Kansas City, MO: Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area

Hike to Jesse James' old stomping grounds on this 4.1-mile loop that strings together three short trails just 30 minutes from downtown.
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Hike to Jesse James' old stomping grounds on this 4.1-mile loop that strings together three short trails just 30 minutes from downtown.

Connect sun-dappled woods, wildflower meadows, and limestone cliffs on this 4.1-miler that links three trails in the 1,071-acre Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area. This route begins on Wildlife Habitat Trail, a snaking, gravel and cinder path that tracks past a small pond and jagged, crumbly limestone bluffs. A small connector path at mile 1 leads to the Hickory Grove Trail, which meanders over several bridges and streambeds to Bethany Falls Trail.
Climb through young forest before continuing toward higher, more jagged bluffs after a viewing platform at mile 2.3. (These limestone overhangs sheltered Jesse James, his ammunition caches, and his loot.) Near the end of the loop, the trail skirts a field dotted with wildflowers before turning onto the park road and heading 1 mile east to the trailhead.
-Mapped by Casey Lyons

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 6.6

Waypoints

BUR001

Location: 39.045453, -94.284301

There is a large parking lot and restroom at the trailhead for the Wildlife Habitat Trail. You'll cross a small bridge and follow the gravel path south toward the woods.

BUR002

Location: 39.041842, -94.287071

At a signed junction near mile 0.6, turn left to follow the Long Loop.

BUR003

Location: 39.043628, -94.289641

Turn left onto the Hickory Grove Trail in this small clearing and stay left at another junction in roughly 100 yards.

BUR004

Location: 39.043708, -94.290828

On the north side of the pond is another trailhead and restroom. Continue south from here on Hickory Grove Trail.

BUR005

Location: 39.042379, -94.294273

The Hickory Grove Trail meanders through the forest, staying mostly level as it crosses several footbridges.

BUR006

Location: 39.045928, -94.298133

Continue northeast across another trailhead parking lot and follow the Bethany Falls Trail north. There is a picnic shelter and public restroom on the lot's west side.

BUR007

Location: 39.047586, -94.298347

This route follows the 1.25-mile Bethany Falls Trail on a clockwise loop. You'll meander above Oak Creek before turning uphill along the loop's north leg.

BUR008

Location: 39.051832, -94.301452

A viewing area platform near mile 2.3 overlooks the small valley carved by Oak Creek and is a good place to spot birds.

BUR009

Location: 39.046073, -94.297838

Back at the trailhead for the Bethany Fall Trail, turn left onto pavement at the park road. This route follows the road east for nearly a mile to the end of the hike.

Flowers on Bethany Falls Trail

Location: 39.050952, -94.297821

The second half of the Bethany Falls Trail cruises an open field. Look for wildlife and flowers.

Trailhead

Location: 39.045448, -94.284271

The signed entrance to the Wildlife Habitat Trail.

Small Pond

Location: 39.04312, -94.283145

The trail skirts this small pond--look for turtles basking near the shoreline.

Trees

Location: 39.041603, -94.284132

Nearly 80 percent of the Burr Oak Woods Conservation area is covered with trees. Most of this trail is shaded by varieties such as white oak, shagbark hickory, and black walnut.

Sign

Location: 39.041836, -94.2869

The trails are marked for easy navigation.

Limestone

Location: 39.041603, -94.289228

Explore short mazes through the large limestone boulders and outcroppings near the park's southern border.

Understory

Location: 39.042511, -94.290569

In addition to dogwood and buckeye in the understory, look for flowers, like this tall thistle.

Pond

Location: 39.043767, -94.290849

The W. Robert Aylward Educational Pond hosts several of the park's interpretive programs.

Stream

Location: 39.043178, -94.295542

The trail overlooks an intermittent stream.

Cliffs

Location: 39.052552, -94.300986

Another set of limestone cliffs below Pink Hill Road. Local lore pins Jesse James and his band of thieves to these cliffs, which they may have used for shelter and hiding.