Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or beginner, Kansas offers fantastic trails & parks for hiking! Get out with the kids and enjoy Mother Nature at one of these Wichita Mom-Approved spots!
Kanopolis State Park
- Located in Marquette
- more than 30 miles of trails
- Range in difficulty from moderate to difficult
Kanopolis was the first state park and has been host to many travelers/ hikers some with names etched into the Dakota sandstone that date back as far as 1865. Buffalo Tracks Canyon Trail is a 1.5 mile round trip trail and on this trek you can find a detailed etching of the crucifixion near Bison Creek. If you are looking for a bit more of a challenge I also love Horsethief Canyon Trail, this will lead you through canyons with craggy cliffs, small caves and across a minimum of three water crossings depending on the recent precipitation.
Elk City State Park
- Locate outside of Elk City
- 15 miles point to point
- Ranges from intermediate to moderate in difficulty
The point to point Elk River Trail is known as one of the best in Kansas among many backpackers and avid hiking communities. Although it is 15 miles from point to point it does have several great access points that can be reached in order to shorten the length of hike. As you start your trek along the trail you will plummet through ravines and wind through narrow canyons and under limestone overhangs this would be an ideal hike camp and then set out on the trail at daylight- perfect for practicing or conditioning for a backpa(cking trip!
El Dorado Lake
- Located North of El Dorado
- Almost 30 miles of trails
- Difficulty is easy to moderate
El Dorado Lake is mostly known for the marina/boating and camping amenities and not really for the trails it offers. Teter Nature trail is .75 miles long and begins at the archery range, loops down into the woodland area and then inclines back up to the starting path. The Walnut Ridge trail is the same length as Teter Nature trail, but is wedged between one of the campgrounds and a residential area. Because it backs up to the residential area there is also a paved walk/bike path that can be accessed from the trail that further simplifies the ease of this hike if you want it to! Another favorite for our family is the Boulder Bluff area on the north side of the lake that has a huge area of rock to climb and boulder on over and around. This hike loops out to the peninsula type area that juts out onto the water and is the perfect place to watch a legendary Kansas sunrise or sunset.
Chaplin Nature Center
- Located west of Ark City
- Approximately 5 miles of trails
- Difficulty is mode rate
The Chaplin Nature Center is a 230-acre nature preserve that is free to the public and owned/ maintained by the Wichita Audubon Society. Our favorite route is to start on Bluff Trail, follow it to where is conjoins with the River Trail and take that out along the sandbar and then loop back up to the visitor center by following Spring Creek Trail. The Chaplin Nature Center is open from sunrise to sunset 7 days a week and has an incredible visitor center that kids love to learn about different animal tracks etc that can be found on the ground, and sign up for upcoming events like butterfly tagging, guided night hikes, or kayak tours. While in Ark City I would make a day of the trip and head east of town to Camp Horizon it boasts 10 miles of hiking and biking with topography and elevation changed that will take you by surprise!
The next big hike I want to cross off my Kansas Bucket List is the Flint Hills Nature Trail it is the longest rail trail in Kansas covering 117 miles and passing through 5 counties!
Whether you are seasoned and have more backpacks and wool socks than you can count, or if you are a fresh new hiker, Kansas holds opportunities and breathtaking views for every skill level! Get out there and enjoy it this summer and remember to pack out what you pack in, always leave a place better than you found it. Our family has also began to carry multiple pairs of gloves and trash bags in our daypacks so that as we are out enjoying nature we can give back by picking up the trash and waste others carelessly toss aside and leave behind. What are some of your favorite trails and parks to explore in Kansas? What hikes do you have on your list?
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