News Release

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and partners to expand adaptive programs in 2024

A person in an off-road wheelchair is next to a person standing. They are in front of a waterfall and creek.

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News Release Date: April 17, 2024

Contact: Emily Davis

GATLINBURG, Tenn.—The National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with Catalyst Sports, Knox County, Kampgrounds of America Foundation, and Friends of the Smokies, is pleased to announce the expansion of adaptive ranger-led programs in 2024. Using assistive technology, the ranger-led programs are designed for visitors of all abilities and their families to learn about the natural and cultural history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.       

“We strive to create equal and accessible experiences for visitors of all abilities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “And we are thrilled to work with our partners to expand the adaptive programs and offer off-road wheelchairs.”  

Expanding on the adaptive programs offered in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time in 2023, this year’s lineup includes three opportunities for hiking, two for biking, one for kayaking and one overnight camping trip:  
  • June 8-9: Hiking Cooper Rd Trail and camping at backcountry campsite #1
  • June 22: Kayaking from Fontana Marina
  • July 13: Hiking at Hazel Creek Hike/Boat Tour
  • September 7: Hiking at Bradley Fork Trail
  • September 14: Biking at Deep Creek Trail
  • September 15: Biking at Forge Creek Road
  • October 5: Hiking at Middle Prong Trail or Little River Trail 
Register for the programs and find more information at Catalyst Sports, a non-profit organization that provides outdoor adventures for people with physical disabilities. Registration is required to ensure equipment and volunteers are available for the programs. Registered participants are welcome to bring their own adaptive equipment. Information about volunteering can be found below.  

“These programs connect individuals with nature, promoting environmental awareness and stewardship. Expanding offerings and experiences will enhance inclusion for all,” said Eric Gray, CEO of Catalyst Sports.  

Outside of the scheduled programs, four GRIT Freedom Chairs, a type of off-road wheelchair, will be available for visitors to check out and use on park trails evaluated for the equipment, like the Little River trails or Deep Creek trails.

The programs and GRIT Freedom Chairs were made possible through the generous support of Friends of the Smokies, Kampgrounds of America Foundation and National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).  

Serving as the philanthropic partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Friends of the Smokies raises money to support special park projects, including accessibility initiatives, education opportunities, historic preservation and wildlife management.

Would you like to volunteer for the adaptive programs?  

The NPS is expanding opportunities for visitors of all abilities with the help of volunteers. Accessibility Awareness and Adaptive Equipment Training is required before volunteering with the adaptive programs. The NPS will offer volunteer training with Knox County and Catalyst Sports on Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sugarlands Visitor Center Training Room, near the Gatlinburg entrance to the park. This volunteer position requires moderate to high fitness levels.

To register to volunteer, e-mail us  


Last updated: April 17, 2024

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