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In 2018, this 117-mile rail-trail across northeast Kansas officially became a state park. Formally known as the Flint Hills Nature Trail, the trail's new name is Flint Hills Trail State Park. It links five counties and more than a dozen towns between Osawatomie and Herington. It's the longest rail-trail in Kansas and one of the longest rail-trails in the United States.
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 a predecessor of the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy to develop. In 2001, the all-volunteer nonprofit began trail construction.
Currently, the trail is traversable with a crushed-limestone surface for 96 miles, from Osawatomie to Council Grove. Trail users can enjoy walking, riding with a mountain or hybrid bike, and horseback riding on the trail. Its western tip, extending westward 21 miles from Council Grove to Herington, remains rough railroad ballast but will be developed in the future. Note that 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 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 waterway just north of the pathway and river bluffs to the south.
Note that there are no public restrooms or drinking fountains provided along the trail. However, towns are spaced roughly 10–15 miles apart along the route for pit stops and refreshments. In Ottawa, the Flint Hills Trail connects to the Prairie Spirit Trail State Park, a 51-mile pathway which heads south to Iola and graces the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. East of Pomona Lake, the Flint Hills Trail will also join the developing 38-mile Landon Nature Trail, a pleasantly wooded corridor heading north to Topeka.
The rail-trail partially follows the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, a travel route in use between 1821 and 1880 that was key to the development of the American West. You can catch glimpses of this past in the old wagon ruts left behind and in the relics of trading posts and other historical buildings that still stand today.
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.
Today we rode the Flint Hills Trail from Osawatomie to Ottawa and back. We had a great time and this trail is highly recommended! The trail is a "Rails to Trails" route that follows the Marais des Cygnes river, so it is predominately flat. The gravel surface is packed very light chip, so almost any type of bike will work (we rode gravel bikes). In a few places, the recent heavy rains washed away the light chip top coat and exposed the more coarse RR bed gravel below, but it is not a problem. We did not see any of the thorns etc. mentioned above in posts from previous years. The trail head is a little hard to find, and Google maps did not help. If you find the Osawatomie elementary school and then proceed down that same road about 3/4 mile further, the trail head (with some parking) is on your right. Leaving on the trail from Osawatomie, the first 6 miles are completely shaded by trees arching over the trail. After that the trail is about 1/2 shaded and 1/2 open meadows - so this is a great trail for warm summer days (and should be beautiful in the fall). There are many bridges, views of the river and wide open farmland to see along the way. Today, at 9 miles in, there was about 200 yd where water covered the trail from the big overnight thunderstorms, but this is not normal. There are no drinking water stops along the way - so bring at least 2 good sized bottles per person. There are however farm houses all along, so if you really needed help in an emergency, it is not far away. Ottawa is about 18 miles from Osawatomie and you will know that you are close when you pass under the I-35 bridge (about 2 miles to go). If you want lunch, turn left off the trail at 7th street (it is well marked), go ~1 mile south on 7th and you will hit Main street. Subway is 2 blocks to your left (9th street) on Main, or you can go to downtown and have a variety of food choices. We had a really nice ride today and hope that you can ride this trail soon too!
This is a lovely trail. I camped at Vassar Lake for a few nights and rode sections out and back each day between Council Grove and Osawatomie. Trail conditions were great for a gravel, mountain or touring bike. There are a few rough bridges, and a few patches of ballast or deep sand, but nothing that will ruin your day. My first morning I followed a coyote following a turkey for the better part of a mile. In Ottawa you can also connect to the Prairie Spirit trail, which is also nice.
This trail is not ready for prime-time.
Unlike the R-Ts that I've done (GAP, Katy, Mickelson), there are no dedicated services such as water (cisterns or pumps), bathrooms or portapotties, no mileage signage, not even signs identifying towns at crossroads. Essentially NO SERVICES. I did count four (I think) benches on the 103 miles we rode. Though I have been told this will change quickly since the State has recently taken over the trail, about a quarter of it is virtually impassable due to inappropriate maintenance, if any. That's from about five miles east of Council Grove on and off to Osage City. 2-4 inch ballast rocks are dumped on the trail without grading or filling, no gravel for miles (just dirt jeep trail), no side rails on unimproved bridges (dangerous), grading done in wet weather where the grader tread tracks have become miles of almost-highway rumble strips and, finally, trash heaps along side the trail.. A terrible riding experience. Add to that an approximate three mile detour just west of Ottawa on yucky gravel county roads (not marked on any - including TrailNet - maps, but clearly a long-term function of the trail).
Now, from Osage City east to Osawatomie is from passable to good enough, mostly on the positive side of that spectrum.
BUT, the people we met were all wonderful, great experiences at every interaction. The Cottage House in Council Grove and the Koch Guesthouse (AirBnB) in Osage City were delightful, and Jeff and Yon at the Ottawa Bike Shop were outstandingly - I mean really - helpful.
