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.


Cedar Bluff Reservoir
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Western Kansas

WAKEENEY: Cedar Bluff State Park An overlook atop a 100-foot limestone bluff provides a sweeping view of the campgrounds, trails and picnic areas in this park wrapped around 6,000-acre Cedar Bluff Reservoir (20 miles south of WaKeeney). Three of the park’s camping areas—Butterfield, Overland and Despatch—are named for the famed trails that cut through the park. Wagon train ruts still are visible in some places. Plenty of room to spread out and steady prairie winds make Cedar Bluff a popular destination for windsurfers, sailboaters and powerboat enthusiasts. The reservoir is also a renowned fishing lake, known for white and largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and walleye. (785) 726-3212

NORTON: Prairie Dog State Park Along the shores of 2,500-acre Keith Sebelius Lake (about 60 miles north of WaKeeney), Prairie Dog is home to a colony of the sociable burrowing rodents that once colonized prairie meadows. Other wildlife species include badgers, turkeys and deer. Within the preserve, you also can visit the last remaining adobe house in Kansas. A 19th-century one-room schoolhouse stands near the 1890s soddy. (785) 877-2953

ELKHART: Cimarron National Grassland Sprawling across more than 108,000 acres in the far southwestern corner of the state (about 80 miles northwest of Liberal), this preserve hasn’t changed much in more than a century. The Companion Trail parallels the famed Santa Fe Trail for nearly 19 miles through buffalo grass, spiky yucca, aromatic sage and, after rare rains, a carpet of wildflowers. The trail is open to hikers, bikers and horseback riders. Campers can pitch a tent at one of the primitive sites (no water/electricity). Standing atop Point of Rocks, a Santa Fe Trail landmark, visitors can sense and see evidence of the history that passed this way. The view from the high point includes washboard ridges furrowed into the prairie earth, the well-worn path left behind by the iron-shod wheels on thousands of wagons in the mid-1800s. Trail trekkers see few fences and other modern conveniences along the mowed path, but may spy grazing elk and antelope or eagles wheeling on the steady winds. The grassland is home to more than 360 types of birds, thanks to its remote and varied terrain. For birders, its most notable attraction is the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. The increasingly rare bird still thrives in this peaceful tract reclaimed in part from farmland abandoned during the Dust Bowl era. In mating season, you can view booming from a U.S. Forest Service blind. (620) 697-4621

More Western Kansas parks and preserves:

MEADE Camp here to explore the Red Hill country of southwest Kansas. (620) 873-2572

SCOTT Hiking, biking and equestrian trails climb and twist through the canyon. (620) 872-2061

WEBSTER Fish the lake and visit nearby Nicodemus National Historic Site. (785) 425-6775

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


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