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Elk River Trail

Intermediate
 4.7 (11)

Gorgeous lake views, limestone walls, and dense hardwood forests await you on the Elk Lake Trail.


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Map Key

14.2

Miles

22.8

KM

Point to Point

911' 278 m

High

818' 249 m

Low

316' 96 m

Up

332' 101 m

Down

1%

Avg Grade (0°)

5%

Max Grade (3°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Need to Know

For those looking to experience the beauty of this trail without its 28 mile out-and back distance, it's recommended that you start from the eastern end (near the fish and wildlife office), and hike west to a good turnaround spot.

If you're looking to tackle the entire thing, it's recommended that you leave a shuttle vehicle at the opposite end, or bring backpacking gear and camp at the Elk City State Park on the eastern end of the trail.

Description

Often noted as one of the best trails in Kansas, this lakeside trail treats its visitors to gorgeous views of the water while meandering through large stands of hardwood. Coming in at over 14 miles one way, it's certainly not a short trail, but the distance is far outweighed by the reward. You may lean over to your hiking partner and say "George, we're not in Kansas anymore!", but trust me, you still are.

Starting at the western end in a parking lot off US 160, the trail immediately dives into the forest, meandering through a veil of broad deciduous trees. While this thin strip of forest is sandwiched between a river and numerous plots of agricultural land, you're sure to forget about your pastoral surroundings as you pick up the river and follow its pleasant, calming water. The trail zig-zags along the river for roughly ten miles before you reach the lakeshore of Elk City Lake. Continuing along the lakeshore for another 4 miles give or take, be sure to take opportunities to stop and soak in your surroundings. Be sure to have your smartphone camera at the ready to snap pictures of the waterfowl that occasionally can be found bobbing on the water's surface.

Flora & Fauna

In the autumn this area sets ablaze in a flash of fiery fall color. As you meander along the river, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife including a nice collection of birds and occasionally deer.

Shared By:

Hunter R

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 11 votes

#215

Overall
  4.7 from 11 votes
5 Star
82%
4 Star
9%
3 Star
9%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#1

in Kansas

#215

Overall
96 Views Last Month
1,899 Since Nov 5, 2019
Intermediate

0%
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80%
10%
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Photos

Millie is showing us the way.  Lots of Red Cedars through this section and it's very flat; a welcome change to the first 3/4 mile!
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS
There's a lot of short, rocky, 8' climbs in just the first mile of trail.  Be sure to wear proper hiking boots.
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS
This is a really cool section of trail, there's about a quarter mile of big, overhanging rocks to explore.
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS
Great scenic view of the lake.  Careful, this is on the edge of a 40' ledge.
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS
More amazing boulders beside the trail
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS
This is a neat "hidden" area of the trail.  The trail looks to go in front of the ledge of rocks, but you can go between a couple of rocks to get back in here.  It's blazed to indicate it's trail, it's just easy to miss.
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS

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Check-Ins

Oct 13, 2019
Carynne Jarrell
beautiful creak ♥️ 4.5mi — 12h 00m
Apr 28, 2019
Brandon Jones
9.5mi — 4h 25m
May 18, 2018
Jenee' Saunders
2.9mi