Elk River Hiking Trail

MODERATE 100 reviews
#1 of 3 trails in

Elk River Hiking Trail is a 14.1 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Elk City, Kansas that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
14.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
866 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Point to Point

dogs on leash

backpacking

birding

camping

fishing

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

muddy

rocky

scramble

The Elk River Hiking Trail is located on the northwest side of Elk City Lake. The trail can be accessed from two main trailheads. Primitive campsites are located all along the length of the trail. The Elk River Hiking Trail offers panoramic views from the tops of the many limestone bluffs on the northwestern shores of Elk City Lake. The trail crosses several small streams and ravines and winds through narrow canyons and under rock overhangs. The trail has blue trail blazes and mile markers for traveling both directions.

backpacking
11 days ago

Just did an out and back camping trip..hiked in five miles from East end and camped overlooking lake..nice scenery even in winter..trail was good exercise too.Fyi the lake was really the only water available for filtering

backpacking
1 month ago

Just finished a quick winter overnighter and the trip was great! Very unique Kansas trail and rugged enough to keep things interesting. Quick heads-up, there are a few spots where the trail passes through rock formations/cuts that could make for a difficult passage if carrying a larger pack....still doable, just worth noting that packs "may" need to be removed and lowered/lifted depending on what direction you are traveling. I also encountered quail, turkey and deer on the trail. I look forward to taking the kiddos once the weather warms a bit. 1/12/18

backpacking
1 month ago

It's hard to believe you're in the middle of Kansas while hiking this trail. Our Boy Scout troop used this as a winter break shakedown hike for our upcoming Philmont trip and it definitely did not disappoint.

There aren't any huge hills but there are still some good short climbs. The scenery changes by the mile so there's plenty to see.

We started from the east trailhead, hiked 10 miles one day, camped at the trailhead there, then hiked 5 the next day.

Water is scarce so make sure you bring plenty or have a filter system.

Overall we had a great time and can't wait to visit this trail again soon!

backpacking
2 months ago

The Elk River Hiking Trail is a very technical trail that runs from Independence, KS to Elk City, KS. It follows the Elk City Lake and the Elk River through some of the most beautiful rock formations in the Midwest. The trail is well marked with blue blazings. The campsites along the trail are ideal and provide some access to Elk City Lake where you can get water to filter. I started at the Independence trailhead but only completed 3.5 miles due to a bum knee. You can also start or end at the Elk City trailhead. The entire trail is 14 miles. The trail and campsites are free for the public to use.

3 months ago

Went on this hike with a friend of mine yesterday. We parked one car at the start and one car at the finish. The hike is 15 miles long and took us 6 hours and 57 minutes. We breaked for lunch (10 mins) and 3 pee breaks. It was a beautiful hike with a lot of incline changes. It definitely resulted in sore muscles (especially calves) today. I was impressed with the scenery (rock walls and formations, tall rock corridors, very old abandoned cars on a hill, tons of deer and wildlife, pretty lake views, a bench with a wind chime in the tree, streams and steep hills to climb). It was easy to forget you were in Kansas. There was only one sketchy part of the trail. It was kind of in a ravine area that was washed out so we ended up just grabbing onto trees and pulling ourselves up the landslide hill. I would recommend sturdy hiking boots/shoes if you’re planning to hike the entire trail. I would do this hike again and definitely recommend it to others.

hiking
3 months ago

Great trail. Moderate to easy. Lots of elevation changes and really neat rock formations! Not what you’d expect in Kansas.

hiking
3 months ago

Just did a day hike this time - 9 miles in and out from the east trail head. Excellent trail and beautiful weather! Trail was in good shape. There were some branches in the trail and I pushed quite a few to the side. A couple small streams had some moving water - they were dry on my last hike of this trail. Great day!

backpacking
4 months ago

Backpacked from the east to west trail heads Oct 7-8, 2017.It's a moderate to strenuous hike. We made it to the 10 mile campsite 1st day only to find the stream we'd gotten water from the previous year was completely dry. Be prepared to carry water or cache mid-way 9-10 mil parking. mile 10-15 is a bit more treacherous than 1-10. Beautiful, scenic hike.

