A young person drives an all-terrain track chair in Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park
Destinations

Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park Has Adaptive Sports for Every Body

Elizabeth Rajchart

Elizabeth Rajchart

March 5, 2024

6 min read

I pushed off the 80-foot ledge and began my descent down the 1,400-foot-long zipline through the forest. Turns out zipping 25 miles per hour through the trees is just fast enough to make you feel like you’re flying. Ziplining is mainstream enough now. Most people have either gone or know someone who has. But the zipline at Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park in Michigan is different: It’s equipped to work for any body, even me, a wheelchair user. 

Located in Muskegon State Park on the shores of Lake Michigan, less than an hour from Grand Rapids, the sports park is open year-round, with adventures such as skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and archery and rock climbing in the summer. The park’s motto is “Adventure is for everyone,” and they show it by providing adaptive equipment for all of their activities, enabling guests with varying abilities and disabilities to use them.

A person in a wheelchair learns archery at Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park

In August 2022, my family and I were road-tripping down the west side of Michigan, and I, as an ambulatory wheelchair user (someone who is able to walk but sometimes uses a wheelchair) and disability advocate, was looking for accessible activities in the area. When I came across the park in Muskegon, I gasped—everything was available to me, including activities I’d never even considered before. Wheel luge? Really? 

The sports park offers all-terrain track chairs, which use tank-like tracks instead of wheels, that can be used across the entire state park and throughout the seasons. With a powerful motor, these things can traverse snow in the winter, sand on the beach, and even go into water. The sports park has four hiking trails, three of which are wheelchair accessible with widened pathways and packed gravel trails; the state park offers an additional wheelchair-accessible trail, plus three more that can be completed with the all-terrain chair. (Note: Michigan has chairs like these available at no charge at 14 different state parks and beaches.)

When my family and I arrived at the sports park, we were paired up with Dan, an accessibility expert who took us from activity to activity on his UTV, a larger all-terrain vehicle that included a pull-down ramp and wheelchair tie-downs. Dan was kind, patient, and knowledgeable about all things outdoors, as he spends much of his time escorting visitors around the park and leading classes like yoga and paddleboarding. 

A young person rides a zipline at Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park

Our first stop was the dual zipline. In the past, I’d been worried about the climb required to reach the zipline, but here, I was taken up to the top of the hill on a UTV, pulled up the rest of the way to the platform using a pulley system, and transferred to a padded “easy seat,” which enables people with lower-body mobility disabilities to enjoy the quarter-mile zipline. The dual zipline system allows two people to ride side by side, so my eight-year-old stepdaughter and I strapped in next to one another, and we were off! 

As I whizzed through the air, in time with my stepdaughter, I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement—both that I got to enjoy this incredible adventure and also that I didn’t have to be separated from my family in order to participate.

After the zipline, Dan led us to the archery course for a private lesson with a certified instructor. Archery has always been one of my favorite outdoor activities; in childhood summer camps, I’d beg the counselors to let us shoot every day. The instructors at the sports park knew a lot about both traditional and adaptive archery techniques, so I was able to relearn how to shoot from my chair alongside my two stepdaughters, who, might I add, had fantastic aim. They taught us the correct posture for shooting and gave us a few practice tries before we could shoot on our own. 

Archery is one of the simplest sports to adapt for disabilities. You can shoot from sitting or standing, use tabs or gloves to help if you have a limited grip, use a stand to help support your bow, or even use mouth tabs to draw your bow if you’ve lost use of your arms. It felt good to be back behind the bow. 

A person rides the wheel luge at Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park

Later on, we headed to the luge. One out of only four luge tracks in the US, the Muskegon track was designed by Olympic luger Frank Masley. In the summer, the track transitions into a wheel luge, a 320-foot-long track with in-line wheels attached to the bottom of the sleds, similar to a giant rollerblade, so they can be used without ice. 

To me, someone who’s never thought much about luging before, I found the wheel luge to be one of the most unique adventures in the park. I knew I had to give it a try, even though I was super nervous about it. As the luge instructor explained how it worked, Dan stood next to me, putting my nerves at ease with lots of encouragement. 

Instead of using my body weight to direct the sled, I’d use reins to steer down the track and up the two steep curves on either side. Like with the other activities, staff was on hand to help with transferring me from my wheelchair into the sled. I settled in, and double-checked to make sure my helmet was secure and arm pads were tight. I took a deep breath and shouted, “Ready!” 

The staff member gave me a push, and I began rolling down the track, feeling the wind rush past my face. Simultaneously, I felt out of control, yet totally in control of the sled. I wished someone could’ve clocked my time—it felt like I was going 90 miles per hour. 

I pulled the left rein and rolled up the first curve, feeling myself go sideways and my stomach turn a little. My family and the staff were screaming encouraging words, and I pulled the right rein to lead myself up the second curve. 

All too soon, I reached the end and slammed into the stack of cushions. I could have stopped more slowly, but crashing seemed like way more fun. I tried to catch my breath, and grinned at my instructor. “Again?” I asked. 

Getting there

  • Muskegon Luge Adventure Park is located in Western Michigan. The closest airport is  Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. From the airport, it’s best if you rent a car for the one-hour drive to the sports park. 
  • Average Going price for cheap flights to Grand Rapids: $229

How to do it

  • Best time to go: Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park is open year-round, with rotating activities depending on the season. If you’re interested in summer activities, such as the wheel luge, ziplining, or rock climbing, visit September–October (see the website for specific opening dates). If you’re looking for winter activities, such as the luge, skiing, or snowshoeing, it’s best to visit in the winter. Note that Muskegon does not open its winter activities until it receives at least five inches of snow, so confirm that winter activities are on before you visit.
  • Cost: Summer passes range from $10 for the Trail Quest to $64 for the Ultimate Adventure Package, which includes two zipline runs, three luge runs, three rounds of archery, three rock-wall climbs, and the Trail Quest. Winter day passes are $10 (plus rental fees, if applicable). Winter luge tickets, starting at $35, can be purchased separately. You can also purchase winter season passes starting at $105 (plus rental equipment). Hiking, yard games, slackline, and sledding are always free. Visit the website for more information and to purchase tickets. 
  • Tips and considerations: The sports park has tons of modifications, whether you have mobility issues or need modified communication with staff for hearing or visual impairments. If you’re not sure what is available at the park for you, you can call ahead of time to make a personalized plan that fits your abilities and needs. The park also has other activities, such as yard games in the summer and a campfire in the winter. Always check the website’s conditions page to see if any activities are closed due to weather.

Other cool experiences in the US

Feature and zipline photos by Adam Alexander Photography

Elizabeth Rajchart

Elizabeth Rajchart

Freelance Writer

Elizabeth Rajchart is a photographer from St. Louis, Missouri, as well as a disability rights and accessibility advocate and speaker. Elizabeth specializes in inclusive photography of all genres, and she has been educating and speaking on disability since childhood, reaching a wide range of diverse audiences.


 


Published March 5, 2024

Last updated March 6, 2024

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