Thing to Do

Bison viewing on the Scenic Overlook Trail

Bison graze in an open prairie stretching to the horizon.
Bison viewing draw many hikers up this popular trail.

NPS photo

The Kansas Flint Hills are one of the last stretches of unplowed prairie. Here an array of wildlife thrive in a diverse ecology. Crossing the breadth of this vast landscape on foot or by covered wagon in the early 1800s becomes surreal. Dark bison speckling miles on the horizon. Birds and critters dash away as you make your way through open rolling grassland. Over 40 miles of hiking trails are available on the preserve. Learn more about backcountry hiking at the preserve.
Details
Windmill Pasture is half a mile uphill from the visitor center. Occasionally bison will rest near the gate, deterring hikers from entering. Hikers can turn back or use an alternate trail to the scenic overlook. The round trip along the Davis Trail is 7 1/2 miles. Plan for an additional hour when going into the bison pasture. Bison have wandered onto the trail, blocking the exit. Be prepared to wait or detour off-trail.
The visitor center to the scenic overlook is just over 3 miles (5 km) one-way. This coarse gravel trail has mild hills into the uplands. The overlook rises 1495 ft (456 m) above sea level. The trail system includes over 40 miles of grass and gravel trails to explore deeper into the prairie. Stone trail markers with maps allow easy navigation.
Drones are prohibited.
Bison weigh up to 2,000 pounds and run 30 mph, faster than any human. View at a safe distance of 100 yards when possible.
Never attempt to walk through the herd.
Running through the pasture may trigger a chase response. 
Pawing at the ground and a raised tail indicates a raised temper. Slowly back away!
 
The Scenic Overlook Trail and backcountry are wildlife areas.
All personal animals are prohibited, including service animals.
Reservations are required for the summer bus tours.
The trails are open to public hiking all year round. Caution entering the pasture with bison. Maintain 100 yards distance from bison for safety reasons. Bison may be more aggressive during rutting season in the fall and calving season in the early summer.
Hiking trails are open to public 24 hours a day. Caution entering the pasture with bison. Maintain 100 yards distance from bison for safety reasons. Distance is harder to discern at night. 
Accessibility Information
The coarse gravel trail is approximately 12 feet wide with grassy margins. Average grade is 2% (1 degree) with a max of 6% (3 degrees) along the first half mile. Rain may cause standing water and muddy conditions at water crossings for several hours.
All personal animals are prohibited, including service animals.
 

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Last updated: November 2, 2020