Winnebago invited me to take a 2021 Inspire RV on a road trip through California at their expense. Although the cost of my trip was covered by Winnebago, this review of the RV is my own honest assessment.
Wheelchair accessible motorhomes were, until recently, customized retrofits of standard RV models. Not only did wheelchair users need to pay the full cost of an RV, but they also had to finance the cost of an accessible conversion.
With the release of the Winnebago Accessibility Enhanced RV line, accessible RVs are now available direct from the manufacturer — they’re designed to be accessible from the start, and much more affordable! Earlier this summer, I was invited to take a 2021 Winnebago Inspire RV on a road trip through California, exploring national parks and forests along our route from San Diego to Sacramento.
It was an incredible trip, a journey to remember — with the changing landscapes between Southern and Northern California, the giant sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park, and the gentle meadows below towering peaks in Yosemite National Park. I’m going to share all of that with you, but first — let’s take a look inside the wheelchair accessible Winnebago Inspire RV!
Table of Contents
- Wheelchair Accessible Winnebago Inspire RV
- Exploring San Bernardino National Forest & Big Bear Lake
- Exploring the Wheelchair Accessible Sequoia National Park
- Wheelchair Accessibility at the Iconic Yosemite National Park
- What does the Winnebago Inspire RV cost, and where can I get one?
- Final Thoughts
Wheelchair Accessible Winnebago Inspire RV
The Winnebago Inspire Accessibility Enhanced RV is a Class A motorhome, powered by a 340-hp Cummins® ISB 6.7L Diesel engine. The motorhome measures 35 feet, 9 inches in length, and is Winnebago’s largest Accessibility Enhanced RV. It features two slideouts to dramatically increase interior space at campsites, plus a whole host of accessibility features.
Heavy-Duty Wheelchair Lift
Wheelchair access to the RV is via a heavy-duty BraunAbility Century-2 wheelchair lift, which has a capacity of 800 pounds.
The lift had no trouble lifting me and my Permobil F3 power wheelchair, together weighing just over 600 pounds. The side door through which the lift operates is automatic, and can be opened or closed with the touch of a button (inside the RV and on a key fob).
Seating & Wheelchair Securement Space
Two captain’s chairs sit at the front of the Winnebago Inspire RV — one for the driver and another for a passenger. The seats featured adjustable arm rests, swivel, fixed lumbar support, and multi-adjustable recline. Because the passenger seat swiveled, I was able to safely transfer into it from my wheelchair, offering me exceptional views of the road ahead!
A wheelchair securement space, with four tie-down locations compatible with Q’Straint straps, is located directly behind the two front seats.
If you’ve tied down your wheelchair in a taxi or in your personal vehicle, you’ll have no problems doing the same on the Winnebago Inspire. The securement system allows wheelchair users to feel safe when traveling in the RV.
RV Common Areas: Living Room, Kitchen & Dining Area
With the slideouts deployed, the interior is spacious, with plenty of room to move about in a power wheelchair. A dining table (with a pull-out tabletop for wheelchair access) and a loveseat greet you upon entry, with both converting into sleeping surfaces.
The kitchen space is well-appointed, with a large sink, 3-burner range top, microwave/convection oven and a 2-door residential refrigerator with icemaker. The fridge/freezer combo offered nearly as much space for storing food/drinks as my refrigerator at home, and we were able to stock all the food that we needed for our weeklong trip. The beautiful Corian® countertops and sink cover provided sufficient space to prepare our meals.
Speaking of food, we ate well during our trip! We cooked steak, poultry, ribs and loads of vegetables using the Winnebago Inspire’s kitchen. The food tasted great, no different than if we had been at home! In order to be closer to my family, I opted to transfer from my wheelchair and into the booth-style seating at the dining table, but this isn’t necessary. A slide-out extension increases the table width to accommodate those who wish to remain seated in their own wheelchairs.
Wheelchair Accessible Bedroom
In addition to the sleeping areas provided by the convertible dinette and sofa, the Winnebago Inspire RV also has a bedroom at the rear of the motorhome. The bedroom features a Queen size InnoMax® Eurotop Freedom air mattress with controllers to adjust the firmness of both the left and right side of the bed.
