By: MeLinda Schnyder
Jonathan Conard and Kristin Conard, a brother and sister who grew up in south central Kansas, published “Kansas Trail Guide: The Best Hiking, Biking, and Riding in the Sunflower State” in 2015. The following year, it was named to the Kansas Notable Books List. Jonathan came up with the idea when he couldn’t find a comprehensive guide to Kansas’ hiking trails. The pair, both hikers and cyclists, then split up the state to conduct research over 18 months.
Kansas has more than 100 trails, and the guide includes detailed full-color maps, GPS coordinates and extensive route descriptions of 80 of them. The trails are arranged by region, and each region has a featured trail that the Conards traveled personally.
“Kansas is in the midst of a trails renaissance,” Kristin said. “Not only with the rails-to-trails program, but also along many of the rivers and tributaries with water trails being developed and embraced.”
This year, the Conards invited followers on their website and Facebook page to name a Kansas Trail Town of the Year. The contenders were four communities that have embraced local trails and are expanding their trail systems. Iola received 80 percent of the votes, and if you’re considering exploring some of the state’s trails, that list would be a good place to start.
Here’s how they described the four candidates:
- Iola has the Thrive Allen County campaign as well as being the trailhead for the Prairie Spirit Trail, Southwind Rail Trail and the Lehigh Portland Trails, among others.
- Marysville combines the old and new trails of Kansas. It’s home to the recently completed Blue River Rail Trail that extends into Nebraska as well as the Pony Express Trail and Oregon Trail. The Kansas Sampler Foundation named Marshall County the Trails Capital of Kansas.
- Topeka is the trailhead for the Landon Nature Trail, which starts at the historic site of Brown v. Board of Education. It has the only set of trails outside of a governor’s mansion, and it’s an access point for the Kansas River Trail.
- Lawrence is another stop on the Kansas River Trail, and it has a plethora of well-loved and well-maintained trails including the KU Field Station, Clinton Lake and the nearby recently restored and expanded Baker Wetlands.
More trail information
- GetOutdoorsKansas, getoutdoorskansas.org
Created by the Kansas Trails Council and the Kansas Wildscape Foundation, this new website maps nearly 3,000 miles of trails and is searchable by trail user type, surface type, location and name.
- Kansas Cyclist, kansascyclist.com
Cycling information site featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring and trails.
Visit your local bike shop for a free Kansas Department of Transportation statewide bicycle map or request one at firstname.lastname@example.org or (785) 296-8593.