Salina, KS: Kanopolis State Park

Wander through the rocky wildlands of the Smoky Hills.
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Wander through the rocky wildlands of the Smoky Hills.

Sandy trails touring past boulders, sandstone pillars, and red rock outcroppings? Believe it or not, this is Kansas. April brings vibrant green growth and migrating waterfowl to Kanopolis, making it the perfect time for a 19.8-mile weekend sampling the colorful stone formations of this former inland sea. From trailhead C, hike the 5.5-mile Horsethief Loop counterclockwise, scrambling up to an overlook from a trailside cave at mile 1. Next, tackle the 6-mile Prairie Trail Loop to reach the sandstone walls of Red Rock Canyon. (Note: The stream crossings on these trails can be deep and challenging.) Pitch a tent at Rockwall Campground (there’s no backcounty camping in the park), then hike the 8.3-mile Alum Creek Trail on day two. The loop splashes across streams, passes table rock formations, and skirts a prairie dog town.
Info: $4.20/vehicle daily fee; campsites $8.50/night. (785) 546-2565; kdwp.state.ks.us
Hike provided by Julie Cirlincuina, author of Kansas Outdoor Treasures (Trails Books).

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Location: 38.6448097229004, -97.9868392944336