The Flint Hills Nature Trail is the longest trail in Kansas and 7th longest rail trail in the US. It stretches for 117 miles across east-central Kansas, passing through 5 counties. The trail runs from Osawatomie in the east to Herington in the west. I have run and rode the sections from Ottawa to Osawatomie. This is not a technical trail at all, but the terrain isn’t as easy as Prairie Spirit, which it intersects. The majority of the trail is crushed stone. Some sections are a bit rocky, and one section in particular feels like “moguls” on the bike! There is one decent hill that crosses a county road that I practice some of my bike skills on (sharp decent, curb, flat road, curb, sharp ascent). The Flint Hills trail is also much more scenic. In the spring, the hills on either side of the trail are covered in wildflowers. In the fall, the fall colors are breathtaking and the trail is covered in leaves. (Which makes for some challenges riding on the rocky section.) I am not exaggerating. The trail is COVERED. Beware of oak mites! I have come out with some nasty bites there.
There are some beautiful bridges to cross.
In some sections, if you look off-trail, you will see old utility poles with the aqua-colored glass insulators still in-tact.
One thing I will warn you about… Certain sections of the trail seem to be a little stinky. Dead animals? I don’t know. But they are smelly and each run or bike, I have noticed it.
Also, on nice weekends in the daylight hours you may find horses on the trail. (Or evidence of them on the trail). While this has not been an issue for me while running, it has been for riding. A few riders have told me that their horses are afraid of bikes and I have pulled off to the side of the trail to let them pass. Once I have been chased be a friendly dog while riding. Once I have been chased by not-so-friendly dogs while running.
The trail has a heavy canopy in the day time, which I appreciate when it is hot out. It also means you will need a headlamp when sunset approaches. And if you are easily creeped out, I wouldn’t be out there alone. I don’t tend to scare easily, but after-dark is a little scary on Flint. There is even a ram-shackle old cabin/shed off to the side that looks like a Jason Voorhes hideout. (Maybe that accounts for the bad smell??) The spiders do come out overnight and build webs across the trail. (I am convinced they are trying building webs so that they can trap me and lay eggs in my ears to produce millions of spider babies. Don’t let them catch you!)
Races to Try:
Flint Hills Trail 40 Mile and Marathon (Spring) – Read my review here!
Flint Hills Trail Family Fall Ride (Fall)