below for descriptions of the best trails in Kansas.
details on all these Kansas trails and many more, order your copy
Backpacking and Camping Kansas Trails
Kansas is short on destinations that allow camping trailside, several
Kansas trails provide spurs to primitive campsites.
state fishing lakes allow hiking at will (without maintained trails)
and primitive camping is free.
is an abbreviated list of the most scenic backpacking in Kansas.
Cimarron National Grassland (west of Liberal, KS)
Cactus and sagebrush, artesian springs and
oil wells are some of the characteristics that make this destination
unique. Rich with history, the park protects the longest publicly
owned stretch of the Santa Fe Trail. At an elevation of 3,540 feet,
Rocks is an overlook that offers views as far as Colorado and Oklahoma.
With nearly 30 miles of trail, primitive dispersed camping is free
and allowed anywhere (with a few exceptions).
Perry Lake (Topeka, KS)
Glaciers helped contour the high bluffs and boulder-strewn
hillsides of Perry Lake. Bluestem prairie and hickory/oak
forests alternate along its shores. Perry Lake is home to the Perry
Lake National Recreation Trail—a circuit nearly 30 miles in length.
Walk-in camping can be reached via spur trails at Old Military trailhead,
Slough Creek and Longview Park.
Elk City Reservoir (east of Wichita, KS)
Rock is the main attraction here in the Chautauqua
Hills Region, but the foliage does offer some distraction from the
interesting formations, boulders, bluffs and miniature caves. Western
dogwood and redbud all flower in the spring. Hardwoods help make
fall the most colorful season of all. Backpackers may camp along
Table Mound Hiking Trail (extend your hike
with trails at each end) or the 15-mile Elk River Hiking Trail.
Cross Timbers State Park (east of Wichita, KS)
With prior permission, you can enjoy backcountry
campsites on the Chautauqua Hills Trail system for some of the most
secluded camping in Kansas. Color-coded connecting loops wrap around
arm of the lake. These Kansas trails
sandstone slab stream crossings and rugged stone staircases that
lead through both heavily shaded areas and open prairie on a natural
Stands of post and blackjack oak provide thick cover in wooded areas.
Clark State Fishing Lake (south of Dodge City, KS)
This rustic fishing lake in southwest Kansas
lies at the base of a canyon with near vertical walls providing some
of the most scenic camping in Kansas. Sheared off bluffs showcase
formation and Permian Period red beds.
camping is permitted anywhere and hikers may wander at will--truly
an adventure for hikers comfortable with route-finding skills. Expect
primitive amenities and roads. The west side of the lake requires
a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Clinton Lake (Lawrence, KS)
Along the 4.5-mile George Latham loop, well-placed primitive
campsites lead to visions of morning campfires accompanied by the
sound of water lapping the limestone shores and geese honking overhead.
circuit trail sometimes nears the water’s edge and sometimes
offers panoramic vistas from overhead alternating between prairie areas
deep wooded ravines. This free Kansas campground is also quite
John Redmond Reservoir (Emporia, KS)
The Hickory Creek Trail
offers 14 miles of trail to keep hikers happy for days. Campgrounds
can be found along the trail for backpacking in either direction.
are infrequent on this wooded trail that straddles prairie areas
and ponds. Most of the trail is fairly level making it perfect for
The dirt tread may be slick when wet. (Closed during deer hunting
For more information on hiking Kansas,
or camping Kansas, order Kansas Outdoor Treasures (Trails Books,
a division of Big Earth Publishing).
©2013 Julie M. Cirlincuina