4 months ago

Now this is hiking!! We really enjoyed the trails! Quiet, serene, beautiful, well maintained.
We'll be back for sure!

backpacking
4 months ago

Great trail, very well marked and maintained. Moderate difficulty, water access if your planning on filtering is spotty. Overall very, very cool trail, forget your in Kansas

backpacking
4 months ago

just got done with this trail, it was 90 degrees and high humidity which made hiking a very muggy experience. we hiked 6.5 miles in on Friday afternoon and found a campsite, it's pretty difficult to find a good rock free site. then Saturday we hiked another 2.5 miles to mile marker 6, then we turned around and hiked the 9 miles back out, very pretty but EXTREMELY Rocky, we were constantly worried about twisting an ankle and there are several sections with VERY VERY steep Rocky climbs and descents

backpacking
7 months ago

I set out from the western most trailhead on 7/6/17. The recent floods have eroded overhangs to collapse, left deep, mucky mud along the lower portions along the trail and caused a small landslide 2 miles in, at the waterfall. I was carrying a 60lb pack, set for a couple days on the trail and planned to hike the full 15 miles of it. However, I underestimated the difficulty. There were VERY sleep inclines and descents. I'm in pretty good shape, work out every day and it took me 4 hours to get two miles in, at the waterfall. The trail was compromised by a landslide and someone had created an alternate crossing. So, I took off my pack to scout the best way to proceed. Standing at the edge of a 20 some foot, steep slope into algae covered rock, I was attacked by wasps and instinctively bolted, leaping in bounds down into the ravine. In the process, my left big toenail was torn from the nail bed and I was forced to go back the way I came. It's an absolutely beautiful trail, but be aware, it's physically demanding, I saw fresh mountain lion scat, bear tracks & on hot days, it's dangerous to over exert yourself. Pack light and know that, there is no outside access until you're about 9 miles in, if you want out. That being said, I will most definitely return, once my foot heals, because it's just an incredible area.

hiking
7 months ago

Absolutely love this trail, been hiking it for over 10 years

7 months ago

I've done this trail several times. I think it is the best in Kansas. It is moderately difficult for the first few miles. The last 5 miles don't really have water access so conserve water. Can have a lot of traffic on holidays but not too much on regular days.

backpacking
8 months ago

Had a great day on the trail. Saw several harmless green snakes and awesome views of the area. Trail is well marked and it a great outing. Made five miles in from the east trail head.

camping
8 months ago

Hiked a portion of this trail and camped at about mile 6 from the east trailhead. I was planning to cache some water at mile 9.5 but the trail was flooded on that part.
The first 5 miles is rugged and pretty. it is better to have hiking boots. The temperature was around 82 F which made hiking less pleasant. I think it is better to hike this trail in March and April since it would be cooler and you can find some flowing water for use after filtration (Lake water is not clean enough). Most of the flowing waters were dry. We found just one between mile 4 and 5 that I assume it will be dry in one week.
We saw different animals such as black snakes, armadillos, raccoons, and owls. Only be careful not to step on the snakes. Wearing pants and long sleeve shirt prevents ticks and mosquitos bites.
Road 5200 is a gravel road so it is better to drive on other paths to access trailheads.
Overall, this trail is different from what you expect to see in Kansas and can be a nice experience if you hike in a cool weather.

hiking
8 months ago

Great 9 mile hike today. 4 flooded areas had to go up and around. Do not attempt trail in crappy boots or shoes. About 2 miles of easy hiking the rest was a little more challenging but absolutely beautiful you really forget your in Kansas.

backpacking
8 months ago

great trail for conditioning for longer treks

8 months ago

best trail in Kansad

8 months ago

went with a couple of friends and had a great time! the trail is very well marked and kept with some awesome views. It's reasonably challenging but still very enjoyable. We did 16 miles in a day, approx 8 hours. definitely will be going back!

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