Skip to main content

How I Enjoy the Outdoors in a Wheelchair

  • Author:
  • Updated date:
Person in wheelchair outdoors

Person in wheelchair outdoors

Being a wheelchair user can make daily life challenging. For many it can seemingly impede the ability to participate in certain activities that our able-bodied peers enjoy, or that we once enjoyed before the onset of a disability. However, I'd like to argue that being a wheelchair user does not mean you have to stop enjoying the outdoors.

In fact, being a wheelchair user opens up a whole new world of outdoor activities that we can enjoy! So take some time to stop and smell the roses, bask in the sunshine, take in the beautiful fall colors, and feel the snowfall through outdoor wheelchair activities.

Check out the activities I've listed below that wheelchair users can participate in during both the summer and winter months.

Wheelchair Hiking

What better way to spend a beautiful sunny day than taking a hike in the great outdoors? Traditionally, hiking paths have been rough, rustic terrain through remote forests or places off the beaten path that make it difficult for wheelchairs to navigate. In recent years, however, wheelchair accessible hiking paths have been popping up all over the US, giving people of different abilities equal access to our beautiful natural landscape.

You might be interested in wheelchair hiking if:

  • You enjoy spending time admiring nature
  • You are looking for a leisurely activity to provide you with exercise
  • You like activities that you can participate in at your own pace
  • You like exploring with your wheelchair
  • You are looking for a low cost to no cost outdoor activity

If you’re interested in trying out wheelchair hiking, start by exploring options in state parks around your area. Many state parks under federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) law are required to provide fully accessible facilities and that includes wheelchair accessible and disabled access to paths and all of the amenities that parks have to offer. Many state park paths are also fully paved so there is no need to worry about rough terrain that your wheels may not be able to navigate.

Exploring nature with your wheelchair not only provides a great form of exercise, especially if you are a manual wheelchair user, but also allows you to hike at your own pace and relax outdoors with family and friends.

Hand Cycling

Hand cycling isn’t just a competitive racing sport. It is perhaps one of the most adaptable sports that is accessible to just about anyone who is willing to give it a try.

Hand cycle models vary and can be adapted for almost every ability, including limited use of one hand or limb. It’s a great option for people with limited use of their lower body and who may be shaky with their balance as the cycles offer complete safety and stability and are close to ground, minimizing the risk for injury.

Hand cycling also allows the user to control their speed and is an activity that can be enjoyed individually, with a partner, or a group of friends. The beauty of this activity is that even able bodied peers can join you in the fun.

You might be interested in hand cycling if:

  • You have strong upper body
  • You can transfer in and out of a hand cycle from your wheelchair
  • You have poor balance or limited to no lower limb use
  • You enjoy traveling and sightseeing
  • You want to try without committing to investing in costly equipment
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Patientslounge

Start out by renting a hand cycle from a local recreation store or bike shop. They have become popular in recent years even among people competing in marathons so many stores have them readily available for rent, making this activity a cost-effective option for exploring the outdoors.

Surf Boards for accessible surfing

Surf Boards for accessible surfing

Accessible Surfing

Much like the name sounds, accessible surfing allows people who use wheelchairs to ride the waves and experience the thrilling crash of the ocean around them. Similar to paddle boarding, the participant transfers from his or her wheelchair to the surfboard, laying face down towards the board.

Accessible surfing requires the participant to grasp the board and hold on for the ride. Often, resorts offer guided lessons in which participants have the assistance of an instructor.

Many resorts also offer beach wheelchairs so wheelchair users may transfer from their own chair to the beach wheelchair and arrive safely to the water without their wheelchair sinking into the sand.

You might be interested in accessible surfing if:

  • You enjoy the open water and sunshine
  • You like adventurous activities
  • You have strong upper body strength to hold onto the board
  • You have relatively good balance
  • You are looking for an activity that gives you freedom
  • You are looking for a physical activity that provides a good opportunity for exercise

An inspirational quadriplegic surfer

Adaptive skiing for people with disabilities

Adaptive skiing for people with disabilities

Adaptive Skiing

With snow often comes the worry of transportation and even the threat of injury as we try to navigate our mobility equipment around snow banks and icy roads and sidewalks. Adaptive skiing provides a unique opportunity for wheelchair users to experience having fun in the snow and puts us on a level playing field with our able bodied peers who participate in winter sports.

