Things to Know, Before You Go
Visitors may experience the prairie through the 40 miles of nature and hiking trails. No permit is required. Trails are open 24 hours, daily; camping, biking, pets (except service animals) and drone usage not allowed. Preserve trails are for foot traffic only. A bicycle rack is provided in the parking lot for your convenience.
Please use the metal hiking gates to cross between pasture fences. A lift lever is located on each hiking gate. Simply raise the lever and push open the gate, crossing through, then returning the gate to the closed position. Do NOT Cross over the cattle crossings. These are the metal horizontal pipes that cover a pit. Their purpose is to keep cattle and bison in their respective pastures. Falling through the crossings can result in broken bones or other injuries.
If you lose your hiking trail map, you may still traverse the backcountry hiking trails by using the large limestone blocks positioned at the intersections of the trails. Each block uses a trail map and a number that is respective to its position on the trail map. For example, if you are standing near block number 13, you are located at number 13 on the trail map. The photo to the left shows both the hiking gate and the limestone trail block markers.
Windmill Pasture is home to the bison herd. The Scenic Overlook Trail runs through this pasture to the Scenic Overlook. You are welcome to hike through this area, but please use caution in their vicinity. To avoid the bison, the Scenic Overlook can be accessed by taking the Davis Trail and lower portion of the Prairie Fire Loop without needing to access the bison pasture.
Strollers are welcome on trails, but be aware that trails are gravel roads and mowed trails and may not be conducive to the typical stroller wheels. For safety, please use good judgement before hiking into the bison pasture with children in strollers. Safer trails if hiking with small children are the Southwind Nature Trail, Bottomland, and Fox Creek Trails.
Do not attempt to pet or come in close contact with the bison, even if they approach you. If the bison are on the trail/road, you may travel off trail and hike around the animals. If your presence makes them move in any way, you are too close. These are wild animals and will charge or defend themselves when feeling threatened. Allow at least 125 yards (more than a football field) between you and the bison.
Trail maps are available at the ranger information desk in the visitor center, in the kiosks near the historic ranch buildings, or downloaded from the link above. A short introductory training session is available before hiking into the backcountry during business hours. Visitors are encouraged to wear appropriate clothing and hiking gear, bring plenty of drinking water, use sunblock and insect repellent, and stay on the designated ranch roads and hiking trails. No smoking or pets are allowed on the backcountry trails.
CAUTION SIGNS - Hikers are cautioned to give a wide distance to the bison and to not cross through the barbed wire fence, as this fence is electrified. Watch for these signs. Pedestrian self-closing hiking gates provide access between all pastures. For your safety, please use the hiking gates and not the cattle guards.
All backcountry hiking trails are moderately difficult and range from 3.8 to 13 miles. Each trail offers a different and unique perspective of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Scenic vistas, prairie grasses, wildflowers, wildlife, and rugged terrain may be experienced along the backcountry hiking trails.
The preserve backcountry trails are listed as a year-round event in coordation with the American Volkssport Association. Learn More
Last updated: October 19, 2020