If you’re feeling house-bound or are running out of things to do, why not take a road trip? You might feel like you’ve seen everything within a couple hundred miles, but you probably haven’t. We’ve asked our resident road trip expert, Brett Rolfs, for a few little-known, hidden gems.
Just click on the destinations on the map below to read information about each place. Or, scroll down and click “read more” for a full list of places including the decimal coordinates since some of these places are so obscure they won’t show up on a map search. Simply type the coordinates into the Google Maps search bar, and your destination will be pinpointed for you.
Seen all these places? Suggest your own in the comments below!
Located just above the town of White Cloud, Kansas in Doniphan County is the Four State Lookout. The viewing deck offers visitors an unsurpassed 360 view of Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa while overlooking the mighty Missouri River. Take 3rd Street north from Main Street in White Cloud to access the lookout. The road up the hill can be rough.
Located one block west of Highway 7 on White Cloud’s Main Street is the Wilbur Chapman Monument (erected in1933), in front of the Community Christian Church. This monument is dedicated to the pig that inspired the Piggy Bank. Ten year old Wilbur Chapman sold his prized pig, named Pete, in 1910 to raise funds for a friend with leprosy. Wilbur’s gesture caught the attention of the press resulting in the use of piggy banks to save money.
Big Brutus [37.27372, -94.93863] West Mineral, KS
If you wander around Southeastern Kansas you may see what resembles a gigantic prehistoric creature on the horizon. An exhibit didn’t escape from the Sternberg Museum in Hays to wander around Southeast Kansas, but Big Brutus, the world’s largest electric steam shovel, can be seen near its original home of Hallowell, KS now just outside West Mineral, Kansas. Southeastern Kansas has a rich mining heritage and Big Brutus exemplifies that. The 160 foot tall shovel last operated by digging out of a 65 foot deep pit in 1974 and was turned over as a museum piece in 1984 by the Pittsburg & Midway (P&M) Coal Mining Company. And, as is common in the Midwest, we now let visitors sit in the operator’s seat to see the complexities of operating the beast. A museum shares the same location as Big Brutus and tells the story of the mining in Southeast Kansas.
Old Jefferson Town [39.21373, -95.30958] Oskaloosa, KS
Old Jefferson Town tells the story of Jefferson County, Kansas. Located on a 10 acre park in Oskaloosa, Kansas the Jefferson County Historical Society has moved historic structures from around the county to build a typical late 1800’s Kansas town. The historic village includes a blacksmith shop, jail, general store, church, school house and a Victorian home. Immerse yourself in the time by visiting the included art gallery, genealogical research center, native prairie and museum. Experience a Kansas pioneer town by visiting Old Jefferson Town. The historic buildings are open on weekends in the summer (May through September), and the research center is open year round on Saturdays.
Beecher Bible & Rifle Church [39.14388, -96.34581] Wabaunsee, KS
The Beecher Bible & Rifle Church was founded by pioneers from New Haven, Connecticut who sacrificed their professional lives to settle Wabaunsee, Kansas in 1856, two years after the Kansas-Nebraska Bill passed. The Connecticut settlers were supported by Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, of Brooklyn, NY. Beecher rallied his congregation, which donated 25 rifles and 25 bibles to the Kansas Colonists. The tent city of Wabaunsee sprung up from the prairie as streets were laid out and land was divided among the settlers. Money as raised, primarily in New Haven, Connecticut, for a permanent stone church in Wabaunsee, which is still standing today. See the historic Beecher Bible & Rifle Church that was built with stones from nearby quarries, and with mortar that was mixed by hand. The long shake shingles were made with crude hand tools. The church is located at the corner of Elm Street and Chapel Street in Wabaunsee and hosts Sunday Worship Service and Sunday School each week.
Pillsbury Crossing and Wildlife Area [39.12953, -96.44047] and Chris Barr’s Cabin [39.12951, -96.47331] Manhattan, KS
Pillsbury Crossing and Wildlife Area is a natural low water ford across Deep Creek formed by a limestone ledge located about seven miles southeast of Manhattan, Kansas. The natural water crossing has been used for over 100 years and is named after J.H. Pillsbury, a pioneer who settled here in 1855. Upstream of the limestone ledge, Deep Creek backs up forming a body of water than can be paddled for half a mile. Downstream the big limestone ledge gives way to a spectacular four foot waterfall that can be explored. There are also hiking, fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities at Pillsbury Crossing.
Two short miles west of Pillsbury Crossing on Pillsbury Crossing Road is Chris Barr’s Cabin, built in the 1850’s. The cabin was ‘found’ when a house surrounding it was razed in 1962 and was refurbished by local Zeandale senior citizens in 1992. It is also believed the cabin was used as an Underground Railroad Station.
Lover’s Leap [37.17635, -95.66525] Independence, KS
You can find a mystery and legend four miles southeast of Independence, Kansas. The area is known as Lover’s Leap and has been a local haunt for years. The legend is rooted in the forbidden love of two Native Americans of different tribes. Their love drove them to suicide by leaping over the ledge now known as Lover’s Leap. Others have met their demise from the ledge, which is believed to be cursed or haunted by the two lovers. Names and dates from the 1880’s can be found inscribed on the rocks.
