The State Fair may be over for another year, but there’s still plenty to do in Hutchinson. After a tour of the Salt Museum or the Cosmosphere, you can check out the nearby trails.
While this won’t be mapped and included in our trail guide since it’s primarily paved, the 3 mile trail winds around Carey Park and past the Hutchinson Zoo. The trail also connects Rice Park and Carey Park with a 3 mile section close to Cow Creek. It’s a smooth, easy ride with several access points along the way. All the parks and the trail are free entry with no cost for parking.
Dillon Nature Center
The area (3002 E. 30th Street) was originally owned by the Dillon Stores company which maintained the area as a private recreation spot for employees before donating the land to the city of Hutchinson. The beauty of the Dillon Nature Center can best be experienced by a leisurely stroll along the well maintained set of hiking trails that include several short family-friendly loops.
The pond at Dillon Nature Center
To learn more about the history of the area, check out the Discovery Center with its interactive exhibits. It also has an observation deck and picture windows overlooking the pond, which is stocked for fishing.
The trails encircle the spring-fed pond at the heart of the nature center where painted turtles bask lazily along submerged logs. In late spring, there are an amazing profusion of colorful blooms in extensive beds of annual flowers planted throughout the area.
The nature center has been designated a National Urban Wildlife Sanctuary and the multitude of blooming flowers attracts a diverse array of pollinators including a variety of butterflies. The Jim Smith Family Playscape is a safe, fun place for children of all ages to explore the natural world through play.
Sand Hills State Park
Northeast of Hutchinson, this 1,123 acre state park has several trail options available. The formerly active and shifting dunes of open sand have been stabilized by the roots of big sandreed, sand bluestem, and sand dropseed that are a core component of a unique assemblage of plants within the sand prairie landscape of this region. The dunes themselves rise to heights of up to 40-feet and provide considerable topographic variation to an otherwise flat landscape.
The park includes eight interconnected trails ranging in length from 1-4 miles with a total of 14 miles of hiking and biking trail within the park. To navigate the network of mowed trails throughout the park, it helps to keep an eye on the brown carsonite trail markers that provide a color-coded marker for each separate trail route.
This is one of the few state parks in Kansas that is not associated with a reservoir, and the trails weaving amidst the dunes are the main attraction. The entire area is maintained in a natural state and there are no developed roads within the park itself. All trails are accessible from parking lots located along 56th Avenue on the south border and 69th Avenue on the north border of the park. Permits must be purchased from the self-pay stations located at each park entrance for parking at trailheads and no overnight camping is allowed.