Backpacking in Kansas: A Surprising Adventure Awaits

Backpacking in kansas

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When most people think of Kansas, they might picture sprawling farmland or tornadoes. But did you know that the Sunflower State also offers some of the most exciting and unexpected backpacking adventures in the country? 

From scenic hiking trails to breathtaking state parks, Kansas is a backpacking destination that is not to be missed.

As a seasoned backpacker, I was thrilled to discover the diverse and stunning landscapes that Kansas has to offer. 

It’s a destination that caters to both novice and experienced backpackers, and there’s always something new to discover here.

If you’re looking for a unique adventure that combines beautiful scenery and outdoor activities, look no further than backpacking in Kansas.

Exploring the Natural Beauty of Kansas

nature exploration kansas

Kansas is often overshadowed by its neighboring states in terms of natural beauty, but this underrated gem has so much to offer for nature enthusiasts. 

From the rolling Flint Hills to the serene waters of Elk River, exploring the outdoor wonders of Kansas is a must-do for every backpacker.

Embarking on a backpacking trip in Kansas means immersing yourself in the state’s unique landscapes and ecosystems. 

The diverse terrain includes prairies, forests, and wetlands, providing ample opportunities for nature exploration.

The best way to experience the natural beauty of Kansas is by hiking through its numerous trails. The state offers over 1,700 miles of trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging backpacking treks

Some of the most popular trails include the Flint Hills Nature Trail, the Konza Prairie Trail, and the Elk River Hiking Trail.

Flint Hills Nature Trail

The Flint Hills Nature Trail is one of the most scenic trails in Kansas, stretching over 117 miles from Osawatomie to Herington. 

This trail offers breathtaking views of the Flint Hills, one of the last remaining tallgrass prairie ecosystems in the world. 

The trail is suitable for all skill levels and provides ample opportunities for camping, biking, and horseback riding.

Konza Prairie Trail

The Konza Prairie Trail is a popular hiking trail located in Manhattan, Kansas. The trail spans over 8 miles and provides stunning views of the Flint Hills. 

Hikers can admire the tallgrass prairie landscape and observe various wildlife such as bison, coyotes, and birds. The trail is rated as moderate and is perfect for intermediate-level hikers.

Elk River Hiking Trail

The Elk River Hiking Trail is a scenic trail located in the southeast corner of Kansas, spanning over 15 miles. 

The trail winds through the Elk River bottoms and provides hikers with incredible views of the river, bluffs, and waterfalls. 

The trail is rated as moderate and is suitable for intermediate-level hikers.

In addition to hiking, backpackers can also explore other outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, and wildlife spotting. 

Kansas’s state parks offer a wide range of recreational opportunities, including camping, swimming, and picnicking.

Exploring the natural beauty of Kansas is an unforgettable experience that every backpacker should add to their bucket list. 

With its diverse landscapes and numerous trails, Kansas is a destination that’s worth exploring for its scenic beauty and outdoor adventures.

Top Backpacking Trails in Kansas

backpacking trails kansas

Kansas may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of backpacking, but its beautiful trails and stunning landscapes are not to be missed. Here are some of the top backpacking trails in Kansas:

Trail NameDifficulty LevelPoints of Interest
Flint Hills Nature TrailModerateScenic views, tallgrass prairie, wildflowers
Elk River TrailModerateElk River, bluffs, limestone cliffs
Tallgrass Prairie National PreserveEasy to ModerateTallgrass prairie, bison, hiking, birdwatching
Konza Prairie TrailModerate to DifficultScenic views, tallgrass prairie, wildlife

The Flint Hills Nature Trail is the longest trail in Kansas, spanning 117 miles. It’s a moderate-level trail that takes you through tallgrass prairie and offers stunning views of the Flint Hills. 

The Elk River Trail is a 15-mile trail that takes you through bluffs, limestone cliffs, and the Elk River. It’s a moderate-level trail that’s perfect for those looking for a scenic hike.

The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve features easy to moderate level trails that take you through the tallgrass prairie. You will have an opportunity to see bison, hike, and birdwatch. 

The Konza Prairie Trail is a moderate to a difficult trail that takes you through the heart of the Flint Hills. You will have an opportunity to see scenic views of tallgrass prairie and wildlife.

Regardless of your skill level, there’s a trail in Kansas that will suit your needs. So pack your backpack, put on your hiking boots, and discover the beauty of the Kansas wilderness.

