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For details on all these Kansas trails and many more, order your copy of Kansas Outdoor Treasures


 


Backpacking and Camping Kansas Trails

While Kansas is short on destinations that allow camping trailside, several Kansas trails provide spurs to primitive campsites. Most state fishing lakes allow hiking at will (without maintained trails) and primitive camping is free.

Following 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, Point of 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 buckeye, hawthorn, dogwood and redbud all flower in the spring. Hardwoods help make fall the most colorful season of all. Backpackers may camp along the 3-mile 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 an arm of the lake. These Kansas trails feature wooden bridges, sandstone slab stream crossings and rugged stone staircases that lead through both heavily shaded areas and open prairie on a natural tread. 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 the Ogallala formation and Permian Period red beds. Primitive camping is permitted anywhere and hikers may wander at will--truly an adventure for hikers comfortable with route-finding skills. Expect only 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. The circuit trail sometimes nears the water’s edge and sometimes offers panoramic vistas from overhead alternating between prairie areas and deep wooded ravines. This free Kansas campground is also quite scenic.

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. Lake views are infrequent on this wooded trail that straddles prairie areas and ponds. Most of the trail is fairly level making it perfect for beginners. The dirt tread may be slick when wet. (Closed during deer hunting season.)

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