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Elk River Trail



14.2 mile 22.8 kilometer point to point
100% Runnable


Ascent: 316' 96 m
Descent: -332' -101 m
High: 911' 278 m
Low: 818' 249 m


Avg Grade: 1% (0°)
Max Grade: 5% (3°)


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Trail shared by Hunter R


Current trail conditions

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All Clear 91 days ago See History

Gorgeous lake views, limestone walls, and dense hardwood forests await you on the Elk Lake Trail.

Hunter R

Features Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Need to Know

For those looking to experience the beauty of this trail without its 28 mile out-and back distance, it's recommended that you start from the eastern end (near the fish and wildlife office), and run west to a good turnaround spot.

If you're looking to tackle the entire thing, it's recommended that you leave a shuttle vehicle at the opposite end, or bring backpacking gear and camp at the Elk City State Park on the eastern end of the trail.


Often noted as one of the best trails in Kansas, this lakeside trail treats its visitors to gorgeous views of the water while meandering through large stands of hardwood. Coming in at over 14 miles one way, it's certainly not a short trail, but the distance is far outweighed by the reward. You may lean over to your running partner and say "George, we're not in Kansas anymore!", but trust me, you still are.

Starting at the western end in a parking lot off US 160, the trail immediately dives into the forest, meandering through a veil of broad deciduous trees. While this thin strip of forest is sandwiched between a river and numerous plots of agricultural land, you're sure to forget about your pastoral surroundings as you pick up the river and follow its pleasant, calming water. The trail zig-zags along the river for roughly ten miles before you reach the lakeshore of Elk City Lake. Continuing along the lakeshore for another 4 miles give or take, be sure to take opportunities to stop and soak in your surroundings. Be sure to have your smartphone camera at the ready to snap pictures of the waterfowl that occasionally can be found bobbing on the water's surface.

Flora & Fauna

In the autumn this area sets ablaze in a flash of fiery fall color. As you meander along the river, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife including a nice collection of birds and occasionally deer.

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Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 10 votes


  4.7 from 10 votes
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Trail Rankings


in Kansas


297 Views Last Month
1,754 Since Nov 5, 2019



Great scenic view of the lake.  Careful, this is on the edge of a 40' ledge.
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS
Lots of places for critters to live between all these big rocks!
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS
All of the trails are very well marked with blazes along the way.
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS
Looks like a common hang out location.  Would be neat to camp midway along this trail!
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS
The switchbacks in this section of the trail are quite steep and sadly straight up the fall line (eroding).  I think the length of the switchbacks  are limited by the adjacent property which is fenced off.
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS
The bridge is washed out.  You can get across here, but there is also a go-around trail that takes you up to the road to get across this creek.
Feb 29, 2020 near Indepen…, KS