To the left of the bed, enough space exists to accommodate power wheelchairs, and my Permobil F3 fit easily. A Whirlpool washer and dryer, located just outside the bedroom, ensures you’ll have fresh clothes and linens throughout the journey. We packed light and did multiple loads of laundry during our trip.
Wheelchair Accessible Bathroom & Roll-in Shower
The bathroom, located just outside the bedroom, features a roll-in shower. Accessibility features in the roll-in shower included a grab bar, height-adjustable shower head and easy to operate water controls. A wall-mounted shower seat is not included as a standard option, but customers have added this upon purchase. During my trip in the Inspire, I used a portable shower chair that can be purchased from Amazon or Walgreens.
The bathroom also featured a toilet with a bidet hose, a bathroom sink, a medicine cabinet with mirror, and a linen cabinet. The bathroom is a tight fit, but it suited me well, affording me the opportunity to safely shower each day.
One thing worth noting — and this is something that I shared with the Winnebago design team — the bathroom was only accessible to my power wheelchair when the right-side slideout was deployed.
In addition to the shade awnings, the RV also features a TV that swivels out from the side of the RV, allowing people to enjoy live sports and other content with a satellite TV subscription. I thought many times about how great it would be to take the Winnebago Inspire to a college football tailgate.
Don’t pay for park admission!
Although many national parks charge an admission fee, people with a disability recognized under the ADA are admitted free of charge to most national parks (and receive discounts on other services like campsite rentals). To learn more, click to read my article on the National Parks Access Pass for Disabled People.
Exploring San Bernardino National Forest & Big Bear Lake
The forest contains a number of mountain ranges, including the San Bernardino, San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains, as well as portions of the San Gabriel and Traverse Ranges. With elevation ranging from 2,000 to 11,000 feet in the forest, visitors will be able to enjoy a diverse array of nature habitats and viewpoints.
Barton Flats Campground
We stayed at the Barton Flats Campground, which is located near the town of Angelus Oaks, California. The campground is near to the Barton Flats Visitor Center, and is at an elevation of approximately 6,500 feet.
We set-up camp at site number 52, which was flat and included adequate space to deploy the RV’s slideouts and wheelchair lift. The campsite included an accessible picnic table and fire pit, but there were no electricity or water hook-ups. Before we arrived at the camp, we made sure to top off our water supply (the Winnebago Inspire features an 84-gallon freshwater tank capacity). The 6,000-watt Cummins Onan® generator kept our house batteries charged, allowing us to use the RV’s air conditioning system overnight.
Barton Flats had wheelchair accessible bathrooms with ADA compliant toilets and grab bars. The shower facilities included transfer-type showers with wall-mounted seats, but there was no handheld showerhead. I opted to shower in the Winnebago Inspire RV.
We were able to dump our wastewater at the campground’s dumping station, and there was also a water refill station onsite as well.
Hiking & Flying Big Bear Lake
One of the main attractions in the San Bernardino National Forest is Big Bear Lake, measuring approximately 7 miles by 2.5 miles at its widest point.
A paved, wheelchair accessible trail runs alongside the lake and through the surrounding forested area. It was a lovely path, well-maintained with great views and lots of birdlife. To get a bit closer to the lake, I took my power wheelchair off-trail, which was a fun experience.
Those who have followed this blog for awhile know that I am an aviation geek — the rare wheelchair user who actually enjoys flying! Big Bear City, which is located next to the lake of the same name, features a high-elevation airport, aptly named Big Bear Airport. There, the company Helicopter Big Bear offers affordable helicopter tours to visitors. We decided to go up for an aerial tour — the 15-minute “Tour Kilo” spanned a 24-mile route around the lake and cost our group of 3 people only $195.00. It was a great value and a fantastic way to end our visit to the San Bernardino National Forest!
Exploring the Wheelchair Accessible Sequoia National Park
Many people have a national park they long to visit and for me that was Sequoia National Park, home of some of the world’s biggest trees — including General Sherman, the largest tree on Planet Earth. I was thrilled that we were able to include the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on this RV adventure!
