Scenic Drives in Kansas | Midwest Living

Scenic Drives in Kansas

Kansas highways and byways take travelers to historic sites, breathtaking river views, small towns and more.

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William Allen White State Historical Site.
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Emporia's Granada Theatre.
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Flint Hills region

Flint Hills Scenic Byway and Emporia

In central Kansas, the  Flint Hills Scenic Byway (K-177) twists and dips for 48 miles through rock-ribbed hills and the largest remaining tallgrass prairie. Council Grove, with some two dozen historic Santa Fe Trail sites, anchors the northern end. To get a sense of the history and personalities that shaped this region and the state, start your Flint Hills exploration in Emporia, best-known as the hometown of legendary newspaper editor and opinion-maker William Allen White. In 1895, he bought the Emporia Gazette for $3,000 and promised that “the new editor hopes to live here until he is the old editor.” He kept that promise, and in the nearly 50 years before his death in 1944, he also won two Pulitzer Prizes. During that time, five presidents and many prominent Americans visited the so-called Sage of Emporia at his imposing home. The 1888 house now is the centerpiece of the William Allen White House State Historic Site. Also allow time to explore the retivalized downtown, with some shops, cafes and the restored Granada Theatre. Flint Hills Scenic Byway

Along US-36

There are a faster ways to travel across the state, but US-36, which runs along the northern border, can be lots more fun. The highway rambles through friendly little towns and a pretty, pastoral landscape along the route taken by the Pony Express. Museums in Seneca, Marysville and Hanover chronicle the short-lived mail service and its intrepid riders. A stone barn in Marysville houses the original stables where the steamy horses refueled. It’s the 11th of about 180 stations along the 2,000-mile route. Of course, it wasn’t only “wiry, under-18 orphans” (the Pony Express job requirements according to a newspaper ad of the day) who stopped in Marysville. Thousands of 19th-century pioneers camped along the Big Blue River where the Oregon, California and Mormon trails and the Overland Stagecoach Route converged. Just west of town, Historic Trails Park has a full-size replica of a pulley-operated rope ferry wagon that trains used. In 1846, high water delayed the Donner-Reed party; they carved their names in Alcove Springs. The group then reached the mountain pass at the same time as the big snows. US Highway 36 Association

Native Stone Scenic Byway

Buildings and fences of native limestone endure along this 48-mile route from Dover, home of 1878 Sage Inn and Stagecoach Stop and the Dover General Store, west to Alma, where you can join tours of the Alma Creamery, in business since 1946. Native Stone Scenic Byway

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