From chalk badlands to sweeping prairies, the Sunflower State boasts breathtaking scenery. In Kansas, the roads less-traveled lead to interesting destinations. Go hundreds of feet underground to retrieve rock salt; sip Sarsaparilla in an Old West saloon; or look for shark teeth in this land-locked state. Whether you book a Kansas vacation rental on the plains, in a small historic town, or near a vibrant city, you’re going to enjoy an unforgettable getaway. To see this state in a new light, check out the top hidden gems in Kansas.
1. Monument Rocks, Oakley
Towering over the Kansas plains, the Monument Rocks rise as high as 70 feet. The huge chalk and limestone outcroppings formed millions of years ago when the entire area was part of the Western Interior Seaway, during the Cretaceous Period. Named among the eight wonders of Kansas, the huge stones look as though human hands arranged them neatly in place.
2. Coronado Heights Castle, Lindsborg
When a college professor found a Spanish coin near Lindsborg in 1881, stories and legends sprang up about a visit by a Spanish explorer named Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. When someone later found some rusted bits of chain mail, the discovery fueled the legends that Coronado visited this wilderness area in the 1540s. A Works Progress Administration project built the stone castle at Coronado Heights Park in the 1930s as a monument to the Spanish explorer.
3. Timber Ridge Adventure Center, Olathe
Take to the great outdoors for some fun at Timber Ridge Adventure Center. With over 200 acres of diverse terrains, including ponds and a box canyon, you find many options to explore and enjoy the activities among limestone cliffs and forested hills. Canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats give you opportunities for some fun on the water, including fishing and sightseeing. Other activities include hiking, archery, and a climbing tower.
4. Oxford Grist Mill, Oxford
The Oxford Grist Mill produced flour, including doing custom grinding, from 1874 until a new mill took over during the Great Depression. It sat unused until its restoration in the 1980s. A local school uses the building for community events, and operates a single-item menu restaurant on weekends, run by students and area residents. Students also maintain a nature trail where visitors look for wildlife, including foxes, owls, butterflies, and hawks during leisurely strolls.
5. Old Town Abilene
Travel through time to Old Town Abilene where the vintage buildings and museum give you a taste of how early settlers lived. On summer weekends, drop in to sip on a cold Sarsaparilla in the Old Alamo Saloon, while being entertained by cancan dancers. The museum includes exhibits that cover Dickinson County history from the Ice Age to the middle of the 20th century. Check out the Greyhound Hall of Fame, a museum where you learn about these friendly dogs and get opportunities to pet some retired racers.
6. Strataca, Hutchinson
Following a brief safety talk, you put on a lighted hard hat, board the elevator, and descend 650 feet into Strataca, the salt mine and museum beneath Hutchinson. On your salt safari, you ride a tram through some of the 160 miles of salt tunnels for a one-hour tour of dark areas of the mine. You get to view geological formations that few human eyes have ever seen, and collect souvenirs of salt rocks as big as your hand.
7. Rock City, Minneapolis
Visitors call Rock City whimsical, spiritual, and just plain fun. Call it whatever you like; it’s a great place to take the family for a picnic and some hiking. Limestone concretions that formed when Kansas was part of the Great Inland Sea cover a five-acre park that includes three clusters, featuring over 200 spherical boulders. Some of the rocks are as large as houses, with picnic tables scattered among shade trees in the park.
8. The Big Well Museum, Greensburg
Here’s a tale of two cities: Greensburg before the tornado of 2007 and Greensburg after the tornado. In 1887, a group of people decided to settle here, named their town Greensburg, and dug The Big Well. The world’s largest hand-dug well measures 109 feet deep by 32 feet across. When an F-5 tornado destroyed about 95 percent of the town, killing 12 residents, the townspeople rallied and rebuilt their homes and businesses. The Big Well Museum celebrates the history of the town and tenacity of its people. Borrow free bikes or tandem bikes at the museum to tour the town, stop at the Crazy Mule for lunch, and drop in to see the Kiowa Museum.
9. Chalk Badlands, Quinter
Rich in fossils from the Cretaceous Sea that covered this area millions of years ago, the Chalk Badlands gives you a peaceful, isolated place to walk, picnic, and capture breathtaking photos. Some visitors find sharks’ teeth laying on the ground as they stroll among the chalk bluffs just south of Quinter. Upon taking exit 107 off Interstate 70, you drive about 15 miles south on Castle Rock Road, a chalky, dirt road that treats you to the beauty of the Kansas high plains.
10. Spring Hill Ranch House, Strong City
The 1881 Spring Hill Ranch House sits on the open prairie, surrounded by an outhouse, ice house, chicken pen, and meat curing house. The enormous two-story limestone barn and other outbuildings cost $15,000 to build, in addition to the $25,000 Stephen F. Jones paid for the house. The ranch makes up part of the 10,000 acre Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, with an interesting history and lots of hiking trails. You see shorter grass, colorful flowers, and bison calves in the early summer, but the tall grass reaches its peak in the late summer. Vacation rentals in Cottonwood Falls and Council Grove give you access to restaurants, and you can return to use the hiking trails at the ranch 24-hours a day year-round.
Ready to go? Check out these amazing Kansas vacation rentals on Tripping.com.