A while back, we were discussing the whereabouts of some of the Kansas attractions–specifically where some of the scenic rock formations were. Most people who are not familiar with Kansas only think of Kansas as the long stretch of I-70 leading to Colorado, but it does have its scenic spots. We have visited a number of Kansas’ attractions, but I found others that might be worth a stop. I located them on a map so that we could have some intermediate destinations between our home in the Kansas City area and Colorado.
We recently had an unseasonably cool week in mid-July 2014 that was tailor-made for a Kansas Road Trip. I updated the list with information about the sites we visited on our trip. The attractions are listed in order of their distance from Kansas City.
- Rock City near Minneapolis, Kansas is a privately run park with about 200 huge sandstone concretions. Besides a field of rocks the size of 2 football fields, the park has a small gift shop with cold drinks and 2 outhouse restrooms.
- Mushroom State Park is the smallest state park in Kansas. Located about 20 miles southwest, of Salina, the 5 acre park has 3 mushroom rocks and a number of sandstone concretions. 2 of the mushrooms are located north of the road and one is across a footbridge south of the road. Concretions are scattered in between. Although small, the park has a picnic table and restrooms.
- Castle Rock & Castle Rock Badlands is located 15 miles south of Quinter, Kansas. Castle Rock is a chalk formation made up predominately of accumulations of shells of microscopic animals that lived over 80 million years ago.
To reach the site, take I-70 Exit 107, and proceed 15 miles south on Castle Rock Road. Following the Castle Rock Sign, turn left (East) on County Road 466 for 3.8 miles, then left at cattle guard into the Castle Rock Area. There are a couple of forks in the “road”. If you take the right fork, you will go to the top of the cliff overlooking the badlands. Take the forks to the left to drive directly to Castle Rock. The right fork road is much rougher. (A high clearance vehicle is definitely a good idea, especially for the “high road”).
Castle Rock is one formation that stands alone in a flat field. It is constantly being eroded and one of the tall towers recently collapsed. Be advised that there are no facilities at the site.
At Castle Rock, look to the north and you will see the Badlands. Follow the road from Castle Rock to the Badlands. The badlands consist of chalk bluffs and canyons. There are lots of mounds, canyons and passages to navigate.
- El Quartalejo Ruins are the only known Indian Pueblo ruins in Kansas. They date from 1660s and were inhabited for 20 years by Taos Indians and later for a short time by Picurie Indians. An early homesteader, Herbert Steele found the mounds on his property and had them excavated. The ruins consist of restored stone foundations and are located in Lake Scott State Park. By themselves, they wouldn’t warrant a visit for most people. However, if you are in the area (perhaps to see Monument Rocks) you might want to take a look at them.
Lake Scott State Park has camping, fishing, swimming and other activities.
- Monument Rocks are about 25 miles south of Oakley KS off US Highway 83, down gravel roads through private rangeland dotted with pumping oil wells. The route is well marked, but there are no facilities, so plan accordingly. These are chalk “badlands” formations that originated from the oceans that covered this area 80 million years ago.
Lots of fossils have been found in this general area, but the public is not allowed to dig for fossils. If you are interested in fossils (or just looking for water or a restroom), stop by the Keystone Fossil Gallery after your visit to the rocks. They have a number of impressive specimens on display that illustrate the aquatic period of the area. http://www.kansastravel.org/monumentrocks.htm
- Mount Sunflower (highest point in KS) Although Mt Sunflower is only about a mile from Colorado, it is not a quick stop, nor should it be, as reaching the top of a mountain requires and deserves time. To get there from I-70, you should give yourself an hour to navigate the gravel back roads. Once you arrive at the site, your time for reaching the summit, enjoying the mountain meadow and taking the obligatory photos will vary depending on your fitness, gear, and interest.
- From I-70 Exit 1 at Kanorado, head south for 21.2 miles on 3 Road to unnamed Road (with Mt Sunflower directional sign). Head west on this road for .9 mile. Turn right at the unnamed road (also with Mt Sunflower directional sign) and proceed northward for .3 mile. The route is well marked, but there are no accommodations (restrooms), so plan accordingly.
See this website for more information and directions: http://kansastravel.org/mountsunflower.htm
Attractions for Future Road Trips (in random order):
- Lawrence to Topeka (Old River Road)
- Flint Hills (Waterfall) http://www.fws.gov/refuge/flint_hills/
- Chase Lake (Waterfall) http://kansastravel.org/chaselakefalls.htm
- Wilson State Park http://kdwpt.state.ks.us/State-Parks/Locations/Wilson
- Pillsbury Crossing (waterfall SE of Manhatten) http://kansastravel.org/pillsburycrossing.htm
- Prairie Spirit Trail http://kdwpt.state.ks.us/news/State-Parks/Locations/Prairie-Spirit-Trail
- Pulpit Rock http://www.kansassampler.org/8wonders/geographyresults.php?id=247
- Kanza Prairie http://www.naturalkansas.org/konza.htm
- Wamego (Dutch) http://www.visitwamego.com/Things-To-Do/default.aspx
- Red Rock Canyon http://www.stateparks.com/kanopolis_state_park_in_kansas.html
- Gypsum Hills http://www.naturalkansas.org/gypsum.htm
- Conorodo Heights http://kansastravel.org/coronadoheights.htm
Check out out photo gallery for the trip. I welcome your comments!