Hiking in Kansas

Hiking is never a dull experience in Kansas, especially when there is such a wide variety of trails. As an avid hiker, I enjoy ever-changing landscapes, and Kansas offers meadows, lakes, waterfalls, ravines, rocky hills, and many more! If you’re looking for a thrilling outdoor venture, look no further than hiking in Kansas.

Hiking in Kansas is suitable for beginners, intermediates, and experts. Top hiking trails include Tomahawk Creek Trail, Horse Thief Trail, Konza Prairie Kings Creek, Elk River Hiking Trail, and more. You’ll explore meadows, lakes, waterfalls, and you can see exciting fauna like buffalo.

Hiking routes have varying difficulties, so we’ll delve into each trail and explore what they offer, as well as whether they’re the perfect fit for your weekend away.

Hiking In Kansas

Kansas has some of the most exciting and beautiful hiking trails to explore, and they come with a healthy variety of fauna and flora, too. After passing through the timber-lined banks of Kings Creek, you’ll adventure to the rich geological history of the Flint Hills. You’ll find yourself traversing grassland fields and beautiful woodland places.

Most of these trails permit you to bring your canine traveling companion, although trails like the Konza Prairie Kings Creek Loop Hill in Konza Prairie Natural Area prohibit it due to the presence of buffalo and other potentially dangerous fauna in the area.

Furthermore, the hiking trails in Kansas cater to more than just the average hiker, with trails suitable to families, beginners, intermediates, and experts (and even an adventurous Indiana Jones). These trails also offer the potential for hiking, camping, backpacking, cycling, and many more thrilling outdoor activities.

Beginners will enjoy Horse Thief Trail in Kanopolis Lake State Park. It has a little bit of everything, meaning it won’t push you too hard, but it will give you an introduction to various hiking elements, such as climbing. It’s just about 2 miles and takes only an hour to complete.

Intermediates would enjoy Konza Prairie Kings Creek Loop Hill in Konza Prairie Natural Area because the landscape constantly changes and requires you to climb change direction. It will require that you traverse limestone, gravel, steep inclines, and grass, all in one beautifully neat hiking package.

Expert hikers may favor the Elk River Hiking Trail in Elk City State Park. It involves tight gorges, rock overhangs, crossing streams, and ravines while dealing with steep inclines. Despite the challenge, you’ll enjoy beautiful meadows and woodlands, as well as the creatures that inhabit the area.

Each trail has a healthy mix of inclines and rocky areas, and some of the more slippery places like the Elk River Hiking Trail can be much easier if you had some poles and quality hiking boots.

Kansas Hiking Trails For The Whole Family

If you’re looking to drag the kids from their phones (by their hair if necessary), consider a family-friendly hike. The air is clean, your worries are left behind, and the adventure awaits!

Tomahawk Creek Trail, Fox Hill Park

Bring excellent footwear because the path contains steep washed-out slopes with giant limestone pebbles in the manner of southern Missouri.

Although Beaver Lake is the only significant viewpoint, the journey is a good one that takes you through gorgeous woodland and past a plethora of wildflowers. The estimated completion time is 4 hours and 36 minutes.

The route is well-marked and well-maintained so that you won’t get lost. It is unquestionably a difficult path, with some incredibly steep slopes. You may come across vertical routes, several climbs and descents, and creek crossings. On several path sections, be prepared for loose gravel and washouts.

Overall, there’s a good mix of elevation changes and stream crossings, as well as a nice view of Beaver Lake.

The vast paved parking area off of Constitution Court at the trail’s northeast terminus has at least eight designated accessible spaces. They’re all van-accessible and have striped access aisles.

The route usually is 4 to 6 feet wide with several broader passing areas and is paved with rails at bridges. The trail is relatively easy for the most part, with the steepest parts at roughly 2.3 and 5.2 miles while traveling southwest.

Trail users in wheelchairs or who use mobility equipment may find the steeper areas difficult. There are numerous picnic areas along the trail that will serve you well if you need to catch your breath.

Horse Thief Trail, Kanopolis Lake State Park

Horse Thief Path is a 1.9-mile moderately trafficked circular trail in Kanopolis, Kansas, with a lake suitable for all skill levels. The route is open year-round and caters to various outdoor activities. Canine companions are welcome to attend, but they must be on a leash. The estimated completion time is 52 minutes.

The trail begins on Buffalo Trail and continues to Horse Thief Trail. After that, return to the trailhead via the blue shortcut. This trek will give you a taste of everything, including climbing, grassland fields, and woodland places.

This track, in particular, is a fantastic choice for individuals who want to do some trekking and climbing! It also serves as a beautiful training path with a weighted pack, mainly because of considerable elevation variation and some boulders to climb over.

The route is tight the entire way, but there are many places to step off to allow people to pass. Most of the minor stream crossings have cement pilings to enable you to cross without getting wet, but there was a reasonably muddy couple.

Kansas Hiking Trails For The Intermediate Hiker

Are you looking to challenge yourself with something a little more demanding? Some beautiful intermediate hiking trails available in Kansas will knock your breath away before starting.

Konza Prairie Kings Creek Loop Hill, Konza Prairie Natural Area

The Konza Prairie Kings Creek Loop Path is a 4.5-mile moderately trafficked loop trail with a river classed as moderate. It exists near Manhattan, Kansas. The hiking trail is open all year and is famous for hiking, jogging, nature tours, and bird viewing. The estimated completion time for this hiking trail is 2 hours and 7 minutes.

Before approaching the undulating Flint Hills tallgrass prairie, this route passes through the timber-lined banks of Kings Creek. Because most of this property was once part of the Dewey Ranch, buffalo roam the plains.

