In the rolling hills of Kansas, the Konza Prairie Preserve is home to 8,600 acres of tallgrass prairie – some of the last remaining stand in all North America. The preserve is owned by The Nature Conservancy and operated by Kansas State University Division of Biology. The University allows scientists and students to utilize this preserve to fulfill their mission of prairie conservation, education, and long-term ecological research. With the location serving as a research station, hikers are encouraged to remain on marked paths only; pets and biking are not allowed on the trails to ensure successful results from their studies. At the entrance to the preserve is a small shelter with informational material and a donation station where a $2 donation is encouraged to help fund the preserve.
At 2.6 miles, the Nature Trail is the shortest trail, and it begins by crossing a wooden bridge and wrapping around to a suspended bridge crossing a creek. The trail leads to a fork in the road where the trail to the right meanders through a mixture of open meadows and stands of trees that run parallel to the creek. The trail that leads left climbs a slight incline, and once the hiker crests the hill it opens to another uphill climb that is somewhat difficult, but the view is worth the effort.
The trail leading to the right creates an easier ascent to the very top and loops back around to reveal a spectacular view of the Flint Hills. The trail following the creek lends itself to the 4.6-mile Kings Creek Trail which starts at the original farmstead. Two barns, an old stone shelter, and an outdoor amphitheater are situated at the bottom of the hill. In the warm Kansas summers when the hot air rises throughout the day, the valley captures the early morning and early evening coolness. The Kings Creek Trail continues to wind through vast valleys and weaves through stands of timber teeming with wildlife like whitetail deer, turkeys, coyotes, and bobcats. Kings Creek ventures back uphill to provide breathtaking views of rolling hills, especially after early spring prairie burns when fresh wildflowers and green tallgrass takes over.
Extending from the Kings Creek Loop is the 6.2-mile Goodwin Loop Trail. This trail is not as upkept and follows a mowed path venturing uphill, across a creek, and through the overgrowth. Far off in the distance, the green hills may at times be scattered with the resident herd of bison.
All the trails loop back around to the starting point, and there are plenty of photographic opportunities throughout. The trail is a local favorite and offers amazing views of the Flint Hills. With the delicate ecosystem and with the preserve being part of the last stand of Tallgrass Prairie, hikers are encouraged to be as respectful as possible while visiting the Konza Nature Preserve.