Get out and explore the trails and waterways at five state parks, then grab some comfort food and cozy up for a unique overnight stay.



Crawford State Park, Farlington

Families will love the wooded park on the edge of the Ozarks. Camp near a rocky cove, fish for bass or splash at the swimming beach. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the park’s centerpiece, Crawford Lake, in the 1930s. Stay lakeside at one of five furnished cabins or tour the lake via kayak.

Crawford State ParkCredit: Starboard and Port

Fall River State Park, Fall River

Canoe the Fall River on a half-day trip (find outfitters in Eureka) or go fishing. Birders can search for prairie chickens and quail during a hike. Visit August 30–31 when the dark night sky attracts the Kansas Astronomical Observers for a star party. Cabins and camping are available, as are hiking trails.

Cross Timbers State Park, Toronto

Biking and hiking fans can pack in serious distance on the 15.75-mile Chautauqua Hills Trail. Fish for crappie and catfish on Toronto Lake or nearby Verdigris River (known for big flatheads). Stay at the park’s shaded campground or in a cabin.

Toronto State Park BikingCredit: KDWPT

Elk City State Park, Independence

Elk City Reservoir draws anglers with the lure of a big catch. (One angler reeled in a 123-pound world-record flathead catfish here.) Families can participate in events like the End of Summer Bash with games and a catfish tournament, and the Annual Halloween Campout.

Prairie Spirit Trail State Park, Ottawa to Iola

One of the state’s first rail-to-trail sites, the 52-mile path connects Ottawa and Iola. Cyclists and hikers pass through rolling hills, wooded ravines and small towns. Watch for wildflowers and wildlife along the trail, built on the bed of the old Leavenworth, Lawrence and Fort Gibson Railroad. Gentle grades take it easy on bike and foot traffic.

Prairie Spirit Trail State ParkCredit: Doug Stremel


Sample some really fine fried chicken in Pittsburg. Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s Original once vied to rule the roost. For barbecue, seek out Harrison Family Hickory Hole in Parsons (they offer a weekend buffet). For a one-stop shop, try Nelson’s Old Riverton Store (it has a deli) on Route 66 in Riverton or Ane Mae’s Coffee and Sandwich House in Independence.


Cedar Crest Lodge, Pleasanton

Take a weekend away at this nature-inspired bed-and-breakfast on 100 acres along a wooded valley. Stroll the gardens, chill in the pool or play bocce ball.

Lyons Twin Mansions, Fort Scott

Treat yourself to a spa treatment or soak in the whirlpools at the upscale bed-and-breakfast housed in side-by-side Victorians.

Lyon's Twin Mansions

Credit: John Noltner

Lil’ Toledo Lodge, Chanute

Hunting and fishing enthusiasts flock to the lodge for whitetail, turkey and pheasant. Large groups can rent the lodge; small parties stay in cabins or a boat house.

Explore more of the beautiful southeast region at, then check out the 2019 Official Kansas Travel Guide to see what’s hot around the state.