There are 2 types of adaptive skiing:

Monoskiing - Just like the name suggestions, the user sits a top of a single ski. Monoskiing is great for individuals who are physically fit and have strong upper body strength. Because you sit on top of one large ski, it is necessary to have good balance and strength to maneuver the poles and steer with your body.

You might be interested in Monoskiing if:

  • You are physically fit
  • You can dedicate mental focus to the sport
  • You like adventure and a challenge
  • You enjoy fast, aggressive activities

Biskiing - If monoskiing sounds too intense for your taste, but you still want to experience an outdoor activity in the snow, biskiing may just be the activity for you. Unlike the monoski, a biski offers the user more stability as they sit atop of two skiis which offers more stability and a smoother ride.

You might be interested in biskiing if:

  • You have limited mobility and upper body strength
  • You are looking for an outdoor activity where you can take in great views
  • You require stability and assistance from others
  • You are any age as this sport is great for kids as well as adults

Sled Hockey

Sled Hockey is one of the most popular sports during the Paralympic Winter Games, but this adventure sport is not just for Olympic athletes. In fact, hockey is one of the most adaptable winter sports for people who use wheelchairs.

Sled hockey originated in Switzerland in the 1960s so it is a relatively recent sport in the world of accessible activities. Just like the name sounds “sled” hockey allows users to play the game from sleds which glide across the ice so even people with limited mobility or no use of their legs can play the game.

You might be interested in sled hockey if:

  • You have limited use of your lower body
  • You are comfortable maneuvering a hockey stick with your arms
  • You have relatively strong upper body strength
  • You enjoy team sports
  • You would be able to transfer in and out of the sled
  • You are not at risk for injury as sled hockey can be a physical contact sport

People with disabilities and wheelchair users can enjoy adventurous outdoor activities whether during the sunny months of spring and summer or the cold months of fall and winter, there is surely an outdoor adventure waiting for you.

What other outdoor activities have you experienced as a person with a disability? Share in the comments!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


WheelerWife (author) from Minnesota on October 20, 2014:

Thanks for the nice comment, Maria Antonia! I hope those you share it with find the information useful :)

Antoinette Lee Toscano from Raleigh, NC on October 20, 2014:

I love this Hub. I plan to share it with some Veterans that I know. On my hub at the link below, all of the activities that you see me participating in there were about six people at this sports clinic in wheelchairs. I did a 5-day whitewater kayaking and camping trip on the San Juan river with 15 women, all with some loss of an ability. There is also a video of a Veteran who goes from wheelchair to whitewater.

WheelerWife (author) from Minnesota on October 20, 2014:

Thanks, yasirchohan! It's hard to find a lot of good information online about people with disabilities that doesn't perpetuate stereotypes. Glad you enjoyed it!

Yasir chohan from Reisterstown on October 20, 2014:

Its refreshing to see hubs such as yours. Most people don't talk about issues like this, while we all should. You have some great activities mentioned here. I really enjoyed this!

WheelerWife (author) from Minnesota on October 20, 2014:

Hi girlpower - glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for stopping by!

girlpower on October 19, 2014:

what a great article, i also have leg issues i have Multiple sclerosis and your article made me realize that sometimes i need to ask for help and to rely on my support people. Good hub, keep writing. check out some of my hubs, or go to facebook 'A song for MS" a site where musicians challenge other musicians to post a song for MS awareness.

WheelerWife (author) from Minnesota on October 19, 2014:

Thanks for the comment, vote & share mdscoggins! Glad you enjoyed :)

Michelle Scoggins from Fresno, CA on October 19, 2014:

Great article Wheelerwife. I have had a few clients who came to therapy to deal with the psychological effects of being in a wheelchair. I always try to empower their abilities and I think you did a fantastic job of that!! Voted up and shared.

Related Articles