Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed the natural beauty and splendor of America’s National Monuments. As an adult, unfortunately, I have a fraction of the energy that I had back then. I’m also not big on long walks due to my weight.
Thankfully, there are still a few National Monuments out there that don’t require a lot of walking or effort to view. I’ve compiled a list of these in hopes that you’ll be able to get out there and enjoy the rich beauty and amazing history that these sites have to offer.
First, let’s take a quick look at what national monuments are and then we’ll get into my favorite ones that are easily accessible, for both larger people like me and people with disabilities.
What Are National Monuments?
National Monuments are areas that have a great historical or cultural value and have been set aside for public use by the President or Congress. Currently, there are 129 of them in 33 states and Washington DC.
Not all of these are easy to access, especially for people like me who don’t enjoy a lot of walking, people who can’t walk and require the use of a wheelchair, or, in the case of a few in Alaska, don’t enjoy flying in helicopters or other small aircraft.
However, there are still a good number of National Monuments that can be seen from a vehicle or with a minimal amount of walking.
The 8 Most Accessible National Monuments
1. The Lincoln Memorial
Also known as “that thing on the tails side of a penny” or “the thing they show you in every movie set in Washington, DC”, the Lincoln Memorial is one of the most famous and recognizable National Monuments in the country.
It is also easily accessible because you can pretty much just drive past it if you don’t want to take the tour. If you do, the tour is wheelchair accessible and very accommodating for people of our size.
2. Giant Sequoia National Monument
In California’s Sequoia National Forest, there are 38 groves that make up this National Monument that feature some of the most amazing and tallest trees that you’ll ever see in your life.
It is the home of the sixth-largest tree in the world, the Boole Tree, which is 269 feet high and its base has a circumference of 112 feet. The trail to get to Boole is a 2.5-mile loop and is wheelchair-accessible. There are also plenty of other trees to enjoy that you can see from the safety and comfort of your vehicle.
3. Muir Woods National Monument
About 12 miles north of San Francisco and located within Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods is named after the famous naturalist John Muir and features many acres of beautiful old-growth Redwoods. It is considered one of the most easily accessible National Monuments in the United States.
There are several trails here with a variety of difficulties but if you’d like a short walk to enjoy some nature, there is a half-mile, paved, ADA-accessible loop trail from the Visitor’s Center.
4. Statue of Liberty National Monument
The State of Liberty is probably the most iconic National Monument and is found on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. The island itself is rather small and doesn’t require a lot of walking, particularly if you’re only going to see the base. The park itself is free but does require a paid ferry ticket.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb the 154 stairs inside the statue itself. I did it once as a kid but I don’t think I’d do it again. I’m not a fan of stairs in general.
5. Stonewall National Monument
I’ve never been to Stonewall in New York but I’m told that it’s quite accessible, as it is rather small, consisting only of the famous Stonewall Inn and the surrounding area. It was the location of the famous Stonewall Riots, which marked a pivotal moment in the LGBT Rights Movement in the late 1960s.
There are also a few monuments here that are unrelated to the LGBT movement, including one that honors Union Civil War General Phillip Sheridan and one that honors Union soldiers in general. If you need to take a break from walking, there are several benches in Christopher Park.
6. Natural Bridges National Monument
In Utah about 50 miles from Four Corners, Natural Bridges National Monument consists of three amazing rock bridges named Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo. Sipapu is the largest and is the 13th-longest natural arch in the world.
All three can easily be viewed from the road appropriately called “Bridge View Drive”. You can get out and walk through them on one of the many hiking trails but personally, I like to stick to my air-conditioned vehicle and enjoy their beauty as comfortably as possible.
7. Devils Tower
One of the most iconic sites in Wyoming is the Devils Tower, found in the northeastern part of the state. It is a curious natural rock formation that rises 867 feet from base to summit.
It is another beautiful site that can be seen for miles and can be enjoyed from a distance or up close. Some people do choose to climb it but I wouldn’t ever do it myself, as it is a sacred site to several groups of Native Americans who live by and they consider it a desecration. Also, I’m afraid of heights and not very athletic.
8. Misty Fjords National Monument
There are several National Monuments in Alaska but most of them aren’t very accessible as they’re in the Aleutian Islands and can only be accessed by float plane. However, the beautiful natural canals of Misty Fjords near Ketchikan can easily be seen from the comfort of a cruise ship or another large boat.
As with the other entries on this list, there are a variety of options here that will allow you to enjoy the area as it makes sense for you. If you want a more physical experience, you can take a float plane and hike on the shoreline. If you’d rather relax, you can simply enjoy your cruise and view the monument from the observation deck.
These are just a few of the most accessible National Monuments in the United States. Most of these can easily be enjoyed from your vehicle, a wheelchair, or a slow walk conducted at your own pace.
So, hopefully, if you’re a big and heavy person (or have another form of disability) you’ll still be able to enjoy these as I have done!
Luckily (due to accessibility laws) you can typically find out easily whether or not a specific park if accessible.
This way America’s rich history and natural beauty can be enjoyed by all, regardless of physical limitations. I hope you have an amazing time checking out some of the sites on this list and that your adventures will be as fun and rewarding as possible!