If you want to do the Flint Hills R-T, do the eastern half or wait till the state at least fixes the surface on the western side. Otherwise, it can be a miserable experience. Either way, once the trail is fixed, it's still a long way from the standards set by the nearby Katy.
I began running along this trail on Friday afternoon on 4/12/2019. The weather was about 52°, sunny, and a bit windy. I found the trail to be difficult to run along. The trail is gravel, but not maintained very well. There was a steady undergrowth about 8” high that blanketed the trail. I found myself dodging bushes and dead, fallen trees lying across the path. In the two miles i ran, there were about three gates. After the fourth, i met a herd of cattle, and that’s when I turned back. Otherwise, the trail is very peaceful. I recommend it for walking or mountain biking. If tou do bike it, be sure to bring an extra tire!
Rode on an unseasonably cool and overcast July day. Trail is in excellent condition. We rode our street bikes. This section is doable for the casual rider and for families. Take water, there are no services. Beautiful ride through the flint hills. Bushong is the high point in this section.
Great ride on a super nice spring day. The trails were in very good condition. The only problem that we encountered was the 2 mile (2.5 mile?) detour that is west of Ottawa. It is on gravel roads, which is no problem for gravel riders. There are also a lot of dogs, most are of no consequence... but be on the lookout for an Ill-tempered pit bull on the west end of the detour. The owner was there and able to contain him so we could pass. This is the only reason I couldn’t give our experience 5 stars. Next
Did a 25 mile out and back east of Council Grove. Overall good condition with a little loose stone. Quiet ride with beautiful views of the working and natural landscape.
I regularly do 40-50 on this trail. The best part is from Admire to Council Grove, both in terms of scenery and trail conditions. East of Admire has a lot of ballast that will slow you down. If you like solitude and scenery, it's the best trail in KS. If you like amenities, not so much. As for thorns, I use tire liners and have never had a single flat.
My son and I did an overnight leaving from Council Grove, camping at Vassar State Park and back to CG the next day. We had excellent weather and plenty of time to accomplish the 50+ miles in each direction. My bike handled the rough terrain well but my son's tires did not like the many thorns. We exhausted his extra tire and my 6 pack of patches. We even broke into my air mattress repair kit. Either go tubeless or make sure your tires can take a beating. Some very rough patches and THORNS! That aside - beautiful landscape and scenery! Say "hi" to the cows! Also, Vassar State Park is a beautiful camping area. Friendly people, too. Also, stop off in Allen and talk to Paul who runs the auto shop - super friendly and will sell you a coke for 50 cents. You can fill up on his free water, too. Stay a spell and let him tell you about his town. You won't be sorry.
I ran a short out and back--getting on the trail near 7th and Lincoln in Ottawa. It was a bit muddy in a few places, but otherwise not too bad. They had just replaced one of the bridges and looked like they were going to add side rails. I crossed two other bridges with no sides. The portion I was on looked like it might have some shade in the summer.
My wife and I did a S24O (sub-24-hour-overnighter) from Admire to Pomona Lake and back (~30 miles one-way - 60 miles round-trip) over Columbus Day weekend 2016. We stayed at Vassar State Park which has a nice shower house with running water, plumbing, electricity, and a laundromat. It is also right on the lake. Osage City is a nice midpoint stop over with a nearby Casey's and Sonic just a block or two off of the trail.
I would recommend diverting to the south of the trail a block or two in Osage City due to the active railroad, an unmaintained bridge, and an apparent private property dispute/temper-tantrum. The active railroad is the only signed feature, and that's with a do-not-pass barricade and sign. The railroad that crosses the trail is NOT at-grade, and will require an exceptionally expertly-timed bunny hop in loose ballast or a dismount and lift.
I rode a Surly Big Dummy with 26"x2.15+" width tires and my wife rode a Salsa Vaya with 700x40mm tires. We both had flats, although mine may have been due to an improperly tightened valve stem. Hers may have been a pinch flat, as there was no evident thorn or debris nearby or caught in the tire.
This segment of the trail (Admire to Pomona Lake) looks to have had limestone screenings laid down at some point in the past, but does not experience enough travel to keep the grass down. The trail is bumpy and muddy with loose ballast, pot holes, and washouts in sections. There are a few low-hanging branches to dodge, also.
All this being said, my wife and I rode the trail with one longtail bike plus rider plus camping equipment probably verging on 280-300 lbs mark, while my wife was on somewhat narrow 40mm wide tires with her camping gear, and we only had to dismount once due to a broad and deep mud hole.
If you're used to riding perfectly groomed limestone trails, or asphalt and concrete and don't know how to change a flat and aren't used to riding 10-15 miles on gravel and/or minimum maintenance roads, and can't carry more than a couple of water bottles, this portion may not be for you.
If you regularly mountain bike or ride gravel, and know how to change a tube, and are prepared to NOT have water spigots every 2-5 miles, this is a fun segment, particularly for a quick bikepacking overnighter. . .
