Favorite Kansas parks and trails | Midwest Living

Favorite Kansas parks and trails

From hunting to scuba to fishing, Kansas parks and trails offer outdoor adventures for everyone.


Clinton Lake State Park
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Central Kansas

SALINA: Kanopolis State Park Kansas’ first state park (founded in 1955 about 30 miles southwest of Salina) ranks as one of the most beautiful. The 1,600 acres of hills, rugged Dakota Sandstone bluffs and big stands of mature trees frame 3,500-acre Kanopolis Reservoir and its 41 miles of shoreline. You’re in luck if you camp or travel with horses; Kanopolis is one of a handful of equestrian-only campgrounds. Horsethief Canyon offers 26 miles of trails for hikers, horseback riders and bicyclists. The multiuse 1½-mile Buffalo Tracks Canyon Nature Trail follows Bison Creek to a rugged box canyon that Plains tribes once used to trap bison. The reservoir features two swimming beaches. South of the dam, the beach along Langley Point is within walking distance of campgrounds, the marina and a kids’ fishing pond. A valid park permit is required to swim. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the campground and Venango Beach north of the dam ($1 per person/maximum $4 per car). On a hot day, swimmers will appreciate the southwesterly breeze. (785) 546-2565

MANKATO: Lovewell State Park This haven (14 miles north of Mankato) provides camping, fishing, wildlife watching and year-round special events. The 3,000-acre reservoir, complete with marina, is known for its excellent walleye fishing. Summertime also brings a variety of special events, including a sandcastle contest (July) and Lovewell Lake Fun Day in August. (785) 753-4971

PHILLIPS COUNTY: Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge Located in the rolling hills and narrow valley of the north fork of the Solomon River (about 65 miles north of Hays), 5,000-acre U-shape Kirwin Reservoir is the centerpiece of this 10,778-acre national wildlife refuge. Kirwin is a key migration stop. From November to March, expect to see Canadian geese and ducks, along with bald and golden eagles. Visitors can hike on dirt roads and walk along interpretive nature trails and dikes. (785) 543-6673

More central Kansas parks and preserves:

CHENEY Steady prairie winds make this among the top Midwest sailing lakes. (316) 542-3664

CHEYENNE BOTTOMS WILDLIFE AREA Gravel roads allow close views of countless thousands of migrating birds. (620) 793-7730

GLEN ELDER This park frames Waconda Lake, one of the state’s largest reservoirs. (785) 545-3345

MUSHROOM ROCK Odd-shape rocks star at the smallest park. The largest formation measures 27 feet in diameter. (785) 546-2565

QUIVIRA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE Boardwalks and trails wind through wetlands; observation platforms offer prime viewing. (620) 486-2393

SAND HILLS Fifteen miles of trail weave through sand dunes and natural areas. (316) 542-3664

WILSON RESERVOIR Kayakers paddle among limestone castles that rise out of the lake. (785) 658-2465

For park details: Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (620) 672-5911; kdwp.state.ks.us


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