International travel still seems like a distant pipe dream, so we chug along with our travels close to home series. Of the many places I’ve lived around the United States, Kansas City might be the most random. As someone who loves the outdoors, Kansas City was a questionable choice at best. However, you have to make do with what you’ve got. Kansas City has its fair share of wooded areas, public parks, and of course, the roaring Missouri River.
The opportunities are out there if one seeks them out. For a city lacking any real elevation changes, Kansas City tries its best, and that’s all we can really ask for, hey? There are plenty of great trails for cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers, photographers, and all types of outdoorsy folks. These are among my favorite hikes and trails in the Kansas City area. Best of all? They’re all free to the public, and most of them are open year-round.
Kaw Point Park – Kansas City, KS
Boasting one of the most beautiful views of Kansas City, Kaw Point Park is a lesser-known spot on the other side of the Missouri River. While the trails are pretty short, it is worth the journey out here just for the stunning view, especially around sunset. It really drives home just how beautiful of a city Kansas City can be.
Jacob L. Loose Park – Kansas City, MO
The 75 acres of Loose Park are conveniently located close to the heart of downtown Kansas City. Although small, it is one of Kansas City’s most beloved outdoor areas. It’s easy to reach location and attractions such as a rose garden and Japanese tea room make it more than just a park. There’s a lot of history behind Loose Park, famed as a Civil War battleground during the Battle of Westport. Whether you want to get a work out in or have a little picnic under the trees, this is one of the premier places to get outdoors in Kansas City.
English Landing Park – Parkville, MO
English Landing Park is located along the Missouri River by the quaint little village of Parkville. The town itself is worth a visit, especially during a farmer’s market. The town feels like something from the olden days, and aside from Park University and English Landing Park, there isn’t too much going on. That makes it a perfect place for a peaceful stroll along the river. I’ve taken my dog here several times, and it’s great for cycling, jogging, or just chilling out by the river.
There’s also a frisbee golf course, basketball court, baseball field, and a few other things in this park. If you’re looking for something laid-back and easy, English Landing Park is the perfect place for some outdoor activity.
Parkville Nature Sanctuary – Parkville, MO
For some peaceful trails with soft undulating hills, Parkville Nature Sanctuary is a beautiful area for a hike. If you still have energy after English Landing Park, pop over to Parkville Nature Sanctuary. Park near the track and field area and follow the signs into the woods. Parkville is a bit of a drive from downtown KC, so knocking out both English Landing and the Nature Sanctuary can make the day trip out here very worth it.
Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center – Blue Springs, MO
Burr Oak Woods is an incredibly beautiful place to go for a walk, especially during the fall foliage season. Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center has a surprising variety of hikes. Most of the trails are flat or low incline hikes, but you’ve got plenty of them to choose from. It’s a little further away from downtown Kansas City than the other places I’ve mentioned, but an entire day could disappear being spent in the outdoors here at Burr Oak Woods.
Wyandotte County Lake Park – Kansas City, KS
Some of the longer hikes to do around Kansas City can be found at Wyandotte County Lake Park. With over 15 miles of winding trails throughout this forested area, there is a lot to explore around here. This area is beautiful year round, but especially so once the fall colors start coming in. The well wooded trails surround a peaceful little lake, and some of the hikes can go for miles and miles.
If you’re hoping to get a full day of hiking under the belt, then Wyandotte County Lake Park has got several options for you. There are plenty of shorter trails as for people who might be looking for something more intermediate or relaxing. You can’t go wrong here.
Weston Bend State Park – Weston, MO
Kansas City doesn’t have too many views that one would consider particularly awe-inspiring. However, the little lookout point of the Missouri River from Weston Bend State Park is definitely a good candidate. This forested area is one of the greenest places in Kansas City. The lush, dense forests in contrast with the roaring Missouri River are as good as views get in the Kansas City area.
Line Creek Trail – Kansas City, MO
Line Creek Trail has about everything you’d need for a good jogging or cycling trail. It’s got plenty of shade and runs right along a creek. It isn’t the most scenic, but the abundance of shade makes it a perfect spot for a cool run, especially in the sweltering summertime. Here’s my dog having the time of his life with a swim in the creek.
Swope Park – Kansas City, MO
About 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City is the extensive trails network of Swope Park, the largest in all of Kansas City. This park boasts nearly 2,000 acres of recreational area, even including a zoo and a golf course. It is one of the United States’ largest municipal parks, and you’ll find all types of people flocking here for a quick retreat into nature. Hiking trails, soccer fields, an outdoor theater and many weekly events make Swope Park one of Kansas City residents’ favorite places.
So while Kansas City may not sound like a great place for outdoors lovers, it does have a great selection of activities and adventures. And of course, if you’re really looking to get away, you can hit up Columbia about two hours away. I went to school there for four years, and have exhausted nearly every hike it had to offer. While Columbia is a smaller city, I think it has a more diverse selection of hikes to offer, including cave exploring and unique rock formations at the Pinnacles.
Another option for weekend getaways from Kansas City include Ozark National Forest. There, you can take on the stunning Big Bluff Trail, or catch the sunrise at the iconic Whitaker Point. And remember, you’re only one mind-numbing drive through Kansas away from the wonders of Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park.
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