Pomona Lake's Vassar State Park is close to the trail and has a laundromat and showerhouse with plumbing and electricity and a motel and restaurant nearby.
Osage City is right on the trail with a Casey's and Sonic in plain view at one intersection.
Run tubeless or with tire liners. Have a hand tire pump handy.
Pack extra water. . .Osage City (~15 miles) is the first place with clean water access between Admire and Pomona Lake that would appear to be readily and regularly handy unless you want to knock on doors.
Spent several days doing different portions of this trail while camping at Council Grove in June. Rode East of Council Grove to Bushong and back (30 miles round trip) one day. Then another day started at Osage City and rode west to Allen and then back to Osage City (40 miles round trip), and then east past Lake Pomona and back to Osage City (30 miles round trip). Lots of biking hours in solitude and fantastic scenery of the Flint Hills. Lots of tree canopy covering the trail in some places. It is pretty flat so biking is pretty easy. The biggest issue is that you need to be self supported since there are almost no services for many miles. You certainly shouldn't try this without very good puncture resistant tires. I use Stan's Notubes and Specialized Armadillo tires and sure encountered some thorns but this was no problem with self-sealing tires. I covered over 100 miles with no delays due to flats. Lots of wildlife, and saw no other bikers on the trail on any day. Some parts are a bit rough, so a Hybrid or mountain bike (my preference) is best. Sure don't try it on a road bike. If you want a smoother trail with lots of services, then the Katy Trail in Missouri is a nice option.
We did 25 mile round trip with cyclocross bikes. Loved it! The first couple of miles weren't that interesting, but after that the prairie and woods were beautiful. We would much prefer this kind of trail than going through farmland.
Took the trail head from Bushlong to Council Grove and back .The trail was well maintained, clean and very few travels.
Rode the trail today (8/23/2015) from Lake Pomona to Osage City. The trail would be very good for mountain biking. My hybrid/fitness bike (Trek 7.2FX with 700x35 tires) did the job, but the trail is rough in a few spots. I read the stories about getting flats on this trail, so I came prepared. I only got 1 flat, from a thorn. Only saw 1 other person on the trail today, a runner. This trail could be really great with a little bit of grooming. Encountered quite a few spider webs, and many grasshoppers. Also saw a coyote which was cool.
Great location and views! The trail is poorly maintained. We have had flats every time we have rode it. We camped at Pomona lake. Rode the eastern end of
Walked the trail from Vassar to US 75 and back. The trees across the trail that I saw complaints about are removed. No trash, fairly clean. In the 1/2 mile from Adams to US 75, the trail is kind of rough and eroded but the rest of it was okay. We were walking so didn't suffer a flat tire. The trail could use an occasional trash can. The bridge over US 75 is good.
I love to ride on the trails. Unfortunately I don't because the up keep is horrible. I stopped twice between Lyndon and vassar to remove the trees that were across the trail. If your go near the bridge over 75 hwy. you will have flat tires in less than a mile. If you want the adventure of ducking under limbs and getting off to remove trees this trail is not for you. And you better be sure your tire repair skills are up to date
This trail is a guaranteed flat tire. Thorns is the trail surface from Lyndon east 1 mile
I walked the 7th street trailhead and I've noticed a lot of broken glass and trash starting to collect on the ground.
Please, if you bring it in, take it out!
We have ride from Osawatomie to Ottawa several times. Finding trailhead can be challenging but the ride is very nice. From reading other reviews and scouting the trail. Road riding to vasser seamed best. We got on trail at vasser (this was fall. We rode about 3 miles. We heard something looked down and all 4 of our tires had hundreds of goat head thorns. We turned tail and ride back to car and dang near made it before we were on our rims!! We plan on trying agai this spring and riding it in its entirety ¿¿
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 husbands bike. We fixed the tires with spares and carried the bike back to the section before the stickers. The previous reviews mentioned that you need to use mountain bikes for this trail and we would recommend it. We decided to take the trail east from Vassar to Ottawa but only got as far as Hwy 68 before we had another flat. We patched this flat but because we were getting low on supplies we turned around. This section was also quiet and beautiful with the tree canopy. We did see quite a bit of trail erosion in this section of trail. We saw monarch butterflies, wild turkeys, quail, and lots of grasshoppers!
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.
This trail is ridable in several segments; here, I'm reviewing the segment from Ottawa to Osawatomie:
Starting in Ottawa, just take 7th street east out of town. It will eventually turn to gravel and pretty much right after Mason Street, you will see where the trail picks up. Head south. This trail runs for ~17 miles and then ends at John Brown Highway. There are no services on this trail at all, but if you turn left (East) onto John Brown Highway, it's only 1 or 2 miles before you get into town and can grab something to eat and drink.
