Smoky Valley

Scenic Byway

Named for their hazy, blue appearance at sunrise and sunset, the Smoky Hills divide the more easterly mixed-grass prairie from the shortgrass prairie of the Western Great Plains. The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway is 60 miles long and travels through the Smoky Hill River Valley, a showplace of native grasses and wildflowers year-round. Purple and bright-yellow coneflowers species, red-and-yellow Indian blanket flower, sky-blue pitcher sage, and cream-flowered yucca mix with big and little bluestem and grama grasses. Croplands provide additional color washes of emerald-green winter wheat in early spring and russet, ripened milo in autumn. Rock outcroppings hint at the foundation underlying the landscape - chalky limestone left by ancient seas.

Crossing the Smoky Hill River Valley, the Smoky Hills Trail was established at the Civil War's end to carry goods and travelers, including bona fide gold diggers, from Fort Leavenworth to Denver. Although it provided the shortest route to Denver, the trail was considered dangerous, and travel often required the protection of troops stationed at nearby Fort Hays. Today, two limestone markers identify the trail's crossing along the Byway. Carvings and markings, some more than 200 years old, can still be seen where trail travelers carved their names on the walls of Threshing Machine Canyon (the site of an 1850s Native American attack on a wagon train bearing a threshing machine) near Cedar Bluff State Park. You can see the threshing machine that was reclaimed from the canyon at the Trego County Historical Society Museum, which also houses vintage clothing (including baseball uniforms), antique farm equipment, and medical instruments.

Smoky Valley Scenic Byway Website

  • Driving Directions

    Distance: 60 miles

    Loop 1 - WaKeeney to Ogallah: Start at I-70 exit 127 for US-283 in WaKeeney, KS. Head south on US-283 for roughly 25 miles until you reach K-4. Make a left on K-4 and continue towards Brownell, KS for about 9 miles. Turn left onto K-177 just east of Brownell, KS, and head north for another 25 miles towards Ogallah, KS. Along the way to Ogallah, be sure to check out the scenic Cedar Bluff State Park. The route concludes once you reach exit 135 off I-70 for Ogallah.

    Loop 2 - Ogallah to WaKeeney: Start at I-70 exit 135 for Ogallah, KS. Head south on K-177 for roughly 25 miles towards Brownell, KS.  Along the way to Brownell, be sure to check out the scenic Cedar Bluff State Park. Once you reach K-4 by Brownell, make a right onto K-4 and continue for about 9 more miles until you reach US-283. Turn right onto US-283 and head north towards WaKeeney, KS. The route concludes at WaKeeney.

  • Plan Your Road Trip

    Threshing Machine Canyon

    One of the best-kept secrets in the state, Threshing Machine Canyon, lies near the park. Located along the old Butterfield Overland Despatch…

    Butterfield Trail Museum

    This 1887 two story renaissance-style structure of brick and stone with mansard roof was originally the Logan County Courthouse. Now it…

    Wilcox School

    The Wilcox School - District 29 - is only one of a few remaining rural schoolhouses in Trego County. The school served Wilcox Township, a…

    Ponderosa Tree Farm

    Wholesale Tree Farm and Nursery (Seasonal Pre-Cut Christmas Trees, Specially Ordered Evergreens, & Deciduous Trees in Stock for Sale to…

    Shiloh Vineyard & Winery

    Shiloh Vineyard is a small family-owned winery founded in 2008 by Kirk & Treva Johnston in a quest to bring wine-making to the plains of…

  • Things to do along the way


    Kansas Byways

    Post Rock

    Over the Smoky Hills of weathered bedrock, the Post Rock Scenic Byway winds through fields, pastures and prairie.

    Flint Hills

    The Flint Hills National Scenic Byway offers incredible views of the native grasses and flowers of the tallgrass prairie - one of the last…

    Gypsum Hills

    Ancient floodplains, buttes, canyons, mesas and sinkholes are rare on the Great Plains. Yet, nestled in the Kansas grasslands is the Gypsum…

    Wetlands & Wildlife

    Along the byway, you'll encounter landscapes and communities shaped by the powerful forces of motion and change. You're entering a…

    Western Vistas

    Visit a rugged landscape on the culturally and visually fascinating route known as the Western Vistas Historic Byway. 

    Route 66

    Kansas' Historic Route 66 Byway offers opportunities for visitors to enjoy a variety of experiences to "get their own kicks…

    Land & Sky

    Travelers along the Land and Sky Scenic Byway have the opportunity to experience the Wallace Branch of the Great Western Cattle Trail, scale…

    Prairie Trail

    When you travel the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway, you follow in the steps of Native Americans, explorers and pioneers as they sought food…

    Native Stone

    Discover the natural beauty of the panoramic Native Stone Scenic Byway.

    Frontier Military

    Travel through time, visiting multiple forts along the Frontier Military Historic Byway.  Originally built to move soldiers and…

    Glacial Hills

    The Glacial Hills Scenic Byway gets its name from the rolling hills and rock-strewn valleys carved by ancient glaciers. 

    For more information about the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway, contact:

    Cathy Albert or Lynelle Shubert
    WaKeeney Travel & Tourism