A trail guide describing the significant features and geology of the Flint Hills prairie is provided at the trailhead if you want to pique your interest with some history.

Furthermore, the route is either lined with limestone pea gravel or follows a bare dirt or limestone gravel service road. Due to the fauna in the area, you will need to leave your canine companions at home on this hiking trail.

Because of the numerous steep hills that litter the terrain, the first half of the trek will be the most difficult, but the view from the summit is worth it! Because you’ll be in between the hills, the second part of the track is considerably more level. As a result, they’re ideal for trekking and running.

This is a fantastic trail for a pleasant hike. There’s a steep ascent at the start, so take your time if you need to—but it’ll reward you with spectacular views over the plains. Along the journey, you’ll be able to see a wide variety of wildflowers and fauna. Furthermore, the shade will be sparse until you make your way back, so carry plenty of water.

Table Mound Trail, Elk City State Park

Table Mound Path is a 5.6-mile moderately trafficked out and back trail with a beautiful lake, and the course rates as relatively tricky. It exists near Independence, Kansas. The route is accessible year-round, making it a great pick for various activities. Dogs are welcome to join your hike as long as they are on a leash.

The Table Mound route starts at a picturesque overlook and then descends below the bluff before heading south into the woods. The Scenic Overlook at the dam and Timber Road Campground, northwest of the State Park headquarters, are both trailheads for this linear walk. The completion time is around 2 hours and 34 minutes.

Because of the trail’s length, the hiker will see a variety of magnificent and gorgeous views that will create a lifetime of memories.

The route will take you north about 0.2 miles along the edge of a 20-foot bluff above Table Mound if you start at the Scenic Overlook. It bends abruptly south after passing through an aperture in rock and descending to the foot of the bluff.

For the next 0.2 miles, the route will travel between sheer rock walls, boulder fields, and cave-like structures. The track then descends into a ravine before crossing a county road. This route is ideal for anyone with a sense of adventure, and it will undoubtedly make you feel like Indiana Jones!

Even though this path has blue paint markers for direction, it is considered a demanding and challenging trek. The route goes through forested hills over the next 1.9 miles, crossing three small streams. The final part is 0.15 miles long and runs next to an old highway.

Kansas Hiking Trails For The Born Mountaineer

If you’re as tough as a mountaineer and you’re looking to push yourself to your limit, then strap on your hiking boots and prepare yourself! Kansas has a handful of serious hiker trials that are bound to provide a rewarding challenge. 

Elk River Hiking Trail, Elk City State Park

Elk River Hiking Path is a moderately used 15.2-mile point-to-point trail near Elk City, Kansas. It has a lake. The route is accessible year-round and provides a variety of activities. You can bring your pets, but they need to remain on a leash at all times. The estimated time to complete this hiking trail is 6 hours and 49 minutes.

The Elk River Hiking Trail is accessible from two main trailheads on the northwest side of Elk City Lake. Furthermore, there are primitive campsites interspersed throughout the path, making this an especially intriguing trip.

From the summits of the several limestone cliffs on the northern borders of Elk City Lake, the route offers breathtaking panoramic vistas. It runs through tight gorges and beneath rock overhangs, crossing various tiny streams and ravines. The path has blue trail blazes and markers in both directions to ensure you won’t lose your way.

The route might sometimes be challenging due to inclines and finding your footing in rough parts, but it’s worth the effort, especially in the spring and fall. There are a variety of animals that live in and near this route, so you’re sure to spot a few while you walk.

Meadows, woodlands, boulders, enormous rock formations, creek crossings, and river vistas are among the trail’s many features. It also features an even distribution of climbing, descending, and flat terrain. Starting around 3 miles in, there are several designated campsites and several locations to put up your own tent.

There is plenty of firewood available, and some campsites even have granite fire rings. Its rocky ledges and outcroppings may remind you of paths in the Ozarks or perhaps parts of Appalachia.

Gary L.Haller National Recreation Trail, Mill Creek Streamway Park

The Gary L. Haller National Recreation Path is a moderately used 13.4-mile point-to-point trail in Edwardsville, Kansas, featuring magnificent wildflowers. The path is popular for walking, jogging, and road riding, and dogs are allowed but must be on a leash. This hiking trek takes about 5 hours and 41 minutes to complete.

The paved National Recreation Trail runs from Olathe to the Kansas River and uses underpasses to bypass most traffic and train crossings. The little paved parking lot off of Northgate at the trail’s south end has two designated accessible spaces, both of which are van-accessible and have a striped access aisle.

The route surface is paved for added safety, with rails at crossings. It’s usually at least 5 feet wide, although there are plenty of broader spots for passing. A painted dividing line will also be visible along with the majority of the route, reducing its breadth.

The trail is less strenuous when traveling north, with the steepest parts occurring at roughly 0.7, 2.9, and 11.0 miles. Trail users in wheelchairs, mobility equipment, or strollers may require help or avoid the more vertical areas for safety reasons.

Resting areas include benches and picnic tables and a wheelchair-accessible restroom near the trail’s southern terminus. The views of the trail’s waterways are breathtaking, especially from the bridges that run beside it.

You’ll also be relieved to learn that several water-drinking stops, restrooms, and seats throughout the route. The surroundings around this hiking path are home to various bird species, so expect to hear lovely chirping as you walk through the shady areas and into the sun.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a family-friendly hiking experience in Kansas, the Tomahawk Creek Trail in Fox Hill Park is a great pick! If you want something more challenging, opt for Konza Prairie Kings Creek Loop Hill in Konza Prairie Natural Area or Elk River Hiking Trail in Elk City State Park.