The trail itself isn't as wide, consistent or smooth as the Prairie Spirit Trail, BUT it's gorgeous and instead of trees or pastures (not to take away from the PSRT, but it does get a bit repetitive), it runs along the Marais Des Cygne river and has some nice scenery and features a really cool old iron bridge. Since the trail is narrower and more "nauture-y", this also allows for tighter tree canopy (and some of the thickest I've ridden in) --and consequently, more shade on hot days. This trail is awesome and a real treat for anyone looking for an alternative to the PSRT. I dare even say this trail is prettier. I regularly both run this on foot and ride this trail on my hybrid bike and it's totally fine for both. I don't think road bikes would do well here, but anything else probably will.
The downsides to this trail are few and far-between, but include:
1) There are very occasional thorny twigs from time to time and I have had to change tires here in the past. --Not often, but it is a nature trail and things do happen. And remember, there are no services for about 9 miles either way if you get halfway out. That's a long walk. Know how to fix a flat and have equipment to do so.
2) Horses use this trail. That means both horse poo (not a lot, but be aware) and that you may encounter a person mounted on a horse from time to time. If you have no experience around horses: Do not speed toward them on your bike. Get off your bike and allow them to pass you. Talking to the horse or rider as they approach helps calm them. Also? Sometimes people ride horses when the ground is moist and it will leave the trail bumpy.
3) Sometimes people walk their dogs out here and don't have them leashed or under control. I've seen everything from Cocker Spaniels to German Shepherds. Carry animal mace, especially if you are running. I've never *had* to use mine, but I sure like knowing I have it if I need it.
4) I fairly regularly encounter vehicles (!) on this trail. I even got a picture on one, including its license plate and reported it to the Franklin County Sheriff's Dept., who promptly did absolutely nothing about it. Keep your eyes peeled and if you ride (or run) with headphones, you might leave one out.
I know this seems like a lot of negatives, but don't let it scare you off of this trail: the beauty and fun this trail offers overwhelmingly outweighs any drawbacks, and as long as you are alert (and have a spare tube), you should be fine. It really is a fantastic trail!
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, butterflies, and turtles. The wheat fields looked like they were almost ready to be cut. There were two trees that had been blown down and were blocking the trail so we moved them to the side. Does not look like there is much maintenance done to the trail because in one short section the trees had grown so much along the trail there was only a narrow path leaving a couple of feet wide to pass. Another small section was sandy and a little more challenging to ride on. At some point the cattle in an adjacent field must of gotten out or maybe the rancher uses the trail to move the cattle from one pasture to another pasture because there were cow patties on the trail. Luckily they had been there a while and were dried enough to ride over. It was so nice to have such a quiet ride in the Flint Hills and the temperatures and wind were perfect. This trail has been awarded a KDWPT grant and also a KDOT grant recently so we look forward to having the trail completed possibly in 2015?
We rode this trail from Ottawa heading toward Ossawatamie on our hybrid bikes. One person in our group had a road bike which was not a good idea. This trail is very rugged with several larger rocks that made it hard to maneuver. Some sections of the Is that ok. I don't want to do anything wrong. You don't have to pay for it do you. your tires kind of sink into the silt. We only wrote about 15 miles and then turned around and went back The scenery wasn't terribly scenic But the horseback riders we encountered were very pleasant and friendly although there were horse droppings throughout the trail. I think next time we will try to Prairie Spirit Trail.
Starting in Harrington going east I did an out and back 10 mile run. I definitely wouldn't recommend this part of the trail for runners as the trail is under-developed and in rough condition. The trail has pretty large rocks left from the railroad and a section of the trail about 2.5 miles in is private property.
We have biked on the Flint Hills Nature Trail from Council Grove to Ottawa, Kansas with the next ride planned to the terminus at Osawatomie. The area east of Council Grove is the most scenic (sweeping vistas of the flint hills where you can see for miles) and has the best trail condition. One word of caution though. It seems like the further you travel east, the rougher the trail gets. From the town of Pomona headed east, the condition of the trail gets worse due to deep rocks/gravel, little changed from the old railroad bed. We finally detoured off the trail and took a county road into Ottawa for the last three miles. Also, someone cut down a number of small trees for almost 1/4 mile and allowed them to fall straight across the trail. The only way you can get by these trees and brush is to carry your bike through them. Pretty tough going!
Took our first walk on the FHT this morning. Late July and morning temps below 70! Started SE of Rantoul and did a couple miles along the Marais des Cygne river. We parked at a spot where the trail crosses Virginia Road. It isn't marked as a trail head but there is room for a vehicle or two.
The trail is in great shape here. Lots of tree canopy. Nice bridge about a mile SE of Virginia Road. Just past the bridge, on the north side, is a "path" down to the river. It is too steep for a bike and I don't think a rider would want to do it on horseback. But it is worth walking down as there is a nice set of riffles in the river here. You can hear the water from the trail.
We met three horse riders and a few bike riders. Otherwise, it was very peaceful and the solitude was remarkable. We highly recommend this strech.
