The National Park Service (NPS) works servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic. We operate on a park-by-park basis. Based on guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, access to the park is as follows:
Open: 38.4 miles of hiking trails, historic buildings, visitor center with 10 person limit, and all restrooms.
Closed: historic mansion due to contracting schedule, 1.6 miles of hiking trails due to resource management.
While visitors enjoy the listed areas, we continue to monitor and adjust operations. When recreating, please follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, and avoid crowding and high-risk outdoor activities.
Face masks required inside buildings. The federal government and Kansas Governor Kelly require wearing face masks inside buildings. CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Following these guidelines is highly recommended and greatly appreciated. We continue to monitor all park functions to ensure visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.
Bison - Windmill Pasture is home to the preserve's bison herd. For the winter 2020 and 2021 the West Traps Pasture also houses bison, giving the animals more sustenance for the winter months. You are welcome to hike in Windmill Pasture, but please use caution in their vicinity. Do not attempt to pet or come in close contact with the bison. If the bison are on the trail, either hike far around the herd in the pasture or turn around. It is best to be proactive and avoid a dangerous situation. Bison are wild animals and will charge or defend themselves when feeling threatened. If your presence makes the animals move in any way or causes them to get up, you are too close. Do not run in the bison pasture as this movement sometimes excites the animals and may cause them to chase or charge.
Allow at least 100 yards between you and the herd. A tour map is available on site or by emailing us. The Davis Trail and lower portion of the Prairie Fire Loop Trail can be used to reach the Scenic Overlook without hiking through the bison pasture. Sometimes West Traps pasture (Davis Trail) is closed to allow for bison management practices. Check out the Alerts part of our website, as this is where the most current information is posted.
Visitor Opportunities - Self-guiding tours of the historic ranch building complex grounds are available daily via signage and cell phone tour. Tour numbers are posted on waysides around the historic buildings. The Lower Fox Creek one-room schoolhouse can be visited by either hiking the Southwind Nature Trail or by driving to the location. The school is open from June through December, but can be viewed through the windows in all seasons.
Daily Bus Tours are cancelled until further notice due to the social distance restrictions within an enclosed vehicle.Read the press release at the link above. A podcast has been posted of a bus tour and can be located here.
The Flint Hills National Scenic Byway along highway K-177 is a 47.2 mile drive with incredible views of the prairie landscape. A pull-over scenic overlook lies south of Cottonwood Falls with interpretive waysides about the tallgrass prairie. The byway takes you from Cassoday to Council Grove through the heart of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem of the Kansas Flint Hills.
Trails - Walking or touring the grounds of the historic structures remains open 24 hours and offers great opportunities for night sky viewing. Hiking or foot access along the over 40 miles of trails is the only means of access at this time. The trail system follows old ranch roads, none of which were developed or designated for accessibility. However, some of the trails are easier than others to traverse.
The Bottomland Nature Trail has the most gentle of slopes found in the preserve. Inquire at the Visitor Center for trail conditions to self-evaluate individual motorized devices such as wheelchair or electric carts to address accessibility needs, understanding that none of the trails/gravel roads meet ADA requirements at this time.