Just encountering the name “Flaming Gorge” is all it can take to make you want to visit. This scenic National Recreation Area in southwestern Wyoming is full of surprise. But when you have a disability, knowing how much of the area you can enjoy is crucial to figure out if you’ll make the trip.
Why go to Flaming Gorge?
Spanning both Wyoming and Utah, the 207,363 acres of the Flaming Gorge NRA are full of scenic drives, hikes, and water recreation. Part of the northern area, at Firehole Canyon Campground, is also ringed by tall, bare, sloping hills capped with narrow spires, castle-like mesas, and other rock formations. Yet this off-the-beaten-track area is a place travelers with disabilities can enjoy.
Our Accessible Travel Family
When our family of four travels, we not only plan around what works for our son and daughter but for their mom, Jodie. When she was a teenager, a battle with cancer resulted in Jodie having her left leg amputated above the knee. Today, Jodie travels the world with the aid of a prosthetic leg that has a microprocessor-controlled knee.
We visited Flaming Gorge as part of a month-long family camping road trip from Oregon to Colorado. While planning spots to explore in southwestern Wyoming, the winding waters, canyon walls, and big rock formations of Flaming Gorge immediately got our attention. Our children loved the name. We as parents realized Flaming Gorge would be an opportunity to take in big views, quiet places and the stark beauty that is a hallmark of the American West. We hope our experience in Flaming Gorge helps you evaluate the area’s accessibility as you make your own travel plans.
Accessibility at Firehole Canyon Campground
From I-80 and US-191, your drive into Flaming Gorge follows Flaming Gorge Road through rocky, sloping hills. The approach is along a truly All-American Road that’s part of the 160-mile loop road known as the Flaming Gorge – Green River Basin Scenic Byway. Reaching Firehole Canyon, the flat expanse overlooks the winding Green River, at the bottom of eroded canyon walls.
The sagebrush-surrounded campground itself offers wide sight lines along a paved, level loop road. While none of the 36 campsites are rated as ADA accessible they do have features compatible with them. From the non-electric sites offering flat terrain to the cabana-style shelters with picnic tables and slatted roofs. The backs of sites generally have a loose, sandy top layer over hard-packed earth. Sites are suitable for tents, RVs, and trailers, though there are no hookups (a fee dump station is available though).
Water and Waste
Potable water taps are located throughout the campground. With spigots typically not more than a couple of feet up from ground level. A few flip-top dumpsters are available for the trash.
Toilet and shower blocks have motion sensor interior lights, flush toilets, running water sinks, and showers. Check approaches, entrances, and doorway widths to see how well they’ll work for you and your mobility.
Priceless Scenic Views
Taking a wander along the ring road was one of our family’s favorite past-times. From different vantage points throughout the day, we could observe how the light changed on the surrounding hills, the rocky tops above us, and the waters of the Green River below.
Slopes to the west could glow golden in the morning light. Around sunset and a little after, we always kept an eye on the eastern and southern slopes and rock formations. On our first night, the clouds and twilight created an incredible show that turned the rock formations a stunning red.
Around the Campground
This area showcases incredible scenery and multiple recreation options. The area can give you a full Flaming Gorge experience even if visiting only for a day or two.
At the camp itself, Jodie would wander with the kids along the pebbly sand and sagebrush fields, using a trekking pole to help her navigate the loose surface. We also drove gravel roads along more of the gorge area itself. High ridges gave us different overlooks of the reservoir and river. Roads down low ran parallel to the water’s edge (and held lots of spots popular with boondocks).
Flaming Gorge Reservoir
If you’re here for water recreation, the Firehole Boating Site is just downhill from the campground. It features a boat launch and a parking area. Paddlecraft and motorboats alike dotted the water. Rocky beaches and sandy areas can make it tricky to navigate from the roadside to the water’s edge. As you make your way odds around you can find a place to relax or do a little fishing.
Winding along the dirt and gravel roads, the kids kept an eye out for a good splashing spot. (Lately, they get antsy anytime we go more than a couple of summer days without time in the water, though baths never seem to count.) Jodie used her trekking pole to navigate a rocky path from the car to a stretch of beach, and we brought down camp chairs and a small picnic. The kids tried to throw rocks at the opposite canyon wall and played games in the calm, shallow water. We parents enjoyed quiet minutes in our camp chairs waving at passing boaters, watching the light change as sun and clouds moved over the canyon, and chatting about the views, the wildlife, and all the beauty and surprises we had found in Flaming Gorge.
For hiking, some of the area’s 220 miles of trails can be accessible. A stop-off and a chat at the Explore Rock Springs & Green River Visitor Center in nearby Rock Springs can help you match the right trail to your interests and mobility.
Travelers with Disabilities Can Enjoy Accessible Travel Options at Flaming Gorge
Our family of four came to Flaming Gorge for a couple of days of desert camping and relaxation. We splashed in the waters of the reservoir, and we drove along part of the Flaming Gorge – Green River Basin Scenic Byway. Under the endless stars on clear nights, we talked and listened for coyotes, and during the sunny days, we wandered together through the sagebrush, looking for cacti. But what we loved the most about our time in Flaming Gorge was that our family simply got to be together, in the midst of a beautiful landscape, unlike anything we had seen before.
We also knew that we had gotten only a tiny taste of what Flaming Gorge has to offer. On a future trip, we plan to seek out a sampling of accessible hiking trails, get our kayaks on the water, and drive the full scenic byway, including the Utah side of the Flaming Gorge NRA.
From the incredible hilltop rock formations to the calm waters of the Green River below, Flaming Gorge is an iconic part of the American West. It’s also a place where visitors with disabilities can enjoy, their way, from the campground to the trails and waters beyond.
- Accessibility in Wyoming
- Wheelchair Accessibility in Wyoming’s National Parks & Outdoor Spaces
- Firehole Campground
- Explore Rock Springs & Green River Visitor Center:
- 1641 Elk Street, Rock Springs, WY, 82901, (307) 382-2538
- How to Make the Most of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
- Digital map of Flaming Gorge
- About the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
- Firehole Canyon Campground info and reservations at Recreation.gov
- US Forest Service: Firehole Campground