Kansans love to explore their natural world. In fact, the state is home to a number of national parks and monuments including Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Fort Larned National Historic Site, Pompey’s Pillar National Monument, and the Ulysses S Grant Memorial. With so many beautiful parks throughout the state, it can be difficult to decide which one you want to visit first! That’s why we’ve compiled this list of our favorite top fifteen national parks in Kansas for your convenience. Happy exploring!
Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site:
The site preserves the former Monroe Elementary School building, which was at the center of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case that led to the desegregation of US schools. Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
Cimarron National Grassland:
Located just north of Interstate 70, Cimarron National Grassland is a great place to go hiking, especially if you’re looking for something close to Kansas City. The grasslands are also home to many archaeological sites that show evidence of early Native Americans who first used the area as hunting grounds. Cimarron National Grassland is leased from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism.
At 9,003 feet above sea level, Granite Peak is the highest point in Kansas! Visitors can hike up to a scenic overlook on top of the mountain where they will be treated with views of four US states on a clear day. The peak is part of the Smoky Hills region, which covers nearly 1 million acres in northern Kansas.
Fort Larned National Historic Site:
Fort Laramie’s history spans through a period of great significance to American history – from being a key destination on the Santa Fe Trail to providing shelter for soldiers during the US Civil War, to serving as a supply post for America’s westward expansion. The site is made up of both restored and reconstructed structures associated with Fort Larned’s use between 1859 and 1890.
Gateway Arch National Park:
Located in St. Louis, Missouri this arch was built to honor Thomas Jefferson’s vision of westward expansion. Construction began in 1963 and was completed when it opened in 1965. Visitors can ride an elevator 598 feet (182 m) up to the top of the arch where they are greeted with panoramic views of downtown St Louis, making it a great place to see the city from a different point of view.
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument:
The park is known for its abundance of rare Eocene Epoch fossils from approximately 33.5 million years ago, making it one of the top fossil sites in the United States. These fossils include horses, rhinoceroses, camels, and other well-preserved plants and animals. In addition to these artifacts, visitors can enjoy hiking trails that lead through different geological areas throughout the monument.
Indian Rockhouse National Historic Site:
Located in Hays County, Indian Rock House’s history dates back to 1867 when a man named John Sitter erected a small home out of limestone blocks next to the Little Arkansas River. The site was later purchased by F.C.L. von Paulus in 1944 and was used as an art studio for his family until it became a national historic site in 1991.
Kansas National Historical Park:
This park protects historical sites that are both directly related to Kansas’ state history, as well as related to the American westward expansion between 1854-1890. Sites include Fort Larned, Fort Scott, Fort Leavenworth, Wyandotte National Burial Ground, Huron Cemetery Memorial Markers, Mormon Ferry Site & Council Grove Historic Town Square among others!
Kelso Depot Visitor Center:
The Kelso Depot Visitor Center is part of the US National Park system. It was built in 1926 by the Union Pacific Railroad, and it is one of two remaining railroad depots that were used during WWII to send American soldiers overseas. Visitors can tour the historic depot as well as view memorabilia related to both World War II and its history.
Pompey’s Pillar National Monument:
This historical site includes Pompey’s Pillar – a rock formation with an inscription carved into it by Captain William Clark on July 25, 1806. The marker commemorates his 30th year of service in the Corps of Discovery (who he served under Lewis & Clark). Stretching nearly 100 feet high, this ancient pillar has endured numerous floods and harsh conditions for more than 200 years.
Refuge Visitor Center:
The refuge was established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1908 and became a national wildlife refuge three years later. Visitors can spot over 300 migratory bird species, as well as dozens of other mammals, reptiles, and fish species lurking throughout the refuge lands.
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site:
This is one of many sites that make up Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home near Washington D.C., which is dedicated to preserving the memory of President U.S. Grant (1822-1885). The site includes several original structures – most notably his home (which he lived in during his presidency), his wife’s & laundry structure, carriage house, and the Grant family cemetery.
White Sands National Monument:
These beautiful sands are made up of gypsum crystals and result from minerals carried by water erosion to the Tularosa Basin, where they collect over time. Although this bright white landscape may look like snow or ice – it is actually a high-purity mineral known as selenite, which is composed of calcium and sulfur dioxide.
Wyandotte National Burial Ground:
For those looking to explore American history in Kansas City, these grounds are home to numerous historical figures such as Lewis & Clark (the famous explorers who were commissioned by President Jefferson) and Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe (known for his peace negotiations with the U.S. Army during the “Nez Perce War” in 1877).
Fort Scott National Historic Site:
This site protects Fort Scott which was originally constructed during the 1830s specifically for the purpose of protecting local settlers from hostile Native American tribes. The fort includes original buildings erected between 1842-1853, as well as several open-air exhibits that explore day-to-day life at the post.
Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery:
Established in 1844, this cemetery is home to numerous historical figures including General William Trousdale, who died while serving in the Mexican War – and John “Black Jack” Pershing, a four-star general who led U.S. forces against Germany during WWI & was also responsible for modernizing the military’s use of tanks & aircraft.
The U.S National Park Service is a government agency that manages all of America’s national parks and historical sites, as well as other federal lands & programs. To learn more about the national park system be sure to check out their website at www.nps.gov which includes a directory of each park or monument that they oversee across the country!