Castle Rock Badlands: Quinter, KS

Unlike anything you have ever seen in Kansas, the Badlands of the Northwest Region proves there is unexpected beauty found throughout the entire state. To find these breathtaking formations you must get off the interstate and see with your own eyes that Kansas is anything but “boring and flat”.  To fully commit to a Kansas road trip, you must immerse yourself in the hidden gems and communities dotted throughout the High Plains and Smoky Hills.

The Castle Rock Badlands are just an hour southwest of Hays and a mere 14-miles from I-70. The route is mostly gravel so get than hand ready for a country wave shall you pass someone on the route.  To get to Castle Rock from the west, take exit 107 off I-70 at Quinter, turn south on Castle Rock Road, go 15 miles, turn east at county road 466 (Gove K), and follow the signs. To get to Castle Rock from the east, take exit 115 at Collyer, turn south on Banner Road, go 12.5 miles, and turn west on county road 466 (also known as Castle Rock Road), and watch for the sign on the right. Entrance to the park is free and there is no staff or guides available. It is very likely you will be the only visitors depending on the time you visit.

Anyone who thinks Kansas is flat hasn't been to the rocks. Two sets of striking rock formations can be found south of Oakley (Monument Rocks) and Quinter (Castle Rock).

Castle Rock Badlands - Family

Upon entering the property, you have a few trail options to choose from. If you head toward the path on the left it will take you to the top of the badlands. If you choose the paths on the right, it will take you down into the formations. I recommend driving the entire route for the most spectacular views. The paths can be very rough to drive, especially after inclement weather, so be sure to bring hiking boots in case you need to trek in on foot. The actual Castle Rock is the free-standing formation found by itself at the bottom of the property while the larger mass of formations is considered the Castle Rock Badlands.

Castle Rock Badlands - Kids

As you make your way down into the property you will find yourself standing in the ancient seabed formed millions of years ago. The Niobrara Chalk formations have stood the test of time to give us a glimpse of Kansas’ natural history and their endurance in preserving many life forms from the Cretaceous Period. You can see walking paths and trails that wind you through the towering rocks where you are free to explore the entire park. Keep in mind that this is private property with a delicate rock that deserves your utmost respect and care. Also, be mindful of the bovine in the badlands, this is their home, and we are merely visitors.

Castle Rock Badlands - Hike

This is the type of place where you will want to take your time. You never know what you might see or find along the way. One thing is for sure, Castle Rock will win you over and you’ll become a firm believer that Kansas is chock-full of surprises. Pun intended.

On my recent trip to Quinter, I was able to bring my kiddos along. We stayed overnight in Hays and got to see the Sternberg Museum of Natural History the afternoon before we headed out to Castle Rock. I recommend visiting the museum before heading out to the Badlands to really understand the natural history of Kansas and how the badlands came about. The kids loved the dinosaur diorama, especially when the towering, life-sized, T-Rex came to life.

Castle Rock Badlands - Cattle

The next morning before we made the hour drive to Castle Rock, we stopped at Hays ARC Park (Accessible Recreation Complex) to lets the kids burn some energy. This is easily one of their (and mine) favorite parks in the state. The playground and activities were designed and developed for providing inclusive play opportunities for children of varying ages and abilities. My kids enjoyed the zip-line style swings the most. I even hoped on one and let out a happy squeal as I glided to the other end. There is also a splash pad next to the playground that has 27 different play features. I promised the kids we would try it out on our next visit! To plan your Northwestern Kansas getaway, go to

Castle Rock Badlands - View 2