Kansas State Parks Activities
Whether you prefer a rustic camping experience that brings you back to the heart of nature or one with modern-day amenities, The Sunflower State is your best bet! Campsites at Lake Scott State Park are nestled between rocky bluffs and wooded areas, giving you a view like no other to wake up to.
Those who are after a more peaceful and quiet camping trip will love the sites at Cedar Bluff State Park and Reservoir. The park’s Page Creek Area, which features sandy shorelines and jagged limestone bluffs, is a particular favorite.
On the other hand, modern cabins and yurts can be availed of at Eisenhower State Park. The park also offers over a hundred electric and primitive campsites situated among woodlands and the prairie, making it the go-to destination for every type of camper imaginable.
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The 5-mile Overlook Trail at Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park takes hikers through the rugged Kansas landscape with views of towering spires and cliffs of the eroded Niobrara Chalk. The park offers the largest expanse of exposed Niobrara Chalk formation in the state so you’ll surely won’t forget this hiking experience anytime soon!
Scenic trails found at Perry State Park are also extremely popular, winding through the shores of Perry Reservoir and through the park’s upland forest and marshland habitats. Some trails also go through the wooded rolling hills unique to northeastern Kansas. Keep your eyes peeled for a bald eagle soaring high above or a wild turkey hiding in the forest!
The 5-mile Agave Ride Nature Trail at Cedar Bluff State Park is a hiker’s dream! Teeming with wildlife and culminating in picturesque views of the cedar-lined bluff, this trail shouldn’t be missed.
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Backpackers visiting Kansas love to head over to Elk City State Park where the 15-mile Elk River Trail offers a thrilling adventure that features echoing rock chambers, gnome-sized caves, gnarled trees, plank bridges, and odd-shaped rocks. This backpacking trail looks like it came straight out of a fairytale!
The 9,000-acre Wilson Reservoir at Wilson State Park is a favorite among anglers from all over the United States due to its abundance of striped bass, smallmouth bass, and walleye. The beautiful rock cliffs surrounding the reservoir provide a great view to accompany your fishing trip.
Milford Lake, the largest lake in Kansas, at Milford State Park is another popular fishing hole in The Sunflower State. The park is home to one of the state’s four fish hatcheries and anglers can reel in monster blue catfish, crappie, and more.
Cedar Bluff State Park offers plenty of opportunities to fish for crappie, walleye, and white bass. Anglers fishing here love taking in views of the 100-foot limestone cliffs and cedar bluffs while waiting for their catch.
There are plenty of great geocaching opportunities in Kansas, one of them being Milford State Park where multiple caches have been cleverly concealed all over the diverse set of habitats found within.
A mysterious EarthCache can also be found at Mushroom Rock State Park, although be advised that you have to answer a set of questions before claiming it! EarthCaches, which require the approval of the Geological Society of America, contains interesting information about the area’s unique geoscience features, geological processes, and resources.
Day Use Areas
Weston Bend State Park is the best place in Kansas for a picnic! The huge park has plenty of areas where you can lay down your blanket and there are also an abundance of nature trails to explore after finishing your meal.
The 25-mile Switchgrass Trail, also known as the Roller Coaster, at Wilson State Park was designated as an “Epic Trail” by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. The trail features steep climbs, even steeper drop-offs, and views of red sandstone formations.
Cycling trails at Clinton State Park are perfect for all kinds of bikers, regardless of their skill level. The 25-mile system consists of the Blue Trail, which is perfect for novices, and the White Trail, which more experienced riders prefer. Keep an eye out for white-tailed deers, turkeys, and cranes who have made their homes inside the park.
If you’re looking to take on a scenic boating excursion, head on over to Clinton Lake at Clinton State Park, which features a number of boat launches for those bringing along their watercrafts. The park is the annual site of the Ironman Kansas 70.3 triathlon – proof that boating here is top-notch!
The 3,200-hectare El Dorado Lake at El Dorado State Park is also a prime boating destination. End your day here with an incredible view of the sunset.
