Easy: Typically less than 4 miles. Minimal change in elevation. Few or no obstacles.
Moderate: These trails tend to be longer. They also typically have more extreme changes in elevation, steeper inclines, and some obstacles.
Challenging: Long trails (typically 8+ miles), more extreme changes in elevation, steep inclines, and some obstacles. Completing them will require carrying provisions.
Kansas City has plenty of green spaces to explore. One of the most diverse and fascinating finds from my adventures is at the Swope Park hiking and biking trails in Swope Park. This park is home to a long-abandoned nature camp, with many of the structures being slowly reclaimed by nature. With several miles of wooded trails and plenty of large rock formations to traverse through, this is one of the more eye-catching trails systems within the city…
Kansas City has plenty of green spaces to explore. One of the most diverse and fascinating finds from my adventures is at the Swope Park hiking and biking trails in Swope Park. This park is home to a long-abandoned nature camp, with many of the structures being slowly reclaimed by nature. With several miles of wooded trails and plenty of large rock formations to traverse through, this is one of the more eye-catching trails systems within the city limits.
At 1,805 acres, Swope park is the largest park in Kansas City, and one of the largest municipal park in the United States. By acreage, it is more twice the size of Central Park in New York City. The city has done a great job of congregating many of the city’s outdoor amenities into the area. The resources within the park limits include, but are not limited to:
There are several overlapping pathways within the Swope Park trail system that cover a combined total 13.5 miles. There are two primary trails:
There are several connector trails along the route. I recommend having a map handy as some connections make the route confusing, but on the plus side, it is easy to adjust the distance of this hike to your liking.
On this trail, you’ll travel along the top of a river bluff, which offers some spectacular views of the valley below. You will also get up close and personal with several large rock formations in the area. As such, the trail changes elevation quickly and some portions of the pathway are narrow. But I’m pretty average, and I still find this trail to be pleasant and pretty easily traversable.
As you make your way around the trail, take the opportunity to explore down the paved road at the center of the area. This location is home to the former Camp Hope and Camp Lake of the Woods nature camps. The city-sponsored camp served residents of Kansas City between the 1960’s and the 1980’s. Many of the structures (while in serious disrepair) remain standing today. Walking through these dilapidated structures gave me some seriously creepy vibes, but I developed an appreciation for this piece of Kansas City history after reading about the history of the camp here. On the south side of the road, the oddly angled structures are the former science buildings and the old bath house of Camp Hope. On the north side of the road you’ll find a circle of red cabins marking the location of the original Camp Lake of the Woods.
While some paths are marked for hiking only, I recommend staying on the well-maintained multi-use hiking/biking trails routes. Ticks are an ever-present nuisance in the midwest, and the poorly maintained wild grass areas where the hiking-only paths are located are loaded with the little creatures. Wear proper tick protection while visiting Swope Park Trails and avoid taking unnecessary risks. The multi-use trails have better views of the bluffs anyway.
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