​Visiting Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Zion National Parks

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on October 27, 2020 # Lifestyle

During the summer of 2019, we went to Yosemite National Park. It was beautiful there and wheelchair friendly. This inspired me to go and visit other National parks, Yellowstone being one, but the thought of traveling to Wyoming from California seemed like a very long way, and it is! But wait, why not. We called the park in August 2020 and were very surprised they had availability for September 2020 to stay inside the park. My many hours of research told me that it's best to stay inside the park if you can because it cuts down on the length of driving time from site to site. Yellowstone is a Big Place! There is a north, southeast, and west entrance. I had been told we would need to book a year in advance, so finding a place for the following month, I jumped on it. Yellowstone closes for the season in mid to late October due to weather. I knew with COVID-19, most Lodges and all sit-down restaurants were closed for the season. I found out there were open general stores and gas stations around the park. I'm guessing the closures and COVID are why there was availability, but since there was, we went for it and booked four nights inside the park, staying at Canyon Lodge in a cabin, which was very centrally located. I will add it was not cheap! I found hotels half the price right outside of the park but chose to splurge because of the multiple reviews about traffic and distance when staying outside the entrance.Collie family in Yellowstone

Glad we did. We have a family size of six, including my son Zack in a C-4 quadriplegic. Planning a detailed road trip is time-consuming; adding in the wheelchair is a whole different level. I know by now, ten years post-injury, what to look for. I've learned that "wheelchair assessable hotel room" does NOT always mean a Roll-in Shower, and you MUST ask for that directly and confirm! Mountain areas seem to be harder to find accessibility lodging over city, beach, or desert areas. We planned to stop overnight in Zion National Park continue North through Utah, Idaho, a sliver of Montana entering Yellowstone's west entrance.

There is a park entrance fee of $35 for seven days. That was the route we took. It took us two driving days to get there. Then we spent four days exploring all the tourist spots and sites. We saw a gorgeous landscape, deer, elk, bison, and a couple of bears. You are in your own vehicle, and the park provided maps, and there are signs for everything along the way. Most sites had wheelchair access, at least all the main ones. There are, of course, many off the maps places to stop. We exited the South entrance and down to the Grand Teton Mountains, a much smaller but worth seeing National Park. The mountain range and lakes are so majestic. We had a sudden thunderstorm that cleared the air from smoke from recent fires lingering in the air, making the sky more open and bluer. We took route 89 on down through the rest of Grand Tetons and out of the park. Along this much-recommended route were mountains and tree-covered hills with all the fall colors. This road takes you to Bryce Canyon National Park and right into Zion National Park. Unfortunately, our GPS re-routed us, and we missed Bryce Canyon and ended up on the 15 freeway. We re-routed ourselves and did make a second stop in Zion. This time we were able to go into the park. There is an entrance fee of $25. Once inside, you park your vehicle and take a shuttle around the park to the stops. Zion has Lots of red rock mountains and desert beauty. There is a river that runs through Zion, and there is a large campground inside the park. There are hotels within walking or rolling distance to the entrance, and most hotels offer shuttles as an option too. The mini-town strip is quaint with restaurants and gift shops. In summary, a wheelchair or not go visit these parks. There are about 62 protected National Parks in the United States.

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured I had a child in Preschool, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop off and pick up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.