Teter Rock [38.02959, -96.42355] Cassoday, KS
Teterville was a community in the Flint Hills built near the Teter Oil Fields in the 1920’s located twelve miles east of Cassoday, Kansas. The oil fields and community were named after James Teter who owned the land. In its early days, Teter Rock was a wayfinding point made from a pile of rocks to help settlers locate the Cottonwood River, but faded away as the rock was used to construct buildings in Teterville. Teterville faded away and is only recognizable by a few remaining foundations. In 1954, a fifteen-foot-tall rock monument was constructed in place of the rock pile to pay homage to James Teter.
Teter Rock is in the heart of the Flint Hills and provides visitors with an uninterrupted view of the Kansas landscape. It is on private property, but the landowners are amenable to visitors and no special permission is required to visit. Although Teter Rock is a well-kept secret it is a popular destination for photographers, wanderers and adventurers. When you visit, try to spot the herd of horses in the prairie south of Teter Rock.
Hollenberg Pony Express Station State Historic Site [39.90144, -96.84659] Hanover, KS
Gerat H. and Sophia Hollenberg settled in Washington County in 1857 to take advantage of the growing trade route out of St. Joseph, Missouri along the Oregon-California Trail. He sold supplies, meals and lodging in a one room log cabin that grew into a five room building with barns and sheds. The Pony Express route passed by the Hollenberg’s ranch in 1860 and 1861, and the ranch became an important stop on the route by providing food and shelter for travelers.
Stop by the Hollenberg Pony Express Station State Historic Site to uncover stories of the Hollenbergs. Tour the unmoved and period correct Pony Express station building. You can even try on clothing from the period to investigate your fashion sense and see the mail pouch that riders on the trail would have used. Visit the Visitors Center to discover this story of American life and explore the hiking trail that connects the visitor’s center to the station.
Mushroom Rock State Park [38.7259, -98.03059] Brookville, KS
Mushroom Rock State Park is the state’s smallest state park at only five acres. Located about 20 miles southwest of Salina, KS the park is one mile south of Highway 140 at Carneiro. Kansas is known for wheat fields and prairie, not hoodoos of Dakota Sandstone, but that is exactly what you will find at Mushroom Rock. These unusual rock formations were used by Native Americans, pioneers and mountain men as landmarks and meeting points. Even Kit Carson is alleged to have said this was his “favorite little place”.
Faris Caves [38.69554, -98.10303] Kanopolis, KS
These man-made caves were carved into soft Dakota Sandstone in the mid 1880’s by Charles Griffee, a Colorado miner, when trees were scarce on the Kansas Prairie. The caves were a home with two living corridors and a spring house used to keep food fresh. A few years later, Griffee sold his land to Winfield and William Faris, pioneers of the area who utilized the caves as a spring house, generator room and a schoolhouse for a short time. The rock face the caves were chiseled into contains drawings and names that were etched into the soft Dakota Sandstone by previous civilizations dating more than 1,000 years.
Coronado Heights Park and Castle [38.61341, -97.70316] Lindsborg, KS
A sight similar to what you would find in the Scottish Highlands can be found three short miles northwest of Lindsborg, Kansas. Coronado Heights Park is a scenic overlook which encompasses a 300 foot vertical rise with grandiose views of the Smokey Hills. The park is named for Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, the explorer, who allegedly ceased his quest for the Seven Cities of Gold in 1541 near the park’s location. In 1936, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built the Coronado Heights Castle and a picnic area out of local Dakota limestone. Take the winding drive to the heights or test your endurance on the 3.2 mile mountain bike trail within the park. The area has many trees, yucca and sumac along with grills and fireplaces and many stone picnic tables located around the edge of hill.
Castle Rock Badlands [38.86115, -100.16959] Quinter, KS
As it has been for hundreds of years, Castle Rock Badlands is a prominent land mark of the Western Kansas shortgrass prairie. Located about fifteen miles southeast of Quinter, Kansas the rock formations seem to spring up through the prairie. The eroded chalk formations created some 80 million years ago have been a landmark for many years. Wagon ruts formed by wagon trains (most notably from the Butterfield Overland Dispatch) passing through the area in the 1800’s can still be seen a few hundred yards from the rock formation. The Castle Rock Badlands will make a visitor feel like they have discovered something quite special. They are on private property, but the landowners are amenable to visitors and no special permission is required to visit. Access should be avoided when wet to avoid damaging the dirt road; climbing, fossil hunting, camping, littering and bonfires are not permitted.
Monument Rocks [38.79326, -100.76268] Oakley, KS
Most Kansans have seen pictures of the tall monolithic rock formations located south of Oakley in magazines or posted online, but few have probably made the trek to visit. Monument Rocks was the first National Natural Landmark to be designated by the US Department of the Interior in 1968. These geologic gems are an erosional remnant of the same chalk formation that can be experienced at Castle Rock Badlands and include buttes and arches. Yes, you can view a natural arch here in Kansas without needing to visit Utah. Prepare yourself for wild vistas in this open range region. Please remember to respect Monument Rocks by respecting the posted rules; no climbing, digging, camping, or flying drone (UAV) aircraft. Monument Rocks is located on private property but the landowners are amenable to visitors and no special permission is required to visit.