Salina, KS: Wilson Purple Loop

Access tiny sand beaches and stop for up-close views of Lake Wilson on this winding 4.7-mile loop tour of Wilson State Park’s most diverse trail.
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Access tiny sand beaches and stop for up-close views of Lake Wilson on this winding 4.7-mile loop tour of Wilson State Park’s most diverse trail.

This clockwise loop begins at the small parking area west of the Hell Creek Bridge, rolls south beneath the road for its first mile, and then turns right just before intersecting the park road. You'll drop into grassy valley and then climb gently toward a hilltop switchback just before this route’s high point at mile 1.7—a great place to rest and admire views of the lake and valley. After cruising the hilltop, the trail turns downhill and loops beneath a sheer cliff face before winding through a string of stone fenceposts.

The real highlight of this hike is the stretch above the lake that begins at mile 2.5. The slickrock-like trail traces the lakeshore on bluffs and around several inlets. The final stretch of trail heads toward Hell Creek bridge: there are plenty of opportunities to hit lake level, explore pock-marked bluffs and beaches, or cast for fish in the lake’s crystal-clear water.
Watch for snakes and scorpions sunning on the trail, bring plenty of water and be sure to stop at the park’s entry station to pay the nominal day-use fee.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 7.6

Waypoints

WPL001

Location: 38.9192943, -98.4908438

There aren't any facilities at the small, gravel parking lot, so plan to fill up water bottles and use the restroom at the park's main entrance (where you can also pay the day-use fee) before beginning your hike.

WPL002

Location: 38.9195781, -98.490994

Several small paths lead downhill from the parking area and intersect the main trail. Turn left to follow this mapped route clockwise.

WPL003

Location: 38.9138349, -98.4940732

This route turns left at this trail junction to wind through grassy valleys and ravines below the road. Turning right here will take you more directly to the lakeshore and shave 1.8 miles from the loop.

WPL004

Location: 38.9105791, -98.4962511

The trail turns west before hitting the park road. Bear right to dip into the valley and begin a gentle climb.

WPL005

Location: 38.9113555, -98.4958112

Stop at this mile 1.5 switchback and admire the view of the valley to the south and the lake to the north. The next section of trail winds along a ridgeline to the route's high point.

WPL006

Location: 38.913789, -98.4956825

There is a rocky 100-foot stretch of trail directly under this crumbling cliff face. Up ahead, the trail dips and then climbs beneath the face again.

WPL007

Location: 38.914244, -98.4952426

Bear left at this stone-pillar marked junction just before mile 2.4. This .9-mile loop offers up-close views of the lake and marina. After the loop, or to shave .9 miles from this route, continue east for 100 feet and turn left at the next trail junction.

WPL008

Location: 38.9148951, -98.4972167

This first section of lakeside trail is scattered with rusting marina- and construction-debris. Watch your step over large steel cables and buried metal parts.

WPL009

Location: 38.9167066, -98.4961545

This dramatic point above the water comes within 100 feet of the park's marina. In the summer the high-traffic area is buzzing with activity.

WPL010

Location: 38.9188102, -98.4943414

The singletrack trail climbs through open fields to the top of this small hill. You may pass casual trails up ahead that lead to a sandy beaches on the lakeshore: good picnic and fishing spots if the water level allows.

WPL011

Location: 38.9201207, -98.4913588

Nearing the trailhead, you'll likely encounter families or fishermen casting from exposed beaches. After cooling down near the water, either follow user-created paths uphill to the trailhead, or continue above the shoreline on this mapped route for a view of Hell Creek Bridge before turning west to the parking area.

Trail Markers

Location: 38.9138266, -98.4941268

There aren't many trail markers on this route, but this post marks this junction that the trail crosses twice.

Valley

Location: 38.9113054, -98.4956503

Looking south from the hilltop toward the valley and park road below.

Cliff

Location: 38.9133591, -98.4967661

Look to the right for this view of the 40-foot cliff you just skirted on the trail. The trail passes directly under it again up ahead.

Slalom

Location: 38.9142774, -98.4966159

The trail winds through this linear series of stone fence posts. The rolling fields in this area of the park are littered with them.

Marina

Location: 38.9166899, -98.4961438

The trail gets really close to the marina before turning really rocky up ahead.

Lakeshore

Location: 38.9166815, -98.4956932

The rocky trail alongside the lake is relatively exposed. Peek over the edge toward tiny sand beaches and be careful with small children near the edges.

Inlet

Location: 38.9193444, -98.4923136

Wilson Lake's water extends into tiny inlets along its shoreline. The trail traces both sides of this one.

Bridge

Location: 38.9200205, -98.4915304

The last stretch of trail along the lake offers this view of the Hell's Creek Bridge.