Trail head does not exist, but I found two places to park where you can access the trail. Go down main street, past the John Brown Museum until you get to 12th street.Turn right on 12th street, go a few blocks and 12th street makes a sharp turn to the left. 12th street turns into Parker Avenue at this turn. It passes right in front of the high school. Outside of town the road becomes John Brown Road. From the high school, go exactly 1.4 miles. The first parking area is on the left side. It is unmarked and there are no landmarks to tell you where to turn. The trail is just a short distance from this parking area. The second parking area is approximately 2.0 miles on the right side of John Brown Highway. There are oil tanks here and a small parking area. Trail can be seen from this parking area. Hope this makes this great trail easier to find.
A couple of the websites say this trail is unimproved, but ride-able with a mountain bike and there are sections that are not. Starting immediately after the large bridge over the river after traveling west from 1st street in Ottawa, it is nothing but ballast for half mile. Then the forest cuts through the trail, making it impossible to get through, even walking your bike.We had to turn back at this point, so I don't know what it's like on the other side. I have read that they are trying to finish this trail.
We've also taken the trail from Ottawa, starting on 7th street towards Osawatomie and for the 10 miles we rode, it was rugged, but a nice trail.
Directions were incomplete and inaccurate. The trailhead (no signs on John Brown highway) is west of town on the right, just after some oil well tanks. The description I read said to continue west and turn right on next road and go 1/4 mile north. No trailhead, just the trail crossing the road. The east Ottawa trailhead (trail stops there and does not continue through town) is non-existant and at the end of a street. No signage. I was so disappointed in this section, I decided to ride the Prairie Spirit Trail instead from Ottawa.
In response to jodilynnreeves, pursuant to promulgated KSA regulations an easement for the purposes of a rail trail, for example, is a nonpossessory interest in another's land that entitles the holder to the right to use such land in the specified manner. Thus, a farmer cannot block access to this easement if access used for is for it's intended purpose, that is to say recreational uses such as biking, hiking, horse backing, etc. When the perpetual easement was established and transferred, it was done without regard to the extraneous issues you mentioned (i.e. Santa Fe trail, bike trails are on private land, misspelling a city's name). Thus, access is permanently granted irrespective of the issues you put forth as the basis for your response.
I first tried riding from the Admire exit off I-35 and it was rough but nice scenery going East. Tried going west only to find a large closed (but not locked) cattle gate leading to open range, with lots of cattle. Next tried Herington but couldn't find a trail head. Asked someone in a business right next to the trail and they didn't even know the trail was there! Went east a couple of miles on the highway and picked up the trail but found it too overgrown and blocked to use. Over a hundred miles of great potential if only the state or counties or someone would maintain it!
Rode from Bushong to Miller and back . The trail is mostly in good shape . There is alot of ballast on the trail for a couple of miles east of Miller and the whole thing could use a mowing . Railings are up on all bridges but one .We had a great ride and no flats .
Once we got on the trail it was awesome. Went from Council Grove to Bushong and back. Trail was in decent shape. Couple of bridges with no rails yet. The scenery more than made up for these inconveniences. Had a hard time finding the trail head in Council Grove. It is about 3 blocks south of main on 5th street. There is a parking lot at the trail head. The parking lot is full of stickers/sandburrs. Luckily we noticed them before we got on our bikes. We probably picked off about 50 before our ride. Made the whole trip without a flat. Suggest carrying your bike across the parking lot. Bushong was a cool little town. Worth the visit. Can see some Santa Fe Trail swales from the trail.
Just started back riding again this year after finding the rail trails. This section was perfect for an early morning ride in June, almost all shade till around 9:00. Did not see a soul on the trail for the whole 4 1/2 hours which is kind of a shame, however did see turkey, coyotes, turtles, and countless deer. Only around 30 min. down I -35 from Overland Park well worth the time. An earlier review mentioned the Old Depo Museum as a parking spot, use it it's perfect. Next stop Prairie Spirit.
Today we rode from Allen to Rd. H. A short trip out and back. I would recommend this section of trail for a cool, bright morning like today. It was lovely. Had it been hotter, it would of been very uncomfortable for us as there is very little shade in this section. Lots of pasture and we were fortunate to find lots of blackberries along the way!
I’ve ridden the eastern section between Ottawa and Osawatomie following its recent completion. I usually park/start in north Ottawa at the Old Depot Museum just west of the grain elevators there. I then ride the Prairie Spirit Trail south a few blocks to 7th Street, and then go east on 7th about a mile to the FHNT gate near the levee road there. Parking is limited and remote at the actual end-gates for this section. Still, one can ride into either downtown area for services.
Because this 17-mile section (gate-to-gate; 7th Street to John Brown Hwy) borders the Marias des Cynes River, much of it is wooded and shaded. I’ve seen fox, coyote, deer, turkey, and numerous birds and butterfly-types there. Wildflowers permeate its corridor as well. An occasional John-boat might be parked next to it too. Its limestone surface is hard packed with small amounts of scattered ballast showing up occasionally. Overall, it is easy to ride.