We stayed just inside the boundary of Sequoia National Park at the Potwisha Campground. It’s used primarily by tent campers, and was a tight squeeze for the Winnebago Inspire, but the views of the surrounding area were stunning!
We had originally reserved campsite #40, which was listed as being accessible, but large boulders blocked the RV’s wheelchair lift at that site. We moved to campsite #32, which was not listed as accessible, but suited our needs. It featured a fire pit and picnic table, but there were no power/water hook-ups (which are extremely rare in federal campsites and recreation areas).
Potwisha had no showers, but did have a lovely accessible bathroom just a short walk away from the campsite. Despite the initial accessibility challenges and tight quarters for our large RV, the campsite’s fantastic scenery and nearby trails made it our favorite campsite on this trip.
Driving the General’s Highway
In our quest to see the biggest trees, we left Potwisha Campground early in the morning, taking the notorious General’s Highway to the Giant Forest Museum (a welcome center maintained by the National Park Service). The distance was just 12.8 miles, but the ride took nearly an hour.
The drive is long and slow because General’s Highway and, more specifically, the portion between Hospital Rock and the Giant Forest, is extremely steep, winding, narrow and difficult to maneuver. Signs posted along the route strongly strongly advise vehicles longer than 22 feet to find another route. Because we were under time constraints and the detour would have added hours to the journey, we accepted the challenge. The 35’9″ Winnebago Inspire RV handled it like a champ!
When we arrived at the Giant Forest Museum, we parked the Inspire in the RV parking lot — it is free to do so. From there, we were able to walk/roll to the Big Trees Trail, one of the most popular attractions in Sequoia National Park.
Wheelchair Accessible Big Trees Trail
Big Trees Trail is easily accessible and relatively short in length, with a circular route of just 0.7 miles. The views are incredible, with countless giant sequoia trees encircling Round Meadow — a natural habitat that is said to be perfect for the sequoia trees that have existed there for hundreds if not thousands of years.
The pathway is flat and paved, with benches along the way. Informational placards tell the story of the trees there, documenting also the incredible work that has been done to reclaim and preserve this awe-inspiring habitat. Depending on how many photos you take (probably a lot) and the speed at which you walk/roll, the trail will take between 30 minutes to 1 hour of your time.
After I had snapped a hundred photos on the Big Trees Trail, I rolled back to the museum/visitor’s center (which has a fantastic gift shop), and boarded a shuttle bus for the ride to the Giant Forest, where the world’s largest tree is located. Although there is some parking near the tree, we were advised to take the shuttle — RV parking is at a premium, and the shuttle drops you off right at the entrance to the Giant Forest. The ride took less than 10 minutes, and the bus (which has a wheelchair ramp & securement area) runs frequently.
Up Close with General Sherman, the World’s Largest Tree
As you may know, I’m easily impressed by big things (like the world’s tallest buildings & towers), so it’s no surprise that I would be interested in seeing the world’s largest tree in real life. That title belongs to a Giant Sequoia tree that is nearly 3,000 years old and which is referred to as General Sherman.
What surprises many visitors is that General Sherman is neither the tallest tree on earth (that’s Hyperion, a 380-ft. coast redwood in California) nor the stoutest (that’s Árbol del Tule, a 31.8-ft. diameter Montezuma cypress in Mexico). Sherman’s “largest tree” designation is based on volume, some 52,500 cubic feet of it. The next-closest tree in total mass is Grogan’s Fault, a redwood that resides in Redwood National Park with its 38,300 cubic feet of trunk volume. That’s much less than the General!
The full measurements on General Sherman are as follows:
- Height: 275 feet (83.8 meters)
- Diameter: 36 feet (11 meters)
- Volume of trunk: 52,500 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters)
- Date seeded: 700 BC – 300 BC
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing General Sherman, and it was a highlight of my trip. The wheelchair accessible pathway into the Giant Forest grove made accessing the tree hassle-free and, after spending some time there, we rode the shuttle bus back to our RV… to begin the drive to Yosemite National Park!
