Hillsdale Lake Trail
Flint Hills Nature Trail
Louisburg City Lake
Whether you’re into hunting, hiking, boating or looking for a scenic view, there is a wide and diverse landscape that waits to be discovered year-round. Lakes, marshes and plains transform as the seasons change. Lush green trees turn vibrant red, blue waters harden to icy white and golden fields become a meadow of wildflowers. It is a metamorphosis that you will want to see to believe.
The forests and fields of Hillsdale State Park teem with wildlife. Whitetail deer, bobwhite quail, squirrel, rabbit, beaver and muskrats are particular draws to the Hillsdale’s public hunting land. Anyone looking to get some practice in ahead of time will enjoy the Hillsdale Range and Training Facility. The range features 50-yard and 100-yard distances. Shooters can use the facility’s trap and skeet area or the 200-yard range. While membership discounts are offered, the facility is also open to the public.
Every season the trees are filled with color and sound, as migrating birds stop over to rest and eat before taking flight for their next destination. Local boy scouts are doing their part to make sure birds continue to call Hillsdale Lake their home. Along the southwest side of the lake, Troop 105 has built nesting boxes and feeders that are designed to appeal specifically to the eastern bluebird. The eastern bluebird is a Kansas native that was once in decline but has seen a resurgence in recent years due to efforts like these.
The 4,580 acre lake also offers endless outdoor adventure with areas for swimming, fishing, boating and watersports.
With the convenience of being right on Hillsdale Lake, the Jayhawk Marina aims to be a full service facility. The marina’s store offers bait, fishing and camping supplies for purchase. A heated dock provides year-round access to the lake’s fishing, and all licenses and permits are sold onsite. It is currently the only facility within Hillsdale Lake State Park that offers storage options and boat, cabin, and slip rentals.
Further south is the best kept secret for many local fisherman. Miami State Fishing Lake is a 118-acre lake stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, channel cat, crappie and white bass. Its quiet setting allows wildlife to thrive within the wooded hills, making it a good hunting spot for whitetail deer, bobcat, coyote and quail. Birders will want to keep a close lookout for bald eagles that nest at the lake during the winter.
Another local gem is Middle Creek State Fishing Lake. The lake is stocked with a diverse population of sport fish such as channel catfish, flathead catfish, crappie, saugeye, largemouth bass and wiper bass. Boaters appreciate the double ramp while hunters appreciate the nearby upland habitat offers hunting for deer, turkey and quail.
Named one of the top fishing lakes in the nation by Bassmaster Magazine in 2018, La Cygne Reservoir is famous its fishing. The 2,600-acre cooling reservoir for a coal-fired generating plant is owned by a regional electric cooperative. Due to its use as a cooling reservoir for the plant, the lake features a hot water returns on the eastside. The moderate water temperatures make the spot popular with angler fishers in the winter. Visitors can use a walk-in entrance and follow the trail to the spot. There are also three boat ramps in the main lake and one boat ramp on the eastside. On the westside of the lake is a full-service marina with groceries, fishing supplies and live bait.
La Cygne’s wildlife area has excellent opportunities for deer, wild turkey, and squirrel hunting. Quail and rabbit hunting are also attractions. Hunters can purchase hunting licenses and big game tags at the Linn County Marina.
Paola’s Lake Miola has all the feeling of being in the great outdoors while being only a short drive away from retailers. Visitors can water ski, camp, swim, or fish with electrical hook-ups available for RVs.Spring Hill offers two fishing at Melvin Murry Park and City Lake. Small motorized watercraft are allowed onto the City Lake, while shore fishing is available at Melvin Murry Park.
Preparing for outdoor adventures often involves some specialized equipment. Roth Outdoors in Paola has sporting goods and insights into local hunting spots. Their indoor archery range helps beginners become experienced marksmen and keeps those who are experienced sharp.
Just a few miles off of Hillsdale Lake is family-owned HSP Guns. For the last 30 years HSP has served the Miami County area making them well-acquainted with the needs of hunters. In addition to offering a wide variety of gun models and parts, the shop also provides maintenance assistance and repairs.
Hit the Trails
Upon first arriving to Kansas, settlers were often struck by the beauty of the tallgrass prairie. The grass rippled with the wind and seemed to go on forever, leading them to compare it to the sea. With time and development, that piece of Kansas heritage has shrunk down to a fraction of what it once was. Flint Hills Nature Trail State Park was first created to help reverse that trend. During the last 24 years, the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy has continued to add land to the Flint Hills Trail in an effort to protect tallgrass ecosystems. Currently the trail stretches across 117 miles, starting in Osawatomie and ending in Council Grove. Visitors can hike, bike or horseride their way across Eastern and Central Kansas. The trail runs along the Marais des Cygnes River providing views of rushing water, bluffs, farmland and woodland. It follows the general route of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail and is part of the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail.
Hillsdale Lake State Park’s Saddle Back Ridge is popular among horseback riders, not just for its 48 miles of marked trails, but also for the connected campground that provides pens so riders and their horse can comfortably stay the night. Saddle Back Ridge is additionally open to hikers and cyclists as are the 1.5-mile Hidden Spring Nature Trail and 3-mile State Park Trail.
Paola Pathways was created so runners, walkers and cyclists can exercise in a safe and scenic environment. Since 2015, the city has developed 10-miles of trails that wind through Wallace Park and Lake Miola. Each parkways location has a variety of trails for different skill levels with distinctive topographies and trail surfaces.
Lewis Young Park in Louisburg contains a 3-mile primitive trail system that leads hikers and mountain bikers deep within a wooded area. For those looking for looking to go a more leisurely pace, Louisburg City Lake is surrounded by a paved, one mile walkway connecting nearby neighborhoods.
Back in the Saddle
S&S Stables is a family-run business that breeds and rides Missouri Foxtrotter. Foxtrotters are horses that are known for their smooth ride and surefootedness. Visitors can choose a one or two-hour guided ride through the trails surrounding Hillsdale Lake. Camping and boarding are also available. Ideal for the beginner or expert-level horse enthusiast.
The Great Green
Sycamore Ridge Golf Club has a national reputation as a high quality golf course. Golf Digest, Zagat and Golf Magazine have all praised the course. People travel across the Midwest to play 18 holes of superb lush bentgrass in a quiet rural setting. The staff consists of seasoned professional, many of which have received a PGA certification. The pristine green features dunes, chasms, wooded hills and creeks, creating a varied course that is enough to challenge the pros.
The Osawatomie Golf Course offers two distinct sets of nines that provide players a well-rounded game. Anyone who is looking to get some practice in beforehand can stop by one of their 10 hitting stations. Golfers can also cap off a long game with a drink and a bite to eat at the course’s bar and grill.Built in 1923, the Paola Country Club has continued to update and maintain to keep up with high quality and high standards expected by golfers. For those who don’t feel like golf is their game, they can stop by the clubhouse restaurant for lunch or dinner in the dining room overlooking the course.