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Things to Do , Hiking & Biking , Sports & Outdoors

Exploring Wheelchair-Friendly Trails with Individual Abilities in Motion

Man with motorized wheelchair sitting on Lake Scranton fishing pier

Individual Abilities in Motion (I AM) is a local nonprofit that supports individuals with mobility impairments in achieving the highest possible level of life satisfaction by discovering, celebrating and developing individuals’ abilities. One of their goals is to promote recreation and exercise.

DiscoverNEPA and I AM have partnered to create a list of wheelchair-friendly trails in the area. Although this is not a comprehensive list of all the wheelchair-friendly trails in NEPA, it provides several recommendations from I AM members.

Discover the Great Outdoors with NEPA’s Accessible Trails

In NEPA, we’re lucky to have endless nature trails right in our backyards. You’re never too far from a peaceful, pristine lake or the shady canopies of a lush forest. And thanks to the hard work of local trail groups, NEPA is home to several wheelchair-friendly trails where people of all abilities can experience the wonders of nature.

“From our perspective, life with a mobility impairment might be different, and it might mean doing things differently, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t have the same desires as others,” said Joseph Salva, President of Individual Abilities in Motion (I AM). “We live in a beautiful area with lots of outdoor areas and nature to explore. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy it as much as possible.”

Outdoor recreation is a passion for many members of I AM. The nonprofit has helped people with mobility impairments pursue adventures and enjoy healthy, active lives. Their members have recommended several local, wheelchair-friendly trails that they enjoy using.

“To anyone interested in trying out the trails our area has to offer, I would encourage them to take the time to check them out and see what is possible,” said Salva. “It is always a good idea to take a friend if you are unsure if a trail is wheelchair-friendly or you are visiting it for the first time. While not all trails are wheelchair-friendly, there are ones that are constructed with features that make them more accessible and definitely worth exploring.”

It’s also important to remember that trail conditions can change. Contact the park office or trail manager directly for the most accurate, up-to-date information. They would also be able to help with questions about specific concerns or needs.

Lackawanna River Heritage Trail

Asphalt trail along Lackawanna River

The Lackawanna River Heritage Trail stretches from Pittston to Simpson, where it connects with the D&H Rail-Trail. Local history and natural beauty come together, and it seems like there’s a neighborhood park, a historic site or a colorful mural around every corner.

The trail surface varies depending on where you start. The Scranton section of the trail is one of the most popular and developed parts of the trail with a 3.5-mile paved segment from Depot Street in Taylor to Olive Street in downtown Scranton. A section from Blakely to Jermyn is also paved, as well as short sections in Dickson City and Carbondale. Other parts of the trail are stonedust or natural/earthen paths. There are several on-road sections, especially once you leave the downtown Scranton area. Since it’s a rail trail, it has a very slight incline.

The Elm Street Trailhead has two accessible parking spaces, one of which is van accessible and has a striped access aisle. The 7th Avenue Trailhead offers an accessible parking space with a striped access aisle. Accessible parking is also available at the Laurel Street trailhead in Archbald near the accessible fishing pier. Check out the guidebook for additional parking information, section-by-section maps, points of interest and more.

I AM frequently uses the Heritage Trail for adaptive cycling events. If you need equipment, the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority (LHVA) rents out two recumbent bikes and three handcycles at their office at 213 Railroad Avenue. The rentals are by reservation only, so call in advance to confirm availability. There is no charge; just show your ID.

Note: As of July 2021, the LHVA office is closed due to COVID-19 and is not offering bike rentals. Contact them directly of follow them on Facebook for news about reopening.

Luzerne County Levee Trail

Paved walking trail on top of flood levee

This paved trail travels on top of the flood levee, passing through several neighborhoods and offering views of the Susquehanna River. It consists of four separate sections, or “reaches,” that are about 12 miles combined. I AM members have used the trail for adaptive cycling and strolls.

