One of the best ways to get to know a city is by exploring outside. Kansas City is quite large which leads most of us to drive everywhere we need to go. If you want to get out of the car and stretch your legs a bit, here are some great trails for easy hikes near Kansas City. Some are right in the city and others are just a short drive away but are worth it.
1. Powell Gardens
Where: 1609 NW US Hwy 50, Kingsville, MO
Home to several seasonal festivals in Kansas City, Powell Gardens also has two great, easy hiking trails. You can choose from a 1-mile paved trail around the gardens or the three-mile “wild” Byron C. Shutz Nature Trail that traverses acres of forest, remnant prairie, and pondscape.
On both trails you’ll see plenty of native Missouri plants that are labeled so you know what you’re looking at. The longer trail is more of a moderate level with some rocky terrain, a field of flowers, and unpaved sections.
Tip: Powell Gardens also offers snacks and drinks at two different locations along the trail, one at the main building and the other in the barn.
2. Rock Island Bridge Trail
Where: Various options for parking and getting on the trail
While a 200-mile trail may not sound easy, there are many places to hop onto the trail on foot or by bicycle. You might recognize the Rock Island Bridge Trail as a date night idea in Kansas City mentioned in this post, but it’s great with family too.
The trail is a “rails-to-trails” trail across the state so it’s very wide and flat. It’s not uncommon to see bikers, hikers, strollers, and wagons along the trail. There’s even playgrounds and a brewery along the trail.
Tip: A new 7-mile section just opened in July 2021 and more is being developed, including an entertainment district on a former railroad trestle.
3. Overland Park Arboretum
Where: 8909 W. 179th St., Overland Park, KS
Nearly 6 miles of paved and wood chip hiking trails wind their way through the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. The trails are broken into six different trails that range from a stroll through a garden lined with benches, to several half-mile hikes, and two 1-mile hikes.
Two of the prettiest trails are one that run through the sculpture garden and another that goes over two 74-foot bridges above Wolf Creek.
Tip: The 1-mile West Trail is mulched and runs along the north bank of Wolf Creek and ends at the children’s discovery garden, which is a great outdoor space for families.
4. Parkville Nature Sanctuary
Where: 8880 Clark Ave., Kansas City, MO
Surrounded by 115 acres of nature just north of Kansas City, you’ll find nearly three miles of hiking trails at the Parkville Nature Sanctuary. White Tail Trail (1.5 miles) takes you up a hill to the highest point in the Nature Sanctuary and connects with the Old Kate Trail (0.9 miles). Old Kate is a popular loop trail that circles a forested stream valley. It takes you to the waterfalls, the Riss Lake Dam, and the “Girl Scout Cabin” covered shelter (which you can rent for events).
Tip: For even easier hikes, there are three trails all under a third of a mile, Bluebird Trail (0.3 miles), Butterfly Pass (0.1 miles), and Paw Paw Path (0.2 miles).
5. Lakeside Nature Center
Where: 4701 E. Gregory Blvd., Kansas City, MO
You’ll find the Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park. They have three different trails you can hike ranging from a third of a mile gravel trail to a marsh trail along the Blue River, Lakeside Nature Trail (behind the Center), Fox Hollow Nature Trail (3.25 miles), and Lakeside’s Marsh Trail (weather permitting).
Along these trails you’ll see almost all of the local Midwest habitats from limestone glades to prairies to savannahs and upland forests.
Tip: Want to give back to the community while you restore native habitats? Bridging the Gap partners with places like Lakeside Nature Center to combat invasive species and relies on volunteers to help out. It’s fun for individuals or as a family!
6. Kansas City Riverfront Heritage Trail
Part of a six-segment trail system, the Riverfront Heritage Trail is a fully accessible, 15-mile bicycle and pedestrian path. It begins at the riverfront (where you’ll find parking) and winds through the oldest and most historic parts of bi-state Kansas City.
While the trail is long, it’s flat and paved, making it a good option for hopping on and off easily.
Tip: The Trailhead includes two memorials that acknowledge critical historical events that happened on site. One marks the route escaping enslaved people took to reach the Free State of Kansas. The other commemorates the tracks of a frontier railroad that helped make Kansas City into the center of commerce.
7. Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area
Where: 1401 NW Park Road, Blue Springs, MO
Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area is 1,071-acre wooded property located north of I-70 highway, south of Kansas City. Trails wind through hills along Burr Oak Creek, limestone boulders, prairies, and forest. My favorite easy hike is Bethany Falls Trail (1.3 miles), but you can explore the conservation area via one of nine trails.
Tip: The property was purchased in 1977 and the Nature Center was built in 1982, which surprisingly was the first nature center built in Missouri.
After all that hiking, you’ve likely built up an appetite. If you’re looking for a great meal after getting off the trail, these restaurants offer unique and delicious food and drink.
About the guest writer
Jenn Beard is the founder of Cocktails Away—a collection of adventures in pursuit of a great drink, a quality spirit, a unique ingredient, and the places they come from. When not traveling, she lives in Kansas City. Check out her blog for mouthwatering recipes and insider tips on DIY bartending and cocktail culture or travel to bars around the world at @cocktailsaway.