Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

I’m visiting family in Kansas for Christmas again and I’m trying to do a few more of Kansas’ best hikes. I first visited Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve as a junior in high school, but we only looked at the barn and the schoolhouse, neglecting to explore the hiking trails.

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There are quite a bit of miles of trails in the preserve, some of which are on the east side of the road. Our focus was on the west part, which is separated into several pastures by choose-your-own-adventure trails. We (my brother and I) took the Scenic Overlook trail, a road that buses can travel down to reach the highest point in the preserve — not much of an accomplishment.

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Starting out on the Scenic Overlook trail

Soon, we came to the Windmill Pasture, where a herd of 80 or so bison roam. We didn’t see any until the end of the pasture. There were about 8 off in the distance closer to the fence.

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Artsy poop

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About 2.5 miles in came the turn for the scenic overlook. It wasn’t really high enough above the rest of the hills to give much of a different perspective, though.

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Right before turning onto Davis trail

Instead of taking the longer Prairie Fire Loop that goes north, we took a right on the Davis trail that leads back to the south. The Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse, originally constructed around the 1880s, came into view. We didn’t take the spur trail that goes to the schoolhouse because it follows the road more closely than the one we were on.

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The schoolhouse is on the left

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When we were about to walk back down the last stretch of trail back to the car, we saw more buffalo off in the distance than before. There were 30 or 40 of them on the horizon. We got as close as we felt comfortable without breaking the rules, but I should’ve had a zoom lens to safely get good pictures of them.

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I cropped this picture, too

If you’re interested in the stats and map for this hike, here you go:

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8.36 miles (with the backtracking to see buffalo), 558 ft elevation gain, 3 hrs 12 mins

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