Lake Atwood trail starts with such promise… Photo by Mark Conard
A good guidebook should highlight the best of what’s out there. However, it’s also important to know where not to go. There’s nothing more disappointing than planning a trip and finding out that a trail is no longer used or is in poor condition. We’ve done the work for you for the upcoming book, so you won’t end up on a trail that once was or isn’t anymore.
We would say rest in peace, but if we’re honest, we’d much rather these trails make a comeback with some loving care and, let’s face it, an infusion of cash. Without further ado, here is our requiem to the “ghost trails” of Kansas:
1. Kingman State Fishing Lake / Byron Walker Wildlife Area – This hike was featured in the “Hiking Guide to Kansas” and is still listed online, and according to all descriptions seemed like it would be a great short hike. It probably would have been a great hike. If it actually still existed. Apparently trees fell across the trail during a large storm and it has never been cleared and rebuilt. A few short years later there are few traces that it had ever existed.
2. Clark State Fishing Lake – Jay Wood Memorial Trail – After driving through the open croplands of western Kansas, the abrupt transition to the striking panorama of the steep canyonlands surrounding Clark State Fishing Lake is nothing short of breath-taking. The excitement that was building to explore the rugged terrain quickly dissipated when a park worker informed us that the trail bridge located shortly after the start of the trail had washed out and not been replaced. The only remaining trace of the trail is a few steps in the banks leading down towards the stream where the bridge once stood.
This is what the bridge looked like before it washed out. . .
Photo by Jim Mason
Although there are no current plans to replace the trail, the spectacular scenery (and fishing possibilities!) makes this lake worth seeing. Just don’t expect to be able to go on the memorial trail.
3. Hayden Nature Trail at Lake Atwood – With great promise, this trail starts out wide and covered carefully in wood chips. Past a large observation tower that looks out over the currently dry lake bed, the trail hits the highway and peters out into nothing. It may have been a project started when the lake was being resealed in the mid 2000s and never finished.
4. Cimarron National Grassland – The eastern portion of the Turkey Trail – Between the Cottonwood Picnic Area and the Cimarron Campground, the trail is wide and easy south of the Cimarron River. Through stands of cottonwoods, it’s a mostly exposed trail that’s also open to ATVs along with mountain bikers and hikers. Once you get to the east side of Cimarron Campground, the trail fades. This is likely because east of the campground, the trail is off limits to ATVs. The end of the trail is one mile east of County Road 16, and since the terrain is relatively flat and treeless, you could probably make it to that end point from the campground, but it won’t be on a well-defined, easy to follow trail.
5. Honorable mention – Crawford State Fishing Lake – Drywood Creek Trail – This one is kind of there in spots, and it has enormous potential and it isn’t quite dead yet. It circumnavigates the lake, and dips in and out of the trees. Along the west side of the lake, the “trail” is the road along lake front cabins, and on the north side of the dam and on the east side of the lake, with washed out sections and fallen trees, the trail is hard to follow. At one point, I found myself trying to lift fallen trees myself to make sure I was mapping the “real” trail, but I realized that there was no way I’d want to recommend that particular route to anyone without some major cleanup.
Do you have fond memories of any of these trails? Have we gotten any of them wrong – have there been any improvements or updates to any of them? Let us know in the comments.