Planning Your Backpacking Trip in Kansas

backpacking tips for kansas

Embarking on a backpacking trip in Kansas requires careful planning and preparation. To make the most of your adventure, follow these essential tips:

Choose Your Destination

Research the available backpacking trails in Kansas and choose the one that is best suited to your skill level and preferences. Consider factors such as trail length, difficulty, and scenery. Some popular trails include:

  • Flint Hills National Scenic Byway
  • Elk River Trail
  • Wilson State Park Trail

Pack the Right Gear

When packing for your backpacking trip, it is important to bring the appropriate gear for the trail and weather conditions. Essential items to pack include:

  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Backpack with a hip belt
  • Tent and sleeping bag
  • Water filter or purification tablets
  • Cooking gear and food

Check the Weather

Before setting out on your backpacking trip, be sure to check the weather forecast for your destination. 

Plan your packing accordingly, bringing options for both warm and cold weather. Also make sure to pack rain gear and a waterproof pack cover in case of inclement weather.

Obtain Required Permits

Some Kansas backpacking trails require permits for overnight camping. Check with the park or trail authorities beforehand to determine if you need to obtain any permits or pay any fees.

Plan Your Route

Map out your route before you begin your trip and make sure it is clearly marked on your map or GPS. 

It is also a good idea to share your route with a friend or family member in case of emergency.

Respect Nature

When backpacking in Kansas, it is important to follow Leave No Trace principles and respect the environment. Do not litter, stay on designated trails, and avoid disturbing wildlife.

With careful planning and preparation, backpacking in Kansas can be a truly unforgettable experience. Follow these essential tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Camping and Outdoor Activities in Kansas

camping in kansas

While backpacking is a fantastic way to experience the beauty of Kansas, the state also offers an array of camping options and outdoor activities that are perfect for nature enthusiasts. 

From serene lakes to sprawling fields, Kansas has a lot to offer for those seeking adventure in the great outdoors.

Camping in Kansas

If you’re looking to extend your stay in Kansas, camping is a great option. There are over 30 state parks that offer camping facilities, including sites with electrical hookups and cabins. 

Popular state parks for camping include Cedar Bluff, Clinton, Kanopolis, and Wilson. Some private campgrounds are also available if you prefer to be closer to commercial areas.

State ParkNo. of CampsitesPrice Range
Cedar Bluff State Park96$8-$25/night
Clinton State Park300$12-$30/night
Kanopolis State Park150$12-$30/night
Wilson State Park225$5-$25/night

Outdoor Activities in Kansas

Kansas offers a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors. Fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing are popular among locals and tourists. 

Kansas has over 24,000 miles of fishable streams, rivers, and lakes, so it’s no surprise that fishing is a favorite pastime in the state.

There are also many hiking and biking trails available throughout the state, including the Flint Hills Nature Trail, the Prairie Spirit Trail, and the Katy Trail. 

Additionally, kayaking and canoeing are popular water activities in Kansas, with Elk River being a top destination for these activities.

  • Hiking and Biking
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Kayaking and Canoeing

Whether you prefer to relax in nature or engage in more active pursuits, Kansas has something for everyone. 

Take advantage of the natural beauty of the state by exploring the outdoors and creating unforgettable memories.

Must-Visit State Parks in Kansas

state parks in kansas

When it comes to natural beauty, Kansas’s state parks offer some of the best outdoor experiences in the country. 

From diverse wildlife to awe-inspiring landscapes, these parks have something for everyone. Here are some of the must-visit state parks in Kansas:

State ParkLocationAttractions
Bluff State ParkAnthony, KSScenic trails, fishing, and camping facilities
Cedar BluffEllis County, KSBoating, fishing, and hunting opportunities, as well as camping facilities
Elk City LakeMontgomery County, KSFishing, boating, and camping facilities

Bluff State Park is a hidden gem located in Anthony, Kansas. The park boasts several scenic hiking trails, including the challenging Bluff Trail, which winds through the picturesque Gypsum Hills. 

Visitors can also enjoy fishing in the park’s freshwater pond or camp at one of the park’s many campsites. Cedar Bluff is another popular state park located in Ellis County, Kansas. 

Boating and fishing are top attractions at the park, and the Cedar Bluff Reservoir is renowned for its walleye and striped bass fishing. 

The park also offers hunting opportunities and camping facilities that include RV hookups and primitive campsites. Elk City Lake is a must-visit destination for water sports enthusiasts. 

Visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming at the lake or take a hike on one of the park’s many trails. The park also has several camping facilities, including RV sites and primitive campsites.

Whether you’re looking for scenic trails or water activities, Kansas’s state parks offer a wide range of outdoor adventures

Each park has its own unique attractions that are sure to leave an unforgettable impression on visitors.

Essential Gear for Backpacking in Kansas

As with any backpacking trip, having the right gear is essential for a successful and enjoyable journey through the Kansas wilderness. Here are some backpacking essentials to consider packing:

BackpackA 50-65 liter backpack with comfortable straps and back support.
TentA lightweight and waterproof tent suitable for the weather conditions.
Sleeping BagA high-quality sleeping bag rated for the expected temperature.
Sleeping PadA comfortable and light-weight sleeping pad for insulation from the ground.
Hiking BootsDurable, waterproof, and comfortable boots appropriate for the terrain.
Map and CompassNavigation tools in case of emergencies or getting lost.
Water FilterA water filtration system or purification tablets to access clean water.
First Aid KitBasic medical supplies, including bandages, antiseptic, and pain relievers.
HeadlampA reliable headlamp and extra batteries for visibility in low light.

It’s important to choose gear appropriate for the climate and terrain of your specific Kansas backpacking trip. Research the weather conditions and the typical terrain of your chosen trail, and pack accordingly.

In addition to the essentials listed above, don’t forget to pack appropriate clothing, adequate food and water supplies, and any personal items you may need. 

For more detailed information on backpacking gear, check out REI’s Backpacking Checklist.

Safety Tips for Backpackers in Kansas

backpacking essentials kansas

As you plan your backpacking trip in Kansas, safety should be a top priority. Here are some essential backpacking tips to help ensure a safe and enjoyable journey:

Be Prepared for Weather Conditions

Kansas weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to come prepared for any kind of weather.

In the summer, temperatures can soar, while winters can be bitterly cold. Check the weather forecast before you start your trip, and pack accordingly.

Follow Trail Etiquette

When hiking on trails, there are certain rules of etiquette that should be followed to ensure everyone’s safety. 

Always yield to hikers going uphill, and be sure to stay on designated trails to avoid disturbing the surrounding environment. 

If you are hiking with furry friends, make sure to keep them on a leash and clean up after them.

Respect Wildlife

Kansas is home to a variety of wildlife, including bears, coyotes, and snakes. 

While encountering these creatures can be exciting, it’s important to remember to always keep a safe distance and avoid disturbing them. 

Do not leave food or trash out in the open, as this can attract animals and create dangerous situations.

Know Your Limits

It’s important to be honest with yourself about your physical limitations when planning a backpacking trip. 

Choose a trail that matches your level of fitness and experience, and take frequent breaks to stay well-rested and hydrated. 

If you do encounter any problems or emergencies, make sure to have a plan in place for getting help.

Pack the Essentials

Before hitting the trail, make sure to pack all the necessary equipment and supplies. This includes a quality backpack, sturdy hiking boots, and plenty of water and food.

It’s also a good idea to bring a map and compass, first-aid kit, and a whistle or other signaling device.

By following these backpacking tips and being prepared for anything, you can have a safe and enjoyable journey in the beautiful Kansas wilderness.

Exploring Kansas’s Culinary Delights

kansas city restaurants

After a day of hiking and exploring the natural beauty of Kansas, it’s time to indulge in the local culinary scene. 

Kansas City offers a variety of top-rated restaurants serving up delicious dishes that are sure to please any palate.

Top-Rated Restaurants in Kansas City

Restaurant NameGoogle Review Rating
Jones BBQ4.5
Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque4.4
Jack Stack Barbecue4.4

Q39 is a must-visit for barbecue lovers, serving up mouth-watering brisket, burnt ends, and ribs. Jones BBQ is another local favorite, famous for their delicious sauce and hearty portions. 

For those looking to try traditional Kansas City-style barbecue, Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque and Jack Stack Barbecue are both great options.

When it comes to comfort food, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que and Grinders High Noon are two popular destinations.

Joe’s is famous for their Z-Man sandwich, while Grinders offers a variety of burgers and sandwiches.

Local Food Culture

Kansas City is known for its barbecue, but there are many other local specialties to try during your backpacking trip. 

Be sure to sample the Kansas City-style strip steak, which is cooked with a unique blend of spices and served with a side of onion rings. 

