I’ve started to hold a special place in my heart for Kansas and its unexpected encounters. One of the more intriguing ones was a spot that’s a little off-the-beaten-path called Rock City Park. I prefer to call it Alien Rock Park, but I doubt it will catch on. If you want to find your way to Alien Rock Park, I mean, Rock City Park, read on.
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Where is Rock City Park?
This little park of giant boulders, known as sandstone concretions, are found in the most unexpected of places: rural Kansas near the town of Minneapolis. While there have been some modern day improvements to Rock City Park (picnic area, bathrooms, and a gift shop), much of the area is how it has been for thousands of years.
The plants are native to this region, and short nature hiking trails will lead you around to encounter some notable flora and fauna. Native plants to look for include Bluestem grass, wild rose, wild grapevine, black-eyed Susan, sandhill plums, sedum, and sumac.
Of course, the rocks are the main draw, right?
What makes Rock City Park unique?
Rock City Park is home to more than 200 boulders that seemingly look like they’ve been dropped into the most unlikely of places. They’re called sandstone concretions, which began forming during the late Crustaceous Period (between 100.5 million years ago – 66 million years ago). Some rocks are nearly 14 feet tall and 28 feet in diameter.
The park lies in an area that was once the coastline of the Great Western Interior Sea, which had once covered land from Mexico to Canada and from Kansas to Nevada. Rocks similar to Rock City Park’s collection are found throughout this region because concretions occur wherever there is sedimentary rock. You’ll find some rocks like these at Mushroom State Park in Kansas.
However, these Rock City Park boulders standout because of their giant size and the sheer quantity of them. It’s the only place in the world with so many concretions of this size found in one area. This park is both a National Natural Landmark and one of the eight Geographic Wonders of Kansas.
There is nothing in the area that truly hints at what’s hidden in this pocket of Kansas. Much like Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri, it’s a concentrated area of boulders in an otherwise rural setting.
Things to look for at Rock City Park
If you’re visiting with kids, the main thing will be to chase after them as they run and climb around the rocks. It’s allowed, so don’t panic. But, after the initial awe of seeing the boulders for the first time, I recommend going on a little scavenger hunt for the following rocks:
- The Donut Hole…which looks a tiny bit like a half-glazed donut, with the hole on the bottom so you can crawl through it.
- A turtle-shaped rock, which is fairly obviously once you see it.
- And there’s one rock that supposedly looks like a mouth. I’m not sold on it, though.
Things to do near Rock City Park
- Minneapolis is about 4 miles away and worth venturing to because of The FARM and The Odd Fellows, a truly unique coffee shop/bar in a restored 1916 Odd Fellows building.
- Salina is about 24 miles away and has a notable sculpture walk to explore in the downtown area, as well as a great brewery, Blue Skye Brewery & Eats.
- Abilene is about 45 miles away, and a great town to explore. I recommend visiting Old Abilene Town and the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum.
- Lucas, the epicenter of outsider art, or rather, self-taught artists and their work. It’s a wonderfully strange town and in the best possible way from its public restroom building shaped like a giant toilet to the Garden of Eden that’s as impressive as it is bizarre.
Rock City Park FAQs
What are the hours for Rock City Park?
Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., year-round.
Is there an admission fee?
Yes, but it’s minimal and goes toward park maintenance. It’s $3 for adults and .50 cents for children.
What can you do at Rock City Park?
Climbing the boulders is permitted, and that’s a big draw to the area. There’s also a short trail through the prairie if you’re up for a little hike. Picnic tables are available. You can shop at the gift shop, too.
Can you camp at Rock City Park?
No. If you want to camp, there are campsites nearby in the City Park, located about 2 miles north on K-106.
Are dogs allowed?
Yes! Dogs are welcome if they’re on leashes.