When it comes to hiking, Kansas should be on every outdoor lover’s list. It’s the ideal place for day hikers or backpackers who want to cover some distance without the lung-busting thin air that comes with high-altitude treks, and the hundreds of miles of wilderness trails have a quiet peacefulness that will allow you to deeply connect with nature. While there are countless paths to explore, here are 9 of our favorites to help get you started.

1. Castle Rock

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Castle Rock is one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas, and the trek along the bluff and through the Hackberry Creek Valley is a fun one. The 70-foot towers were once a landmark for early travelers, so you’ll have an eye on these impressive formations rising up from the plains the entire way. There are multiple worn paths to follow as you scramble down the chalky, rocky slopes through arches and tunnels. It’s also worth taking some time to explore the Badlands’ "natural Stonehenge", with several tan-and-black banded spires, or the labyrinth of routes around the rocks. Eighty million years ago, the area was underwater in a vast inland sea, so keep an eye on the ground for shark teeth and small fish fossils.

Note: Castle Rock is on private land, so please be respectful of the property when you visit.

  • Location: Near Quinter
  • Mileage/Distance: 2.3 miles roundtrip
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy

Castle Rock

Thousands of years ago, this area was covered by a chalk ocean, which accounts for the chalk bluffs and beds. The chalk bluffs are still a fossil hunter's delight. This lofty calcareous limestone bluff has the appearance…

2. Flint Hills Nature Trail

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The Flint Hills Nature Trail is the longest trail in the Sunflower State and is the seventh-longest rail trail in the United States. Running across East-Central Kansas and passing through five counties between Council Grove and Osawatomie, the trail is part of the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail. The trail is named after the Flint Hills, a tallgrass prairie ecosystem, and follows along an old railroad corridor.

On the nature trail, you’ll hike across unimproved bridges, alongside the Marais Des Cygnes River, and through rolling farmlands and woodlands. There are also dozens of historic sites along the way, and several access points, so check out a map before you go.

  • Location: East-Central Kansas
  • Mileage/Distance: 117 miles point-to-point (though you can always go out-and-back for less or more)
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy to difficult, depending on the section

Flint Hills Trail State Park

The 117-mile rail-trail across Kansas from the Marais des Cygnes river valley near Osawatomie to the heart of the Flint Hills is the new Flint Hills Trail, State Park. It is the state’s second linear state park and…

3. Elk River Trail

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Some backpackers consider this the best hike in Kansas because there is so much to see in this tough route. Look for tiny waterfalls, rock chambers, and small caves to explore along the Elk River. The gnarled trees, plank bridges, and wildlife will make it seem like you’ve stepped into an enchanted forest. A number of switchbacks take you up to a steep ridge on the north side of Elk City Lake, where you can take in the beautiful views before slipping back into the trees. 

  • Location: Elk City
  • Mileage/Distance: 15 miles point-to-point
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate to Difficult

Elk City State Park

Elk City State Park’s 857 acres are where oak-hickory woodlands meet rolling meadows of big bluestem and Indiangrass. There is a 12,000-acre Elk City Wildlife Area adjacent to the 4,500-acre Elk City Lake, offering…

4. Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park

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This partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism brings you incredible views of a rugged, Kansas landscape you didn't even know existed! It is a mile-long stretch of 100-foot0tall spires and cliffs of eroded Niobrara Chalk that will make your jaw hit the floor. This is the largest expanse of exposed Niobrara Chalk formation in the state. There are two trails for you to enjoy, one .5-mile Overlook Trail and a 2.4-mile trail.

  • Location: Logan County
  • Mileage/Distance: Up to 2.4 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate

Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park

Welcome to the "Badlands of Kansas" – 330 acres of land halfway between Oakley and Scott City that will transform your idea of what the shortgrass prairie should look like. This eruption of Niobrara chalk formations is…

5. Lawrence Levee Trail

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The Lawrence Levee Trail is a good one for beginners, or for anyone who might be building up their endurance and want to put in some decent mileage. Running along the north bank of the Kansas River, you’ll get views of vast farmland and downtown Lawrence over on the other side of the Kansas River. Hike from south to north and finish at the Riverfront Park with a round of disc golf, or just hang out by the pond and watch the birds at the KANZA Southwind Nature Preserve.

