We want to help you plan your special visit!
What will I see?
Nearly 11,000 acres of wide open space, beautiful vistas, seasonal wildflowers, wildlife, bison herd, and plenty of solitude.
- Spring brings prescribed burns, blackened earth with white limestone ridges along the hill sides, then a green carpet of grass within two weeks, ready for seasonal grazing cattle brought in on cattle trucks.
- Summer brings prairie grasses growing and cattle grazing as puffy clouds cast shadows as they skirt along the rolling hills of the prairie. By mid July cattle are "gathered" off the prairie by cowboys on horseback and loaded back onto semi trucks.
- Finally fall arrives with tallgrass prairie grasses reaching their maximum heights and the answer to "where's the tallgrass?" that has been asked all year long. Grasses reach from waist high to well over a person's head, with seed heads in bloom and stems turning a golden hue to bronze; a breathtaking view of the less than 4% remaining of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem.
- Winter brings cold, snow, and a beautiful setting of isolation on the tallgrass prairie. Tallgrasses are blown over and animals use them for cover against the elements. If you go for a hike, you may see the bison herd foraging among the knocked down grasses with snow on their backs.
- Seen throughout the entire year, cultural history and magnificent 1880s limestone buildings that represent the end of the open range to the time of enclosed ranch holdings.
The preserve offers many opportunities to make a meaningful connection to the prairie and the people that lived here. We hope you will have fun, make lifelong memories, and develop a deep appreciation for this very special place. There is something for everyone here at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Come experience this jewel of the Flint Hills.
Where to begin? This "Plan Your Visit" section has all kinds of helpful tips about basic information, things to do, outdoor activities, calendar, eating and sleeping, safety, weather, press releases, and current conditions. Dig deeper for information about accessibility, directions, operating hours and seasons, permits and reservations, passes, brochures, and park special use permits. All access to the preserve is via walking or hiking. No private vehicle access is allowed in the prairie.
Here is a list of daily activities that a typical visit may include:
- 10-minute site orientation film in the Visitor Center (watch additional video on YouTube)
- Exhibits and Eastern National bookstore in the Visitor Center
- Self-guiding ranch headquarters tour map
- Self-guiding house and barn tours available daily with informative text available
- Cell phone tours of historic buildings and the tallgrass prairie
- Three frontcountry nature trails that are pet friendly, open 24/7 year-round - no camping
- Pets on leash welcome outside ranch buildings and on frontcountry trails - See Pet Page
- Backcountry hiking trails, open 24/7 year-round - no camping or pets please
- Junior Ranger Booklet - children earn a badge by completing 5 activities
- Leave No Trace Scavenger Hunt - complete the on-site hunt and earn a cool patch
- Daily house tours - check with the rangers at the information desk
- Bus Tours - Bus tours are available from the last Saturday in April through the last Sunday in October. During bus tour season, sign up for a daily bus tour at 11 a.m. On weekends with available staffing, bus tours will be at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wet road conditions or staffing availability will be the only reasons a tour may be cancelled. Please call ahead to the ranger desk to check on tour availability (620-273-8494 hit 0). If a tour must be cancelled, you will be given a call the morning of the tour. Use of private vehicles on the trails/tour road is not allowed.
- If you cannot make one of our bus tours, we suggest driving the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway K-177 to view the tallgrass prairie via your own private vehicle. A Scenic Overlook area is available a few miles south of Cottonwood Falls, KS with interpretive waysides and benches that explain the tallgrass prairie and the cultural history in the Flint Hills. Tune your car radio to 1680 AM to learn more.
- From May 1 through October 31 the one-room Lower Fox Creek School is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.