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Elk River Trail
With its tiny waterfalls whispering your name, rock chambers where echoes sound forever, gnome-size caves, gnarled trees, plank bridges, and odd-shaped rocks, the backcountry here can seem like an enchanted forest. The best hike in Kansas, the 15-mile Elk River Trail switchbacks up a steep ridge on the north side of Elk City Lake, offering good views before slipping into forest broken by patches of Kansas prairie.
Contact: Elk City State Park, (316) 331-6295; www.kdwp.state.ks.us.
Konza Prairie/Flint Hills
Squint your eyes and you can almost imagine the million square miles of prairie that once quilted this nation’s midsection. The short Nature Trail (6.1 miles when combined with the Kings Creek and Godwin Hill loops) gives dayhikers a glimpse of one of the largest parcels of tallgrass prairie left in the country.
Contact: The Nature Conservancy, (785) 233-4400; http://nature.org.
Perry Lake Trail
Bald eagles loop overhead as you ply 30 miles of trail through deep-green forest, along mumbling creeks, and up to the occasional bluff-top vista. Try the rugged section between the Old Military and Old Quarry Roads for the best views.
Contact: Perry State Park, (785) 246-3449; www.kdwp.state.ks.us.