The city is also famous for its fried chicken, with local favorites including Stroud’s and Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. For dessert, don’t miss out on the chance to try some homemade pies. 

The Upper Crust, located in downtown Overland Park, offers a variety of pies made from scratch using local ingredients.

As with any destination, it’s always a good idea to check Google reviews before trying out a new restaurant. This allows you to see what others have experienced and make an informed decision about where to dine.

Overall, Kansas City’s culinary scene offers a wide range of options for backpackers looking to indulge in some delicious food. 

From traditional barbecue to comfort food and homemade pies, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Capture Memories: Photography Tips for Backpacking in Kansas


As you explore the natural beauty of Kansas, you’ll want to capture the breathtaking scenery with your camera. Here are some photography tips to help you make the most out of your backpacking trip:

  1. Scout out scenic overlooks and trails with picturesque views. Websites like AllTrails can help you find the best spots for photography.
  2. Use natural lighting to your advantage. Early morning and late afternoon offer the best lighting conditions for outdoor photography.
  3. Experiment with different angles and perspectives. Try a low angle for a unique perspective or a high angle to capture a wide view.
  4. Incorporate people or objects into your photos to add depth and scale. This can be a fellow backpacker or a nearby rock formation.
  5. Use the rule of thirds to compose your shots. Imagine a grid over your photo with two horizontal and two vertical lines and place your subject at the intersection of those lines.
  6. Pack an extra battery and memory card to ensure you never miss a photo opportunity.
  7. Don’t forget to geotag your photos so you can remember exactly where each shot was taken.
  8. Consider using a photography app or trail map to help you plan your route and find stunning backdrops.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to capture stunning photos of your Kansas backpacking adventure. Don’t forget to share your photos on social media to inspire others to explore the natural beauty of this state.


As I conclude this article, I can’t help but emphasize the uniqueness of backpacking in Kansas. From exploring the natural beauty of Kansas to discovering top backpacking trails, planning a successful backpacking trip.

And indulging in the local culinary scene, Kansas has it all. If you’re an adventure enthusiast seeking an unforgettable experience, Kansas is the destination for you. 

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to discover the scenic beauty and outdoor adventures that come with backpacking in Kansas.

So pack your bags, grab your essentials, and embark on a thrilling journey through the Sunflower State. Trust me; you won’t regret it.

Thank you for joining me on this informational journey of backpacking in Kansas, and I hope this article has provided you with valuable insights on planning your next Kansas adventure travel.

Remember, there’s no time like the present to start your backpacking trip in Kansas.


  1. What makes backpacking in Kansas a surprising adventure?

    Backpacking in Kansas offers unexpected natural beauty and diverse landscapes, making it a thrilling adventure for nature enthusiasts.

  2. Where can I explore the natural beauty of Kansas?

    Kansas offers a variety of scenic trails and rolling hills, providing ample opportunities to explore the state’s natural beauty.

  3. What are some of the top backpacking trails in Kansas?

    Some of the top backpacking trails in Kansas include the stunning Flint Hills and the scenic Elk River Trail.

  4. How can I plan a backpacking trip in Kansas?

    Planning a backpacking trip in Kansas involves choosing the right gear and understanding the weather conditions to ensure a successful adventure.

  5. What camping and outdoor activities are available in Kansas?

    Kansas offers various camping options and outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, and wildlife spotting.

  6. Which state parks in Kansas are a must-visit for backpackers?

    Some of the must-visit state parks in Kansas include the picturesque Bluff State Park and the serene Cedar Bluff.

  7. What essential gear do I need for backpacking in Kansas?

    Essential gear for backpacking in Kansas includes sturdy hiking boots, lightweight tents, and other necessary equipment.

  8. How can I stay safe while backpacking in Kansas?

    To stay safe while backpacking in Kansas, it is essential to follow trail etiquette, respect wildlife, and be prepared for potential emergencies.

  9. Where can I find the best restaurants in Kansas City?

    Based on Google reviews, some of the top-rated restaurants in Kansas City offer delicious culinary delights for backpackers to enjoy.

  10. What photography tips can enhance my backpacking experience in Kansas?

    By following photography tips, backpackers can capture stunning photographs of their journey in Kansas using trail maps and apps like AllTrails.

  11. Why should I consider backpacking in Kansas for my next adventure?

    Backpacking in Kansas offers unique and thrilling experiences, making it a destination worth exploring for its scenic beauty and outdoor adventures.

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