the background. However, as technology has evolved and times have changed, it has become possible to develop various adaptive measures for people with disabilities.

Any outdoor activity involves specific paths that are made for walking. Owing to adaptive hiking, these paths have been made accessible for people living with physical disabilities. For example, the people who have blindness or paraplegia.

What methods do adaptive hiking incorporate?

Some of the methods adaptive hiking incorporates are as follows:

  • Building portable paths as bridges over waterways.
  • Raised platforms.
  • Extension of a pathway over a rough terrain.
  • Remodeling equipment for easier accessibility.

What is the difference between adaptive hiking and hiking?

In adaptive hiking, people use different equipment, techniques, and methods that help individuals with physical disabilities participate in various hiking activities across trails. Individuals who are experiencing vision loss, any kind of movement disability, or any type of cognitive disability can actively take part in adaptive hiking.

Owing to the latest technological discoveries and modern high-tech equipment, people participate in activities they are otherwise barred from. Adaptive hiking makes use of equipment such as ramps, special paths, and wheelchairs that are specifically designed for people with disabilities.

On the other hand, regular hiking is a common outdoor activity that involves normal trials or hikes. It is the hiking for non-disabled people. Hiking is a very common activity across parks, forests, and mountains. Some hikers hike regularly, and some hikers hike occasionally. Some also avail of the assistance of a guide who knows the area well.

Regular hiking can be done without any kind of special equipment. It can be done with the help of walking sticks, rope harnesses, and hiking shoes. Hiking can be done individually or with large groups of people. Many people take on solo hiking.

Who can do adaptive hiking?

The common categories of people who are eligible to participate in adaptive hiking are:

  • People who have difficulty walking or suffer from limited mobility due to chronic diseases.
  • The people who have vision loss.
  • People have arthritis.
  • People have any kind of issue with walking.
  • People have issues walking or traveling on rough terrain.

What are the benefits and problems of adaptive hiking?

The following are the benefits of adaptive hiking:


The primary purpose of adaptive hiking is to enable the people with physical disabilities to enjoy outdoor activities with great help! This is one of the major advantages of accessible hiking. It also gives people limited to the indoors a chance to explore the outside and embark on new adventures.

Participation in new activities

Adaptive hiking opens up various kinds of avenues for people with disabilities. For someone locked indoors owing to their disability, this could be his/her chance to plan a trip and embark on new adventures.

Connecting with other people

Hiking is a group activity, and the same goes for adaptive hiking. Thus, participating in adaptive hiking gives people a chance for participating in outdoor activities.

More often than not, people with disabilities tend to feel left out and miss out on all the activities that other people do, such as going out to social gatherings and participating in community discussions.

Adaptive hiking gives people a chance to be a part of the community which works for the benefit of similar people.

Use of new technology

In adaptive hiking, the use of new technology is a major advantage. Tandems, wheelchairs and bikes are being updated for helping people with their travels.

Following are some problems with adaptive hiking one often tends to overlook:

Difficulty in finding opportunities

Adaptive hiking is very popular in many places. Even if this is a step in the right direction, it has some limitations. Only a few organizations that are being made accessible for adaptive hiking. Before one narrows down the right trail, it is important to conduct a thorough research.

Taking stock of the equipment available

There might be a shortage of equipment in some places due to smaller number of trails for adaptive hiking. One should be ready to wait for a day or two for zeroing down on a spot on a certain trail.

Time and physical capacity

If there is any type of outdoor sport or activity that opens up new avenues for the people with physical limitations, it is adaptive hiking.

Some people might not be able to participate in adaptive hiking fully, or they might have a limited capacity for participation. One reason could be their inability to participate in rough road conditions.

Finding the comfort zone

There are many organizations in which non-disabled people come together and volunteer for making disabled people participate. It is very important to find the right kind of trail for both the parties. After a thorough discussion and planned schedule, one might come up with various ways of coping with the limitations.

What do you mean by Adaptive hiking trails?

An adaptive hiking trail is the one which has been designed for accommodating the people with disabilities so that every person can enjoy the experience with an open mind and an open heart.

These are the types of trails that have wider paths and rest areas. They also have many special features, such as Braille signage and handrails.

How will one be able to choose an accessible hike?

There are some consideration you will have to make when choosing an accessible hike.

Following are some of them:

  1. Research the trail well. Find out what the trail looks like. The trail for an adaptive hiker is designed differently than that of a traditional one! Thus, one should research on specific trails that they want to participate in.
  2. It is important to determine the kind of equipment you need well in advance. You should be able to choose the trail that has access to proper equipment, as it helps you cover the hike comfortably.
  3. People with special abilities should be able to cross the terrain with ease. Thus, when you choose an adaptive hiking trail, you should choose the level of difficulty and the length of the trail well in advance. A local hiking club or a group of avid hikers will be able to throw a light on the situation and will guide your properly.

Why should you choose the right equipment for adaptive hiking?

It is a no-brainer that adaptive equipment can be a lifesaver for people with disabilities, and it helps individuals with disabilities participate fully. These equipment also reduce the risk of injury as they are tried and tested before they are sold.

Some of the equipment used for adaptive hiking are as follows:


The adaptive hiking wheelchairs are robust as they are made of sturdy materials which helps to travel on rough terrain.

Hiking wheelchairs have specifically been designed for the people with limited mobility. When going on adaptive hikes, outdoor wheelchairs are the most basic equipment.


A scooter is very convenient, and it is easy to commute from one place to another. A scooter is operated directly by the hiker, and it is a great replacement for walking on trails.

Recumbent bikes

A recumbent bike is the one which has a lower center of gravity than a traditional one. Thus, they are stable and easier to ride. This automatically makes them a very good choice for the people who have difficulty riding a regular bike.

A recumbent bike has a seat which is supported by a frame. Thus, it allows the rider to sit in a reclined position which makes him comfortable. People having an array of disabilities can enjoy the outdoors.

Tandem upright

This type of stroller has been built for taking on the rough terrains and mountain trails. They have been specially equipped with different features such as an all-wheel suspension and a sun canopy.

This stroller has been specifically designed for the people with less to no mobility.

Park explorer

This is the right kind of equipment for the individuals having mobility issues. It can also be used for the people who have problems sitting for extended hours.

This equipment can be used through long winding park trails. Thus, they are arranged by the organization with whom you plan your hike.

Bowhead adventure cycle.

It is a mounted wheelchair with an ATV, and the main purpose of this equipment is to take the wheelchair-bound individual through trails and terrains that are otherwise difficult to map! A bowhead reach adventure cycle is used for covering long distances with great ease!

Written by Emma Parker

Hi, I'm Emma Parker, a passionate outdoors enthusiast and blogger. I love nothing more than exploring the great outdoors and sharing my experiences with others.

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