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Best Kansas State Parks to Visit in the Spring


Best Kansas State Parks to Visit in the Spring

Overlooking Kanapolis Reservoir - photo courtesy of Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks

The Top Three Choices Offer Opportunities for Fishing, Hiking, and Observing Some of the Most Diverse Flora and Fauna in the State.

Kansas state parks are all open year-round and offer a variety of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Most parks offer a variety of trails from accessible hard-surfaced trails to extreme mountain-biking trails and everything in between. Many parks offer equestrian trails and sites set up to camp with horses. Although camping is available year-round, water may not be on at the campsite if a freeze is anticipated.

Three very diverse parks that deserve a spring visit are Kanopolis, Lovewell and Cross Timbers. More information on these parks and others can be found online at the Kansas Department of Parks and Wildlife web site.

Kanopolis State Park

Kansas’s first state park, Kanopolis is set in the rolling hills of the Smoky Hill River Valley. It offers wooded campsites (including a four-star rated equestrian campground), sandy beaches and an extensive trail system that runs through Dakota sandstone canyons. The entire trail system is recognized as a National Recreational Trail and plays host to running, biking and equestrian races on a regular basis. The Faris Caves at the park were hand-excavated in the 1880’s as a dwelling, and were utilized into the last century as a spring house, school, and hideout.

Low water levels from an extended drought made it difficult to launch a boat from last summer on, but spring rains should recharge the reservoir. Spring rains should also bring a subtly spectacular wildflower show to the surrounding prairie. Adjacent day-use Mushroom Rock State Park offers short hikes through an array of shaped rock formations. Art galleries and museums, as well as an outdoor collection of whimsical Swedish Dala horses, are available in the nearby town of Lindsborg.

Lovewell State Park

Situated in north-central Kansas almost to the Nebraska border, Lovewell State Park has a reputation as an outstanding fishing lake. Though it is definitely off the beaten track, patrons make the extra effort to get there. Visitors can stay in one of six primitive cabins with unique handmade cottonwood furniture. A full-range of campsites, from primitive to full-service, is available along with modern restroom and shower facilities and a marina that also serves excellent food. A historic limestone school, archery range, sand volley-ball, horseshoe pits, a softball diamond, and two basketball goals offer plenty of recreational variety. The park hosts a number of family-oriented special events, such as OK Kids Day and Lovewell Fun Day that includes a sand sculpture contest on the beach and a cook-off.

Cross Timbers State Park

Located in an ancient forest that includes trees already living during the American Revolution, Cross Timbers State Park provides visitors with an opportunity to immerse themselves in some of the most diverse flora and fauna in Kansas. The park is surrounded by terraces of prairie and hills of oak savannah. Wooded campsites are available ranging from full-service RV hookups to primitive backcountry camping. Diverse wildlife viewing opportunities abound on the adjacent wildlife area. All park trails are open to hiking and backpacking. All but the Ancient Trees Trail are open to other non-motorized uses such as jogging and mountain biking. Backcountry camping is allowed by special permit on segments of the Chautauqua Hills Trail. Many visitors rent a canoe or kayak and float the river from the town of Yates Center into the reservoir. Both river and lake offer excellent fishing for white crappie, white bass and catfish.

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