Segment 23: Kansas
The route through Kansas features the 116-mile Flint Hills Nature Trail Rails to Trails conversion plus considerable road walks connecting local hikes in State Parks, primarily at reservoirs. Other highlights include the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve and Santa Fe National Historic Trail at Council Grove.
The trail makes a wide arc from La Cygne Lake near the Missouri State Line at Merwin, MO, picking up the Flint Hills Nature Trail at Osawatomie, passing the 32 mile Blackhawk Trail network at Pomona Lake and continuing west to Council Grove where a famous 1825 treaty was signed with the Osage Indians to assure wagon trains safe passage through this “Prairie Eden.”
The future corridor of the Flint Hills Trail continues west from Council Grove, but the Fifty Trail turns south here and passes through Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Cottonwood Falls, where the hiker follows the Fox Creek Trail for about three miles.
Continuing south, there’s a road walk through the sparsely populated Flint Hills country to Fall River Lake with hiking opportunities at Beaver Creek then on to Elk City Lake where the trail makes full use of the 15-mile Elk River National Recreation Trail.
The route then returns east past Big Hill Lake and on to hike the Mined Land Nature Trail, a showcase for restoration of a former strip mining area.
From the Mined Land Trail the Fifty Trail turns a road walk into a destination. In extreme SE Kansas near Baxter Springs the route joins Historic US Route 66 and follows it south into Oklahoma.
This is one of two sections of trail in Oklahoma, and the other one, after a hike through Arkansas, is the ‘official’ one. Here the Kansas segment continues south-southwest on historic Route 66 through the towns of Quapaw and Miami, turning southeast on US 58 to cross sprawling Grand Lake.
Continuing southeastward, the Fifty Trail crosses a tiny corner of SW Missouri at Southwest City, then enters Arkansas.
MAPS and TRAIL GUIDES:
Interactive map of the Elk River National Recreation Trail: https://www.getoutdoorskansas.org/trails/elk-river-trail/
Flint Hills Nature Trail: http://kanzatrails.org/flint-hills-nature-trail/
HEART OF THE TRAIL:
Elk River National Recreation Trail and vicinity. Details TBD.