Here’s the thing: Kansas City isn’t exactly known for outdoor adventure. Barbecue, yes. Fountains, youth soccer, really nice people—yes, yes, yes. But outdoor adventure? Not really. You think of Maine or Oregon or New Mexico, maybe Utah or Idaho. But the reality is Kansas City does have some pretty incredible opportunities for outdoor adventure. Here’s the breakdown of the best outdoor adventure activities around the metro and beyond.
The hiking trails
The terrain isn’t mountainous for sure, but it’s still worth exploring! Just outside downtown Olathe, there’s a 300-acre prairie reserve called Prairie Center with a web of trails. Just north of Excelsior Springs is Watkins Mill State Park, with a 100-acre lake and 4.5-mile loop through meadows and woods, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to witness some frontier re-enactors. Burr Oak Woods, just minutes from downtown KC, has six beautiful trails, including Bethany Falls Trail and Wildlife Habitat Trail. In Shawnee Mission, there’s a 120-acre lake surrounded by a six-mile trail, perfect for runners, walkers, and horseback riders. And finally, there’s the Blue River Parkway North Trail, which runs several miles on an old railroad bed and along the banks of the river.
The biking trails
Okay, I’ll admit there aren’t a lot of mountains around here. It’s pretty flat terrain, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw your bike on the back of your car and find a trail. The Indian Creek Hike and Bike Trail stretches 26 miles of asphalt and concrete between Blue River Greenway Trail south of Bannister Road in Missouri and Hampton Park in Olathe. There’s also the famous Harry Wiggins Trolley Track Trail that spans six miles of asphalt and crushed stone between Volker Boulevard and 85th and Prospect. It’s good for walking and biking and there are plenty of places to stop along the way, like the Brookside restaurants or Betty Rae’s Ice Cream Shop in Waldo.
For more adventure, check out the Heritage Riverfront Trail. It’s a 15-mile network of trails, so riders can veer off to explore the scenery and then hop back on the main trail. There’s also plenty of parking, street art, and antique shops to investigate. Back on the Kansas side, the Gary L. Haller Trail is 17 miles of asphalt that stretches from Nelson Island on the Kansas River to Mill Creek Streamway Park in Olathe.
Yes, indoor isn’t outdoor, I know, but hear me out. Indoor climbing is a great, relatively safe way for new climbers to get acclimated to the scene and a fantastic way for veteran climbers to stay in shape. Plus, they’re open year round! There are a lot of options here. In Overland Park, there’s Monster Mountain, Apex Climbing Gym, and Lifetime Fitness (which also has a location in Lenexa). In the Crossroads District, there’s Sequence Climbing, which also features yoga and fitness classes and coffee. If you’re in North Kansas City, you can check out RoKC North and its sister RoKC Underground, which also have cardio machines and other fitness machines. And coming soon…RoKC Olathe!
A four-and-a-half scenic byway that’s closed to traffic from Wednesday through Sunday, Cliff Drive is also home to the best and only place to do outdoor rock climbing in the Kansas City area. The 35-foot limestone cliffs are designated for Class 5 free climbing while the State Scenic Byway is busy with bike and pedestrian traffic.
For a little more adventure, the Katy Trail is what you’re looking for. It’s 237 flat miles that are perfect for hiking, running, or cycling, and, on two segments, horseback riding. The trail connects St. Louis, Missouri to Clinton, Missouri, or you can hop on the Rock Island Trail where it intersects the Katy Trail in Windsor. More than half of the trail follow’s Lewis and Clark’s original path up the Missouri River.
And if you want more outdoor adventure than this list, then you’re going to have to hop on a plane and fly elsewhere because there’s not much on the prairie. For more fun ways to spend your free time, check out our website at https://www.chiefofstaffkc.com.
Blog written by Erin Greenhalgh