Clinton State Park is home to hundreds of bird species, making it the top birding destination in Kansas. The park offers plenty of opportunities for spotting the Eastern Bluebird, the Prothonotary Warbler, and the Painted Bunting. The lake is also home to plenty of Bald Eagles and American White Pelicans.
If you’re looking to observe some forest birds in their natural habitats, head on over to Perry State Park. Below the park’s dam lies the Delaware Marsh, a restored wetland that attracts Common Yellowthroats, migratory Marsh Wrens, and more.
The 1,020-acre Scott State Park is another amazing Birding spot with its large spring-fed lake, riparian cottonwoods, and rocky bluffs that home to hundreds of unique and incredible birds. Notable rarities that have been observed within the park include the Greater Scaup, the Wood Stork, and the Northern Shrike. Don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money to get a decent pair of binoculars. See our review or the best budget binoculars for birding. You can get a great pair for under $150. For a thorough review across all price-categories, checkout the best binoculars for birding page.
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The Sunflower State boasts of a number of incredible lakes, despite being renowned for its agriculture and flatlands. Wilson State Park, in particular, is a popular destination for those wishing to swim in the cool waters of Wilson Lake.
On the other hand, those who prefer the 6,400-hectare Milford Lake should head on over to the swimming beaches at Milford State Park. The park tends to get a bit crowded during the weekends so keep that in mind.
Swimming in the crystal clear waters of Tuttle Creek Lake is possible at two different state parks – Tuttle Creek State Park and Fancy Creek State Park.
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Rock Climbing and Mountaineering
Climbing enthusiasts will love the opportunities found at Mushroom Rock State Park, a unique park located in the Smoky Hills region of north-central Kansas. The park features plenty of towering rock formations that are uniquely shaped like mushrooms. Climbing routes here range from easy to difficult, making it the perfect destination for climbers of all skill levels.
Tuttle Creek State Park has an Off-Road Vehicle area that features a wide variety of terrain that feature steep and chunky hill climbs, sharp turns, scattered mud puddles, and more. A rock garden is also found in the area, offering riders a place to take their skills to the next level. Be advised, though, that the area doesn’t offer any shade or water so make sure to bring your own supplies.
Kansas has an abundance of equestrian trails and campgrounds, making it the go-to destination for horse-lovers! El Dorado State Park, Milford State Park, and Sand Hills State Park, in particular, are renowned for their well-equipped yet affordable equestrian campgrounds.
Those who want to explore Kansas’ rugged landscape while on horseback should take on the Crooked Knee Horse Trail at Eisenhower State Park or the Boulder Bluff Horse Trail at El Dorado State Park. Multiple-use trails are also found at Kanopolis State Park, which are open to horseback riding.
Recreational Equipment Rentals
If you’re looking to take part in recreational activities on some of Kansas’ incredible lakes, equipment can be rented at Tuttle Creek State Park, Cross Timbers State Park, and Eisenhower State Park, which range from kayaks, canoes, and more.
At Kanopolis State Park, take your time going through strawberry-colored canyons, caves, and tall cliffs. These jagged prairies were once explored by the legendary American frontiersman and wilderness guide, Kit Carson, so this is undoubtedly an adventure you’ll never forget.
Clinton State Park offers a thrilling cross-country ski trail that begins at the park’s administration office and connects to the Bunker Hill trails. This trail has been rated to be of a moderate difficulty level, making it perfect for beginners and advanced skiers alike.
Winter hiking is also a popular activity at Elk City State Park, offering hikers incredible views of snow-covered rugged landscapes unique to Kansas.
The beautiful 3-mile paved hiking trail at Weston Bend State Park also makes for the ideal winter hike. The park is situated outside the city so hikers don’t have to worry about noise pollution and obstructed views. This trail is perfect for those looking for a rustic winter escape!
Fall River State Park, besides its numerous hiking trails and fishing opportunities, features a permanent orienteering course for the truly adventurous! Take in stunning views of the natural landscapes and diverse wildlife of The Sunflower State as you participate.