Flint Hills Nature Trail

Trail Map

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The Flint Hills Nature Trail runs for 117 miles (east-west) across northeast Kansas, linking six counties and dozens of towns between Osawatomie and Herington. The rail-trail is the 7th longest in the United States, but many sections remain unimproved and rough going, making it difficult to attempt on a road bike but fine for mountain or hybrid and cyclocross bikes, and horses. Thus, some sections of trail are still under development. For specific details, see the latest trail condition report on the local website (under Related Links to the right). In addition, some sections of the trail have gates, which you can either go through or, in one case, climb over. Whenever you encounter a gate, please close it again behind you.

The trail traces a course through the Flint Hills, one of the last remaining tall-grass prairie ecosystems in the world. Along the trail you will encounter prairie flora and fauna, historic areas and unmatched views of the surrounding prairie and countryside. Wildlife includes bobwhite quail, wild turkeys, prairie chickens and bobcats.

From Herington at the western end through Allen and Admire, you encounter the tall-grass prairie; from the eastern end in Osawatomie, about 50 miles southwest of Kansas City, the Flint Hills Nature Trail is more wooded. For much of this stretch through Ottawa and on to Osage City, the trail follows the Marais des Cygnes River, with the water just north of the pathway and river bluffs to the south.

The trail is built upon an old railroad corridor, which was developed beginning in 1886—the Council Grove, Osage City & Ottawa Railway (which serviced coal mining) and the Missouri Pacific. The route fell out of service in the 1980s. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy later acquired and railbanked the corridor in 1995 and then transferred it to Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy (KRTC) to develop. In 2001, the all-volunteer nonprofit began trail construction.

As the overseeing body, KRTC divided the trail into geographic divisions, which manage the day-to-day operations and development of their local sections. As of 2013, more than 60 miles of the trail have been completed. KRTC hopes to have the trail fully smoothed-out with crushed stone in the next three to five years.

Parking and Trail Access

The Osawatomie Trailhead is located directly south of the Kansas City metropolitan area. To get there, follow John Brown Highway west through town. The trail begins at the western city limit along the south side of the road.

The Vassar Trailhead is located beside an old grain elevator (which is visible for several miles) near downtown Vassar. From US 75 in Osage County, go east on State Route 268, then go north a short distance on Vassar Street to reach the trailhead in the small community.

Parking areas are also found in Rantoul in Franklin County and in Admire in Lyon County. Parking is allowed at road crossings as long as cars don't block the public road or trail.

Additional parking and access points are described on the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy website.

Reviews

Vassar>Hwy 75/Vassar>Hwy68

   September, 2014 by lisa4women

We started this trail at Vassar and headed west. The trail was quiet but rough. We were able to handle the trail with road bikes until we hit a section of trail right before Hwy 75. We encountered a patch of stickers which flattened the two tires on my ...read more

Ottawa > Osawatomie: Beautiful trail, but not without a few issues.

   July, 2014 by jason9x19

First of all, for anyone belaboring the point, a trailhead is defined as "somewhere a trail either begins or ends." There are trailheads on this trail. Promise. That said, This trail is ridable in several segments; here, I'm reviewing the segment ...read more

Quiet trail

   June, 2014 by muffin

We rode the Flint Hills Nature Trail from Council Grove to Bushong (June 21). There were lots of wildflowers along the trail. We saw six other cyclists. One looked like he had been riding many days. We saw deer, coyote, rabbits, squirrels, dragon flies, ...read more