The Prairie Spirit Trail is a rail trail in eastern Kansas. Made of hard-packed limestone, the trail runs north/south from Ottawa to Iola. I have only been on the sections from Ottawa to Garnett but the pictures of the bridges beyond that make me definitely want to check out the rest of the trail.
The downside of the trail is that it’s a straight line and pretty flat. If you can’t deal with a little monotony, this isn’t a good trail for you. I can’t run on the river levee for that same reason – but I have found the scenery around Prairie Spirit manages to make it much more enjoyable for me to run.
When all the other trails are a sloppy mess, Prairie Spirit is runnable. It does have limited windbreak from the narrow line of trees on either side, but on a very windy day, I make sure I am running with the wind at my back.
I have found that when I get through Princeton, there is a lot more wildlife at night. I have spotted snakes, rabbits, opossums, deer, coyotes and a bobcat. In the summer, running or biking at night is an issue since the spiders build webs rather heavily across the trail. I have had a few terror-filled rides as I have ridden through spider-filled webs. Not cool at all.
Other advantages to the trail are the county roads at every mile. It is easy for crew to stop and check on me every few miles. (A bonus on days I am not feeling so well and am not sure if I will run 3 miles or 13 miles!) The mile markers are well-marked so even if you are not the Garmin-type, you will know how far you have gone. The trail is 70+ miles each way, so you could get in a very long training run quite easily. There are some restrooms and water fountains at the trail heads (every 5 miles or so) that are open in spring, summer and fall. You do need a trail pass. You can purchase a day pass for $3.50 at a trail head, or a season pass for $12.50 at various stores in the area.
I use this trail for both running and riding. It is definitely more fun to ride than run. It is very kid-friendly as I have taken the boys down for family bike rides. There are a few benches along the way so we tend to bring snacks and have little picnics on the ride.
Races to Look for:
Prairie Spirit Trail 100 & 50 Mile (Spring)
Kansas Rails-to-Trails Fall Ultra Extravaganza (Fall)