As seen in Travel & Leisure
Throwing on a backpack and hitting the trails isn't always an easy task. And for some people with autism or other developmental differences, trudging along on a crowded trail can feel near impossible. That's where the Autism Nature Trail (ANT), which opened in October 2021, comes in. The hiking trail in western New York's Letchworth State Park was specifically designed for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Along the one-mile loop, hikers will find eight sensory stations that range from a station with a collection of moss, acorns, fossils, and leaves that hikers can touch and smell, to a Music Circle where nature-inspired musical instruments are available to play alone or with others. Those looking to run and jump can spend hours in the Meadow Run and Climb, which has an obstacle course and paths built for testing flexibility, strength, coordination, and confidence. And hikers looking for peace and quiet can visit the cuddle swings at Sunshine Slope or sit under a canopy of trees at The Nook. The trail ends at the Celebration Station, where visitors are supplied with tools to depict their experience on the trail through writing and drawing.
Each sensory station is designed to engage people of all ages with visual, tactile, auditory, vestibular, and proprioceptive tools straight from nature. The trail itself is ADA-compliant and generally suitable for wheelchairs, and while the hike is self-guided, there is scheduled programming from the staff at Camp Puzzle Peace, a camp for families with children who have ASD.