The Forty Fort reach begins off of Wyoming Avenue near the Swetland Homestead. Here, the trailhead offers two accessible parking spaces with a striped access aisle. The trail travels past the runway of the Wyoming Valley Airport and the fields at the Forty Fort Borough Sports Complex, then continues to River Street in Forty Fort.

The Kingston reach is a popular section with a trailhead and parking area on Church Street. Two large, accessible parking spaces are available. The trail passes local landmarks like Kirby Park and Nesbitt Park, then continues on toward Edwardsville.

The Hanover Township reach starts on Riverside Drive in Wilkes-Barre and passes Barney Farms Park. The trail is a dead end, so an out-and-back trip is required.

Finally, the Plymouth reach extends from Beade Street to Flat Road. The trailhead on the corner of Flat Road and Krest Street has one accessible parking space with a striped “no parking” area next to it.

Trolley Trail

Flat gravel trail in the woods in Clarks Summit

This peaceful rail trail follows the historic Northern Electric Street Railway, where trolley cars once carried passengers and goods between the downtown hub of Scranton and the rural Endless Mountains. Today, this crushed stone trail is a popular place for outdoor fun in the Abingtons.

The Trolley Trail consists of several separate segments. The longest and most popular is the Clarks Summit to Dalton section, which is 2.8 miles one way. The trail includes some road crossings and a rougher earthen section near the Ackerly Little League Fields. The Roz Peck Memorial Trailhead on South Waterford Road is a dirt lot with two reserved, accessible parking spaces.

Another popular section extends from Keystone College in La Plume to Factoryville. This segment is about 1.8 miles one way and consists of crushed stone. Three accessible, paved parking spaces with striped access aisles are available at Keystone College above the football field.

Lake Scranton Walking Trail

Man with motorized wheelchair sitting on fishing pier and looking at lake

The Lake Scranton Walking Trail is a paved loop trail around a pristine reservoir. It’s just a short drive from downtown Scranton, yet it offers all the beauty and tranquility of nature.

The trail is 3.5 miles long and has a gentle grade that does not exceed 5%. The path follows the shoreline and offers views of the water, as well as shaded sections through the forest.

To reach the accessible parking area, drive to the top of East Mountain Road, turn right onto Lakeview Drive and take the first left. Four accessible parking spaces are available, and two are van accessible with striped access aisles.

Lehigh Gorge Trail

Train alongside gravel rail trail

The Lehigh Gorge Trail is a 26-mile rail trail and part of the larger 165-mile D&L Trail. It connects White Haven and Jim Thorpe, offering incredible views of the Lehigh River and Pocono Mountains along the way. The gorge is famous as a biking destination, and handcycling is an excellent way to cover some ground and see all that the area has to offer.

The trail has a crushed stone surface and gentle 2% uphill grade heading north. Trailheads are available at White Haven, Rockport and Glen Onoko.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, Rockport is a great starting point. Two waterfalls are located right along the trail—Buttermilk Falls is less than half a mile north, and Luke’s Falls is about half a mile to the south.

Silhouette Trail at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Wooded, gravel trail with bench

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton is one of the best places in North America to view birds of prey, especially during the fall migration. The ADA accessible Silhouette Trail leads to the South Lookout, a prime spot to watch the hawks, eagles, falcons and other raptors soaring overhead. This trail even won the 2017 Trail Accessibility Award from the American Trails National and International Awards Program.

The Silhouette Trail is 900 feet long with a crushed stone surface and a grade does not exceed 8.3%. Bench seating with pull bars are located every 100 feet. The trail ends at a smooth, flat viewing area with sweeping views of the valley. Additionally, a trailside exhibit shows life-sized silhouettes of the raptors.

Accessible parking spaces are provided in all lots, and accessible van parking is located at the outdoor amphitheater. ADA compliant restrooms are available near the trail entrance gate and at the Visitors Center. In addition to the Silhouette Trail, Hawk Mountain offers several other accessible features, including a Native Habitat Garden. Just remember, a trail fee is required to enter. The fee helps support Hawk Mountain’s conservation efforts, research, educational programs and trail maintenance.

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