Check out this list of must see hidden gems in Kansas. Whether you are new to Kansas or a native, you won’t want to skip this!
I was living in Bay Area California when I found out that my family would be moving to Kansas. After a year in San Diego, 5 years in Santa Barbara, and 4 years in Oakland, Kansas seemed like quite the downgrade. I was pleasantly surprised to find my new home was far better than I expected. Not only have I loved the last 12 years of 4 seasons every year, but I have discovered nonstop hidden gems and stunning landscapes smack dab in the middle of the United States.
This is far from a comprehensive list of the most beautiful and unique locations. But, I think you’ll find this collection of hidden gems in Kansas is a great start! And if you’ve never been to Kansas, I hope you are inspired to visit after scrolling through my photos of this quietly magical state.
It took 6 years of living here for me to learn about this gorgeous waterfall south of Junction City. Somehow, I’m still surprised every time someone tells me they’ve never heard of it. Sadly, the water level has been quite low the last few years. But, it’s still worth checking out even when there is just a trickle. For the best chance of seeing the water flowing, head out there after a few heavy rains. Put on some comfortable shoes and bring a towel. You’ll get to look over the edge from up above the falls then play in the water at the bottom of the waterfall! Take a peak at my Geary Falls blog post for directions and how to best prepare.
When I decided to plan my first camping trip alone with my kids, someone recommended Wilson State Park. But, it wasn’t until we arrived and were chatting with a local that we found out about the stunning rock formations on the lake. We visited this gorgeous location during Spring Break, so the landscape was still waiting to green up and the water was cold. But, that didn’t stop my crazy kiddos from diving in! This state park has some famous biking trails with gorgeous views and is worth the trip just to get up close and personal with Rocktown.
The first time I visited Coronado Heights Park, I was with a small group of photographers experimenting with astrophotography. It was almost dark when we arrived, so I didn’t get to explore the castle on that trip. I got some killer first star pictures, though! I’ve made it out to Lindsborg one other time and definitely consider this a hidden Kansas gem in Lindsborg, Kansas.
My daughter walked in the room while I was picking out a few photos I took out at Rock City years ago. It was long enough ago that she doesn’t remember leaping between the giant boulders and having the sweetest picnic in the shade. And it sounds like we’ll be planning a return trip to this hidden gem before the summer ends. Yes, it is absolutely as cool as it looks. Definitely worth the drive!
Okay, one more sweet spot that I’ve already written about. How can I leave the Konza Prairie off the list of hidden gems in Kansas? Put on your hiking shoes and explore the variety of trails through the tallgrass covered hills. It is the quintessential Flint Hills experience. Read more about it on my Konza Prairie blog post!
I discovered the Prairiewood Tallgrass Reserve in 2020 while the whole world was shut down. Prairiewood generously opened their trails to help people get some exercise and fresh air. It’s like a miniature Konza Prairie with a mix of sprawling hills, small lakes, wooded areas, and wildlife. I can’t believe I’d lived less than 3 miles from this magical hidden gem for over 8 years before hearing about it! As an added bonus, the Liquid Art Winery is just a short distance from these fantastic hiking trails!
Grinter Farms is the most famous of the sunflower fields in Kansas. Because of it’s popularity, several other large sunflower fields have become regular attractions in August/September each year. The picture above was taken at the Britt’s Farm field in Manhattan, KS. The next two photos were taken at Grinter Farms in Lawrence, KS.
Getting pictures with giant sunflowers seems to be a special right of passage for Kansans. I have to admit I still prefer the smaller wild sunflowers for photo shoots, but definitely encourage you to check out one of the special sunflower fields for the experience!
If you’re looking for a neat spot in the Manhattan area to enjoy wildlife, you don’t have to go far. Rocky Ford is just east of Tuttle Creek Blvd. Take Barnes Road to Rocky Ford Road, which dead ends at a small parking lot. It’s just a short walk to the recreation area.
If you are in the Salina area, carve out some time in your schedule to check out Mushroom Rock State Park. It is the smallest state park in Kansas, but has some remarkable and unforgettable landmarks. Nearby Kanopolis State Park will definitely make the trip to the magical mushroom rocks worth the journey! I hope to get back out there soon. It’s wonderful!
The deep creek waterfall at Pillsbury Crossing is a must see attraction southeast of Manhattan. I think I’d taken my kids there three times before I realized we weren’t supposed to be swimming there. Oops! It turns out that is a big no no and not recommended for safety reasons (lots of broken glass and nope ropes). It’s best to head out there during the week to avoid the car and truck loads of people who like to soak up the beauty during weekends with nice weather.
How many of these hidden gems have you visited? What special spots in Kansas would you like to see added to this list? Maybe I can make it out there before summer is over and the busy Fall season has me sticking close to home in the Little Apple.