Little Jerusalem Badlands: Kansas’ Newest State Park (and Your Family’s Next Road Trip Destination)

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(photo courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism)

Kansas has a new state park that has been well worth the wait! Little Jerusalem Badlands officially opened to the public in October of last year and has been on my “to-hike” list ever since.  

Located just 18 miles north of Scott City in western Kansas this would make the perfect weekend getaway for some late summer/ early fall adventures. I went on this trip solo because it was completely spontaneous. But if you want to take the family I would recommend grabbing reservations at Historic Lake Scott (named by National Geographic as one of the country’s 50 must-see state parks) and exploring everything the area offers including Monument and Castle Rocks

Little Jerusalem has multiple info-stations along the trails that point out flora and fauna native to the region. 

If you want a fun scavenger hunt and ways to document the trip pick up a disposable camera and let each child “collect/capture” their favorite plants, animals, bugs, views. The best way to be a nature-keeper is to protect and preserve the wild by not picking up things you find.

Pro-tip: Snap a picture and put it in a memory book, this will keep Mom from finding your collection in the bottom of the washing machine!

Another way to be a good steward and nature-keeper is to stay on marked paths, don’t blaze your own trail. The Nature Conservancy has carefully marked out and maintained paths that will keep Little Jerusalem a stable ecosystem an open to the public for years to come! If you want a “behind the scenes” tour you can reserve a guided tour on their website!

Show your children fun ways to see things from different viewpoints like the clouds through this Niobrara chalk “frame” and watch their creativity and imaginations run wild! 

Little Jerusalem Rules:

  • Stay on the marked trails, walkways and overlooks. Only guided tours are allowed off-trail.
  • Trails are for pedestrian traffic only, except for wheelchairs. No bicycles, ATVs, UTVs or horses are allowed. 
  • Take nothing but pictures! Fossil hunting and collecting of anything (including rocks, flowers and plants), even if found lying on the ground, are not allowed.
  • Rock climbing, camping and fires are not allowed. Camping opportunities are available at Historic Lake Scott State Park, about 7 miles south. 
  • Guided tours into the interior must be scheduled in advance by calling the office at Historic Lake Scott State Park, 620-872-2061.
  • Dogs must be on a leash and take along supplies to clean up messes. 

*Bullets are directly from their website and also stated on signs upon entrance*

The area is a state park so a permit is required- our family buys a state park pass for $15.50 each year with our annual vehicle tags and then we have unlimited vehicle access to every state park in Kansas! There are restrooms with potable water to fill canteens and water bladders. (You can find kid sized day bags with their own bladders at REI, Cabelas, Academy or any sports store  so that mom and dad don’t get stuck carrying all the water!) It is important to always carry at least a half liter of water per person per hour hiking, and in hotter temperatures it is recommended to increase that to one liter per person, per hour.

Monument Rocks is another incredible space and was the inspiration for my trip. I wanted to photograph the sunrise through the formation known as “Eye of the Needle” shown below.

Sunrises and sunsets are just one of the many things I love about Kansas and this one did not disappoint! 

Monument Rocks is located on private property but the land owners have graciously allowed day-use of the area. Carving into the chalk, or climbing, and flying drones is strictly prohibited. Make sure to take a trash bag and practice the leave no trace rule “pack-out what you pack-in”!

Little Jerusalem/ Monument Rocks

I also love how soft and romantic the light is at dawn and dusk, it makes everything feel dreamy and magical including the many layers and colors on the spires shown above.

  

If you are wanting to get a shot of just yourself or the entire family, make sure you pack a tripod or selfie stick. I left mine at home and used the self timer function and a package of baby wipes to stabilize my phone. 

What are your favorite places and spaces to explore in and around Kansas? 

Have you MacGyver’d your own selfie or family pictures using the timer function? What did you use? 

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Hali McCord
After moving to Kansas from Wyoming shortly before Kindergarten, Hali was raised a "country girl" in a small town south of Wichita. She graduated high school and attended the University of Kansas before deciding that cosmetology and the beauty industry was her passion. A licensed hairstylist for (almost) ten years and salon owner for six she loves creative freedom and the ability to form her work schedule around the needs of her children. Hali now calls El Dorado home and resides there happily with her son Riley (b.2009), her daughter Heidi (b. 2015). When her schedule isn't packed with youth sports, or working behind the chair in her salon, she enjoys time with friends at any patio restaurant or a good girls day out exploring new local shops.

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