  • Location: Lawrence
  • Mileage/Distance: 9.3 miles point-to-point
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy

Lawrence Levee Trail

The 10-mile walking and biking trail follows the Kansas River atop the levee on the north side of the Kansas River with convenient parking. Views of farmland and the Kansas River can be seen from this family-friendly…

6. Wyandotte County Lake Loop Trail

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Just a 20-minute drive from Kansas City, Kansas this popular loop is a quick getaway after work or just after exploring the city all day. The route goes around the lake and through thick, wooded areas, and is especially beautiful in the morning. Since the plants and path are not overly maintained, some of the overgrowth can hide parts of the trail in the summer, so get a map or take a picture of the map at the trailhead to stay on course.

  • Location: Kansas City, Kansas
  • Mileage/Distance: 9.2 miles roundtrip
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate

Wyandotte County Lake & Park

Wyandotte County Lake and Park provides 1,500 acres of wooded area, a 400-acre lake with marina, kids' fishing pond, a large playground, boat rentals, concessions, bridle trail, off-leash dog area, archery range, F.L…

7. Perry State Park Trails

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The hiking and biking trails at Perry State Park follow along the shore of Perry Reservoir, through upland forest and marshland, and over wooded rolling hills in northeastern Kansas. The park is known for having an abundance of wildlife, so don’t forget to look around—you could see a bald eagle soaring high above or a wild turkey through the trees. Besides hiking, this park has something for the whole family: a playground, picnic areas, fishing and paddling on the lake, equestrian trails, and a variety of camping options.

  • Location: Ozawkie
  • Mileage/Distance: Up to 20 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy to Difficult

Perry State Park

Nestled in the forested hills of Northeast Kansas sits a 12,500-acre lake and an 11,000- acre wildlife area nearby. Horse riders appreciate Perry State Park’s upland forest riding trails. These 16.5 miles of intertwining…

8. Agave Ridge Nature Trail

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Western Kansas is full of beauty, and the Agave Ridge Nature Trail is a great way to experience it. The trail is named for the Great Plains Yucca, a plant that is part of the Agave family, and you’ll see it all around. The trailhead is in the Page Creek Area of Cedar Bluff State Park, where you can warm up on the one-mile paved nature trail before heading out for the four-mile loop. The bigger loop is full of wildlife and leads to views of the cedar-lined bluff.

Click here for a map of the trail.

  • Location: Ellis
  • Mileage/Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy

Cedar Bluff State Park

The park boasts two recreation areas encompassing 1,100 acres along the shore of Cedar Bluff Lake. Adventurers will enjoy a stunning view of the lake from the top of the 150-foot-high limestone bluffs. Park-goers can…

9. Chisholm Creek Park Nature Trail

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While the trails here aren’t long, there is so much to see at Chisholm Creek that you could spend quite a bit of time meandering and looking for wildflowers, birds, reptiles, fish, and mammals. The park is home to a lovely little trail system with four main trails: Quail Trail (0.5 miles), Heron Trail (0.9 miles), Bluestem Trail (1.1 miles), and Cottonwood Trail (1.7 miles). The handicapped-accessible paved trails wind through native prairies, wetlands, and woodlands, so bring a picnic lunch and spend the day exploring.

  • Location: Wichita
  • Mileage/Distance: Up to 4.2 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy

Chisholm Creek Park

This semi-regional park, land for which was acquired in 1971/1972, 1986/1987 and 1995, features a 1.6 mile nature trail along Chisholm Creek which includes a wetlands area. Land and Water Conservation Funds, provided by…

Explore Kansas State Parks

Meade

“Oasis” may be the best way to describe this 400-acre paradise shaded by tall cottonwoods, with an 80-acre lake of cool…

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Milford

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Little Jerusalem Badlands

Welcome to the "Badlands of Kansas" - Little Jerusalem State Park in Western Kansas is truly a sight to see!

Lehigh Portland State Park

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Webster

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Wilson

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Mushroom Rock

Just south of Salina stands one of Kansas' many natural wonders - Mushroom Rocks.

Sand Hills

Rather than water, it’s the work of the wind that draws people to Sand Hills State Park.

Lovewell

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Prairie Spirit Trail

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Pomona

For decades visitors have come to Pomona State Park by automobile. Now, they’re also coming by horseback and bicycle.

Kaw River

On the Kansas River kayaks and canoes often float in solitude as they pass towering cottonwoods, nesting bald eagles, kingfishers, otters…