Equestrians also use the trail. Their pickups/trailers might be parked in the widened section passing thru the village of Rantoul, midway between Ottawa and Osawatomie. Although this trail has no real tailheads or services, Rantoul does have a small outdoor shack of coin-operated dispensers plus a week-end-only café/gift-shop. I’ve also seen hikers and photographers on this nature trail.
In response to perrysmith in September, 2010 1 it really helps when you are spelling the name of a town that you actually spell it correctly. It is Herington, not Herrington. Secondly the reason that you actually see out here in this part of the state "Rails to Trails" is not for bikes. I hope that you do understand that this has to do with the Santa Fe Trail and the Rail Road. Also most of those trails in which you are discussing are on private land. Therefore the 3 fences that you had to go over you were actually trespassing. You need to understand that farmers could honestly careless about your biking and are making sure that their crops and animals are taken care of.
This past weekend we rode the section of trail between Osawatamie and Rantoul, KS (didn't have time for a longer ride). We first tried to park at the school and ride from there, but the railroad tracks still haven't been removed from that section and it's overgrown with weeds, so we got onto the trail about a mile west of town, where it crosses over the road. Within the first mile or so, there was a road crossing that was a little steep and rocky, but I took my mountain bike this time instead of my cyclocross bike, and the crossing was no problem on the mountain bike. I would have probably needed to walk the cyclocross bike across if I had that, but it's only about 50 feet from one side to the other, so no biggy. After that it was just hard packed gravel the rest of the way, and although this section isn't in the Flint Hills, there was still some really great scenery, especially along the river section. This section of trail also has alot more trees, so we were riding in a shaded canopy for a good portion of the ride. Sure this trail might not be as maintained as other rail trails, but I think it's a great trail regardless. The Katy is a state park trail, so it is maintained with state money, and has ammenities along the way. This is a nature trail, so it's not going to have all the ammenities, or be as well maintained, but I think that's part of what makes it more appealing....to me anyway
We rode the 21 mile section of the trail starting in Allen, KS and riding to Council Grove, KS. About 7 miles into the ride west of Allen the trail opned up into the Flint Hills with incredible views. I don't know what the rest of the trail is like, but the section we rode was awsome! Here's a link to a bunch of photos I took along the way. I also recommend lunch at the Hays House in Council Grove. We fueled up there for the 21 mile ride back to the vehicle.
Started on the trail in Herrington heading east. In the first 2.5 miles we had to cross 3 barbed wire fences or gates. Do the local farmers know that this is a rail-trail and not their property? The railbed is the same large railroad rock that has always been there, overgrown with trees and weeds. We gave up after our 2.5 miles and hopped on to a dirt road and took highway 56. Has great potential but almost impassible at this point.
I tried to ride the section from Ottawa west toward Vassar I figured it would be scenic since it travels through the Flint Hills.
Let me start off by telling you how to find it so you don't have to spend over an hour trying to find it like I did. You can get on the trail west of town if you follow 2nd street west, go under 68, turn left and follow that until you get to some ball fields. There is a cemetery there. The ball fields are not on the map. If you head north through the woods from there you will hit the trail.
The surface of the trail is still the rock left over when it had railroad ties, so it is rough. The trail is VERY rough and over grown. You will need a MTB bike or at least a cyclocross bike. Bring plenty of inner tubes. I rode through something with lots of tiny thorns and could not find them all, went through all my tubes so I had to give up and leave.
In all fairness, it did look interesting but only if you are looking for a rough adventurous trail. This is not like the Prairie Spirit on the other end of town. This trail is unimproved. I do however plan on trying it again, but only after I get some Stan's No Tubes. I will probably head east this time towards Ossawatomie.
If you are NOT looking for an adventure, find a nice gravel road somewhere else and save yourself the time it takes to get there.
Also, keep in mind, if you need something for your bike the closest bike shop is in Lawrence 20 miles north.
Rode the section of the trail from Osawatomie to Ottawa and back on June 9, 2011. That stretch of trail does offer some nice scenery. Other than that, I'd not recommend it for the faint of heart.
Good luck trying to get on the trail in Osawatomie. Just drive west of town on the John Brown highway and park on the north side of the highway where the trail crosses - about a mile west of the Trojan Elementary School. The first couple of miles from there will be discouraging. Rough surface, very poor crossing of a roadway just as the ride is starting, and evidence you will be sharing the trail with horses. Be prepared to dodge the droppings.
The trail winds through some beautiful, secluded woods running along the river. Large rocks litter the surface, and rough spots abound so keep your eyes on the trail. Carry enough water to get you to Ottawa. If you're used to nice rest areas like the Katy or Raccoon River Valley or Prairie Spirit offer, don't plan on them here. This is a rough trail. And if you're thinking of taking a road bike on this section, it doesn't seem like a good idea.
