Kansas is filled with beautiful vistas and landscapes that are just waiting to be found. Some coin it a “flyover state,” meaning we get to keep our natural wonders to ourselves. Kansas may not be known for hiking and camping opportunities, especially with Colorado’s mountains just a few hours west, but it has some of the most stunning natural wonders in the Midwest.
Right in our backyard is a lake that stretches for 16 miles, has 100 miles of shoreline and seven trails waiting to be conquered. Tuttle Creek Lake is a gem to Riley and Pottawatomie County, offering hikes ranked from easy, moderate and hard, according to AllTrails, an outdoor guide.
Located on the north side of Tuttle Creek, Fancy Creek State Park holds a challenging trail that snakes its way through the brush for six miles with 600 feet in elevation change, which may seem like a mountain in the context of Kansas. The Fancy Creek Loop is by far the most challenging hike in the area, containing twists and turns with rewards such as gorgeous views looking over Tuttle Creek and rocky ridges.
If you head south of Manhattan to the rolling hills of the Konza Prairie, trails in a sea of green and gold provide an experience like no other in the Flint Hills. Three loop trails, ranked easy to moderate, take you far from civilization and back into the Kansas wilderness. The King’s Creek loop is just shy of five miles but offers a midway break, shortening the hike by 2.5 miles. It’s the most popular hike of the three and offers spectacular views of the prairie no matter what time of the year you go.
The longest and most challenging hike, Godwin Hill Loop, is not a typical afternoon stroll. Godwin Hill, which is just over six miles, gives the community a hike that dives deeper into the Kansas prairie.
Toward the end of both trails is the remnants of a homestead that provides hikers with much-needed shade and bathrooms after a long hike out on the Konza. It’s important to steer clear of vandalizing, climbing on and destroying these buildings as they are historical and generously open to the public’s viewing.
Hunting and Fishing
Little do people know, Kansas is a renowned fishing and hunting destination. Locations such as Rocky Ford, Tuttle Creek and Milford Lake offers fishing experiences that include fish such as blue catfish and walleye.
“My favorite outdoor sport is duck hunting, it’s very rewarding,” Brandon Mengel, senior in park management, said. “My favorite part about duck hunting is watching the world wake up as the sun hits the land around me.”
Riley County and the surrounding areas provide amazing opportunities for hunters and fishers with record-setting bucks in Pottawatomie and fishing in Geary County at locations such as Milford Lake and Geary County Lake. Remember to obtain the specific licenses for your sport and to ask permission if you are crossing into private land. Following the rules and having the proper documentation can save you from a load of trouble.
“Fishing – it just really depends on the type you’re going for, crappie and walleye are both really good during sprouting season,” Mengal said. “Usually the best bites are during the spawn, morning and evening. Each specific fish has specific baits, and a safe rule of thumb is live baits – minnows, worms, cut bait.”
Luke Gnad, Sophmore in agriculture economics, enjoys hunting along the Saline River because it contains large draws and canyons where he hunts for coyotes with a coyote call.
“My must haves during hunting are coffee, my gun, and usually my dad or brother,” Gnad said. “But the hardest thing about hunting is patience. You learn to get better with it by going more and controlling your emotions.”
Whether it be hiking, camping, hunting or fishing, make sure to grab some friends and check out these great areas that make up Kansas.
Also, as Kansans, it’s our civic duty to keep our environment clean and protected so future generations have the same luxury we currently have.