The Prairie Spirit Trail in eastern Kansas is a 51 mile long path through small towns, scenic prairie and occasional wildlife. The trail of hard-packed limestone runs north/south between Ottawa and Iola. Iola added another mile by paving the railbed between its previous endpoint at Chofachique Park and Riverside Park in 2012. The ride was further extended south by the connection of the Southwind Rail Trail in 2013. Built by a combination of private foundations, donations and volunteer hours under the auspices of Thrive Allen County, the trail is not part of the state park and is free to all users. The Southwind Rail Trail runs between Iola’s Riverside Park and Humboldt, adding 6.5 miles for a grand total of about 58.6 miles. Travelers are protected under a shade-providing canopy of trees for most of its length. Built on the railbed of the old Leavenworth, Lawrence and Fort Gibson Railroad, the trail offers easy grades for hikers and bikers alike.
The Prairie Spirit Trail is the first completed rail-trail of a network of trails that will interconnect in the eastern Kansas Area. It directly connects to the Flint Hills Nature Trail at Ottawa. This eastern leg of the Flint Hills Nature Trail currently connects Osawatomie to Ottawa ending at the north end of the Prairie Spirit Trail. When complete the Flint Hills Nature Trail will run 117 miles from Osawotomie to Herington. Connecting to the Flint Hills Nature Trail at Lomax Junction will be the Landon Nature Trail which will run 38 miles north to Topeka. Finally, connecting to the Landon at Richland will be the Free State Pathway. This trail will follow the shores of Clinton Lake to arrive at Lawrence after about 20 miles. The trail is in the very early stages of development. These three trails are under development by the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy.
Along rural portions, the trail is a hard packed limestone screening surface. The trail is asphalted through Ottawa, Garnett, and Iola. The trail averages a minimum of 8 feet wide.
A day pass on the trail currently costs $3.50. They may be purchased at most trailheads. Annual passes are available online here or wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold for $12.50.
Friends of the Prairie Spirit Trail do a lot of work maintaining the trail. If you are just interested in biking in Kansas in general, check out Kansas Cyclist for lots of good information on traveling to and around the Prairie Spirit Trail.
Links To More Information About The Prairie Spirit Trail
- Prairie Spirit Trail Brochure (2009)
- Prairie Spirit Trail at Kansas Cyclist
- Kansas’ Prairie Spirit Trail — Trail of the Month: August 2011, from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
- Biking the Prairie Spirit Rail Trail at Get Rural Kansas
- Prairie Spirit Trail State Park from Wikipedia
- Prairie Spirit Trail State Park from KDWPT
- Prairie Spirit Rail Bike Trail Facebook Group