hiking trails at Kanopolis
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Best Mountain Bike Trails in Kansas

Challenging, rocky routes through cedar forests … roller-coaster hillsides … red rock canyons on sandy trails! Following is a short list of the best-kept secrets in Kansas mountain biking (east to west). Yes, biking Kansas can be a challenge!

Crawford State Park (Fort Scott, KS)
The Drywood Creek hike and bike trail is a 7-mile circuit surrounding Lake Crawford in Southeast Kansas. Rated moderate with technical sections, the single track is often level with a few steep inclines. The trail is most scenic on the eastern and southern ends where it traverses a rocky, wooded bluff overlooking the lake. Riders will encounter stream crossings although none are likely to be treacherous unless flooding occurs.

Elk City Lake (Independence, KS)
Eagle Rock mountain bike trail begins at the spillway where a sign and map mark the trailhead and indicate sections designed for beginning, intermediate and advanced skill riders. Roller-coaster dips, switchbacks, head-on climbs and log jumps provide a variety of experience for the rider on the 4.5-mile route. Riverside views and boulders, old growth forest and native grasses are all a part of the scenery.

Perry Lake State Park (Topeka, KS)
Originated to provide Kansans with a competitive course, many avid riders agree the Perry Bike Trail system is one of the best and most challenging bike trails in Kansas. With steep successive climbs, switchbacks and many technical areas, some warn not to ride this trail without a “real” bike and a quality helmet. These Kansas bike trails consume the peninsula and head up the lakeshore. Eleven named trails combine for more than 20 miles of single-track.


Tuttle Creek Reservoir (Manhattan, KS)
The Fancy Creek Mountain Bike Trail offers two trailheads and 4-5 miles of challenging terrain for intermediate and advanced riders. Scenery alternates from lake views high over the reservoir to dark, cedar forest riddled with ancient limestone boulders. Upper sections are very rocky and a few sections can be ridden by only the most experienced. Technical areas and switchbacks interrupt flowing sections. Intermittent streams are common.

Kanopolis State Park (southwest of Salina, KS)
Red sandy trails run at the base of rolling hills with red rock outcrops. Sandstone pillars and arches, balanced boulders and mini caves hang over the Horsethief Trail. The 25-mile, color-coded, multi-use trail system is open to cyclists and offers some deep sand with slick rock outcroppings and shelves. Moderate climbs, technical challenges and stunning scenery may take your breath away. There are many water crossings on the trail. Cyclists begin at trailhead C.

Wilson Lake & State Park (west of Salina, KS)
Switchgrass Bike Trail has grown to 12 outstanding miles and earned its nickname “the roller-coaster.” Even from the park road you can see the single track hover above ravines and hug steep hillsides as it crosses the road for a wild, but scenic ride. Panoramic vistas, sandstone canyons, rock outcrops and lake views are the payoff for this challenging single track. Three color-coded loops are marked plus there are plans to add a loop for beginners.


For more information on biking Kansas or Kansas bike trails, order Kansas Outdoor Treasures (Trails books, a division of Big Earth Publishing)

©2013 Julie M. Cirlincuina