Once in Ottawa get off the trail and ride surface streets. The section of gravel road from the trail to the paved roadways is a challenge. Go slow. I found myself wondering who in the neighborhood must have ticked off the city council to have such bad road surface! :)
It is obvious that the State of Kansas isn't using any money to maintain or develop this beautiful resource. How sad. I've ridden trails in Iowa and Missouri, and those that are maintained attract users. And users spend money. The scenery of this trail is as attractive as any in the neighboring states. Unfortunately there will probably not be many people use the trail unless it is improved a bit and regularly maintained. Right now the volunteers that are committed to the task do as well as can be expected with the limited resources they have.
The trail out of Osawatomie is beautiful as it follows the river for quite some ways, the trail is in good condition and is easy to ride, the ride was in the fall and the scenery was breathtaking, we rode an approximate 25 mile round trip, issues we found is that the Osawatomie end does not go into town as the trail is occupied by semi trailers, we got on the trail by parking at the grade school and riding down John Brown highway till we could get on the trail, where the trail starts there is no parking and we now understand that people just pull off the highway and park on the trail, there is a section at the beginning where there is no bridge, it is a steep descent to the road and then back up to the trail, the bike needs to be walked there as this is not the safest of declines and ascents, overall the trip was very enjoyable and we are planning to take this trip all the way into Ottawa next time, we have investigated the Ottawa end and the trail just ends and there seems to be no signs on how to get back on the trail to continue going west, in time I believe this trail will be very nice as soon as all the work is finished
Recently rode approximately the last ten miles of the trail into Herrington.
It was a beautiful and isolated fall ride through the Kansas prairie.
I would highly recommend this section of the trail to someone wanting a “real” outdoor experience.
However, be aware of the conditions before you go.
The trail is unimproved and appears to be rarely ridden in this section. If you’re going to bike it you’ll need a mountain bike. The surface has been graded but that’s it. The surface is rough ballast and shifts a little underneath you.
Sections of the trail are overgrown with weeds up to 2 feet high. Long pants might not be a bad idea.
There is no signage however the trail in easy to find and follow.
We, a group of four fairly experienced bike riders,who have ridden rails-to-trails in Missouri and Iowa, were very excited about the 117 mile Flint Hills Nature Trail. We had read a few reviews and talked to a couple of people who stated that the trail was ridable. although rough, the entire distance. We planned to ride over Labor Day Weekend and made hotel reservations.
We started the trip in Ottawa and road to Osawatamie and were very pleased with the condition of the trail. It has obviously been taken care of and it was a wonderful ride. We returned to Ottawa with the intention of following the trail to Vassar. We were informed that the safest way to get to Pamona was not on Highway 68, a busy highway with minimal shoulder so we took the Prairie Spirit trail to 23rd street and then went 10 miles to the end of that road on nice pavement and some hills. (not rails to trails grade). We then went 2 miles north to Pamona and by then had put in 60+ miles so we ate dinner and asked about avoiding traffic to get to Vassar. As it was approaching dark, we were told that the best way would be to go on Highway 268, again hilly and no shoulder to 368 to the Lamont Hotel. We logged 73 miles that day of hard riding.
The next morning we went to the trailhead and rode back east approximately 2 1/2 miles then headed toward Osage City. The trail had a crushed rock surface with some overgrowth down the middle and on the sides. One stretch of that section was unkept. We arrived in Osage City, had some mechanical problems so got off the trail. After fixing the problem we headed out of town where we thought the trail would intersect but poor marking and no clear cut path in town resulted in us missing the trail so once again we were on the highway with hills and no shoulder. We rode on highway 56 to Allen where we ate lunch. The townspeople told us the trail was used quite a bit between Allen and Osage City and when we looked to the east, it appeared that the trail was well maintained. Going west towards Council Grove we were told that there would be a couple of cattle gates to open and close. As we left Allen the trail was ridable, with quite a bit of growth onto the trail, down the middle and overhead but there were two paths. The surface was crushed rock with occasional ballast. However, once we got to Bushong, the trail became almost unridable. There was no path and the weeds were mid-bike high. There was one stretch of large ballast rock that three of us walked our bikes over. The saving grace was that the flint hills were beautiful!!!!
We rode for about 8 miles in 1 1/2 hours and finally came to a dirt road crossing. We had a state map and saw a paved diagonal road, Dunlap Road that looked like it would end up in Council Grove. We rode another 6-7 miles to reach the town. As we went into town, we did not find the trail head entering town. That day we put in 63 miles of hard riding.
On the third day our original plan was to finish the trail by riding to Herrington and back (53 miles). We started the day by finding the trail head at the east of Council Grove. They have developed the route of about 4 miles to the Allegawaho Heritage Park which was a nice ride. We then returned to Council Grove and tried to find the trail going west. We did find the abandoned rail bed and followed a dirt road for 6-7 miles, checking at every intersection for the condition of the trail and then gave up. That stretch of trail had not been ridden on or hiked on period. We then road our bikes to the reservoir to finish up the mileage we had intended to ride.
The next day as we were returning to our home we drove to Herrington and did see that the trail bed had been mowed but it did not look like it had seen much riding.