Wheelchair Accessibility at the Iconic Yosemite National Park
Sequoia may have been the national park at the top of my list, but Yosemite was at the top of my sister’s. We were excited to visit the Yosemite Valley, which was the first natural area set aside for preservation by the federal government. The “Yosemite Grant” passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln. It is because of that law, and the later efforts of other naturalists, that Americans have this pristine wilderness to explore today.
Yosemite Lakes RV Resort by Thousand Trails
Camping options inside Yosemite National Park are extremely limited and in high demand (they sell out nearly a year in advance), so we instead reserved a spot at the private Yosemite Lakes RV Resort, which has space for more than 400 RVs.
The RV park was located about 6 miles from the main entrance to Yosemite. The close proximity to Yosemite was fantastic, but the the RV park wasn’t particularly accessible. Despite having on-site showers, none offered barrier-free entry suitable for wheelchair users. There was one accessible toilet, however.
Our “accessible” parking space was not on level ground, which caused some difficulty in the use of the wheelchair lift. The ramp on the lift folds out as soon as it levels with the ground but, since the ground was not level, one of my traveling companions had to manually extend the ramp. Unlike the federally-managed campgrounds we had stayed at earlier, there were hook-ups for electricity and water, which allowed us to give the generator a rest.
Wheelchair accessible trails to Yosemite Falls, El Capitan & more
Note that, as of 2020, admission to Yosemite National Park during peak seasons must be purchased online in advance — sometimes a week or more before arrival.
With only two days to explore the Yosemite Valley, we jumped right in and sought out the highlights. We parked the RV in a number of different locations as we moved throughout the park, including the Visitor’s Center, in different parking lots and even along the roadway where appropriate.
One of my favorite trails in the Yosemite Valley was Cook’s Meadow Loop, which provides stunning views of Cook’s Meadow (you guessed it!), Half Dome, Sentinel Rock and Yosemite Falls (from a distance).
The trail is a mixture of pavement, wooden boardwalks and hard-packed sand that is accessible and easy to navigate. The trail is circular and is about 1 mile in length. As is the case elsewhere, you’ll probably spend more time admiring the view and snapping photos than it takes to walk/roll the trail.
Another trail worth exploring is the one that leads to Lower Yosemite Falls. Together, the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America and the 5th highest in the world.
Because we visited the park in late summer, the water flow was minimal and difficult to see from the closest viewing point (pictured above). According to the National Park Service, the peak flow occurs in the Spring — from late July or August through October, the water flow is minimal and may at times stop altogether.
What does the Winnebago Inspire RV cost, and where can I get one?
The new 2022 model of the Winnebago Inspire Accessibility Enhanced RV has a starting MSRP of $361,352 USD. The 2021 model that I had the pleasure of taking on this California road trip was the base model. Buyers of the Winnebago Inspire can rest easy knowing that the RV comes with a 36-month/100,000-mile basic limited warranty and a 10-year limited parts-and-labor warranty on its fiberglass roof skin.
We picked-up the Winnebago Inspire RV from the La Mesa RV Center in San Diego, California. The team there was really helpful in familiarizing us with the RV’s features, and helping to get us prepared for a week on the road. La Mesa is one of the largest RV dealerships in the country, and they have locations in the following cities:
Due to high demand for the Winnebago Inspire, models may not be available to tour at all locations, but the team at La Mesa have all the information you could want and more!
The Winnebago Inspire RV made it possible for me to hit the road — experiencing some of the finest national parks that America has to offer. The wheelchair accessibility built-in to the Inspire is unmatched and provided everything I needed to live freely off the grid. The RV lived up to my expectations for what accessible design should look like, and I’m excited to see how Winnebago continues to innovate through its Accessibility Enhanced RV line. If you’re interested in taking a road trip across America, I can think of no better way than in the Winnebago Inspire — it’s the perfect tool to help you #OpenYourWorld.
For more information on the wheelchair accessible Winnebago Inspire RV and to download a brochure containing a detailed list of its specifications and capabilities, visit the Winnebago website.