I realize that it takes great effort and time to establish a biking trail, and the parts that are maintained were very nice. The entire route should not be listed as a rails-to-trails route as the characteristics of rails-to trails is not developed on this 117 miles. People who chose to ride rails to trails in my opinion or looking for safe surfaces that allow for conversation and enjoyment of the countryside. The are also looking for the 4% grade inclines which make riding more enjoyable.
I would very highly recommend the first 20 miles of the ride and then hooking into the Prairie Spirit Trail.
I would hope that the area around Council Grove would be better developed to take advantage of the beautiful Flint Hills as the part we saw were something you can not appreciate from the highway. Kansas has an opportunity to develop a specatular biking/hiking experience.
We have rode from Osawatomie to the east side of Ottawa - not too bad. Can anyone tell me the conditions from Ottawa on west? How far does it run - is it connected or is there spots that require off trail = road travel? I cannot seem to get the info from the internet - any information would be greatly appreciated.
It is very upsetting that locals (mostly older) are against the trail and have circulated a petition saying the the trail is a bad thing. The opponents of the trail think it will allow criminals to enter our area. Once a trail is completed it is a felony trespass to operate a motorized vehicle. I don't think too many crooks ride bikes or wear back packs.
Years ago there was a tract of land out west the government wanted to preserve for future generations but local land owners filed lawsuits and raised all kinds of Hell saying it was their land and the timber was an important commodity. That section of land is now known as Yosemite National Park.
I shake my head in disgust at the local folks who actually think the trail is a bad thing. Apparently those people have never traveled on a completed "Rails to Trails".
I too once was a stanch opponent of the trail until I rode a bike a few miles on one. It is a great experience to allow your kids ride ahead or behind without the worry of a car smashing them.
Before you form a negative opinion, do as my family did and experience a completed trail. Its not too far, Admire, Ottawa, Princeton... take your pick.
I spoke to a 74 year old women who volunteered at the Ottawa trail head. We talked about trail development and she said in the beginning many locals were against the trail and even filed a lawsuit and circulated petitions (sounds familiar). The lady said all the worries the locals had never came to be true.
I should of videoed her and put it on Youtube for everyone to see. Her story was honest and made me smile.
Osage City, Kansas
What is remarkable about the Flint Hills Nature Trail is that it generally follows the Santa Fe National Historic Trail and forms a vital link in the southern route of the American Discovery Trail, the nation’s first coast-to-coast trail. This greenway traverses a wide variety of natural areas including the Chippewa Hills in the Osage Cuestas, the riparian forests of the Marais des Cygnes (Marsh of the Swans) and Neosho River valleys and the Flint Hills, which contain the largest expanse of tallgrass prairie remaining in the world. Significantly, the Flint Hills Nature Trail could be easily linked to the nearby 11,000-acre Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, the only natural park unit of the national park system in Kansas.
The Flint Hills Nature Trail links Council Grove, a national historic landmark and the last stop for wagon trails to get supplies on the Santa Fe Trail, with Osawatomie, the location of the restored 1850s Adair Cabin made famous by John Brown during Bleeding Kansas. The recreational trail also passes through the 160-acre Kaw Nation Heritage Park, which contains the stone ruins of the Kaw Indian Agency complex, Chief Wah-To-An-Gah’s village site, the Monument to the Unknown Kaw Indian and the ruins of three small stone houses built for the Kaw (or Kanza) people in 1862. Hiking trails have been built in the park and a visitors/interpretive center is planned.
Near the town of Pomona the Flint Hills Trail intersects with the scenic Landon Trail corridor which is also managed by the Conservancy. This rail-trail corridor stretches 38 miles north to the capital city of Topeka. The Flint Hills Trail also links up in Ottawa with the 50-mile Prairie Spirit Rail-Trail which is managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
When the trail is complete, it will create an outstanding 200-mile interconnected trail system in the Sunflower State.
Short sections completed. Starting at Rantoul, KS, N38.55136 W095.10222 , 0.8 mile east trail was just a muddy track through field. West for 3.7 miles, nice trail with some low rough spots. One old steel RR Bridge. N38.56451 W95.12997. Bollards to close at N38.57164 W095.15490 Section from Vassar N38.64599 W95.61955 west to the end at Bridge over HWY-75, N38.64179 W95.68466 is good except for the last 0.5 miles with rough loose gravel ballast. Noel Keller 9& 11 Sep 09
Short sections completed. Starting at Rantoul, KS, N38.55136 W095.10222 , 0.8 mile east trail was just a muddy track through field. West for 3.7 miles, nice trail with some low rough spots. One old steel RR Bridge. N38.56451 W95.12997. Bollards to close at N38.57164 W095.15490 Section from Vassar N38.64599 W95.61955 west to the end at Bridge over HWY-75, N38.64179 W95.68466 is good except for the last 0.5 miles with rough loose gravel ballast. Noel Keller 9& 11 Sep 09
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