National Parks in Kansas Hero
National Parks,  Attractions

The 10 National Parks in Kansas:
Get to Know Each One

When you think of Kansas, what comes to mind? Sweeping flat plains and ruby slippers, of course! Kansas is home to so much more though: did you also know that there are 10 national parks in Kansas?

While there are no National Parks in Kansas – not the ones that meet that coveted highest standard that draws travelers from around the world – there are other protected lands and sites in the National Park Service system. These include National Historic Sites (with significant American history), National Historic Trails, and a National Preserve.

If you’re curious to learn more about the national park units in Kansas, this post will help. By the end, don’t be surprised if you’re eager to visit these ones along with other National Parks in the Great Plains.

National Parks in Kansas List & Map

Before jumping into each national park in Kansas in greater detail, it helps to take a high-level look at the map and list of national park units in Kansas.

The 10 national parks in Kansas are:

  1. Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
  2. California National Historic Trail
  3. Fort Larned National Historic Site
  4. Fort Scott National Historic Site
  5. Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
  6. Nicodemus National Historic Site
  7. Oregon National Historic Trail
  8. Pony Express National Historic Trail
  9. Santa Fe National Historic Trail
  10. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
National Parks in Kansas Map
Click to open in a new tab

Above, you’ll see a map I made of the national park units (including the trails in blue). It’s worth noting that the trails aren’t exactly accurate on the map, since these original trails and the stops and landmarks have been somewhat lost to the sands of time.

Now let’s dive into each of the national parks in Kansas so you can decide which one(s) you want to visit!

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Kansas

This National Historic Site exists as a landmark to commemorate the United States Supreme Court’s decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case where the court declared that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”.

Visitors to this national monument in the Great Plains will learn about this case’s history and the courage and hope displayed by the teachers, students, ministers, secretaries, and everyone else involved in this quest for justice and fairness.

Details of Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site:

  • Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site is typically open year-round; it has been closed indefinitely due to the ongoing pandemic.
  • There is no admission fee for Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site.
  • Click here to visit the NPS page for Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site.

California National Historic Trail

California Trail - Fort Kearny

It is a mid-19th century highway used for migration to the west. This trail features several routes across Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and California, and is currently open to tourists along the route. Modern-day gold seekers and explores will also find this trail very useful.

Follow the historic roads in this National Park in the Great Plains and discover unique remnants and resources found all over the trails. Guests will also learn fascinating stories and incidents about emigrants, missionaries, and fortune seekers who have plied these routes. 

Details of California National Historic Trail:

  • Visitor centers and museums along the California National Historic Trail vary in opening hours and seasons.
  • Admission fees for these sites and museums also vary.
  • Click here to visit the NPS page for California National Historic Trail.

Fort Larned National Historic Site

Fort Larned National Historic Site, Kansas

Another historic National Park unit in the Great Plains, Fort Larned, is a preserved 1860’s army post. This site features a well-preserved fort and high-quality Sandstone buildings where Guardians of the Santa Fe Trail were sheltered. 

Explore this historic Fort and hike on the Nature Trail, where you get to experience the full scale of living in ancient times. Expect to see stables, corrals, stores, offices and wagons, which are still functional to date.

Details of Fort Larned National Historic Site:

  • Fort Larned National Historic Site is open year-round but hours vary by season.
  • Admission to Fort Larned National Historic Site is free.
  • Click here to visit the NPS page for Fort Larned National Historic Site.

Fort Scott National Historic Site

Fort Scott National Historic Site, Kansas

This National Park served as a military base for the U.S. Army in 1850 and was eventually used to provide security and store supplies during Bleeding Kansas and American Civil War periods. Currently, this national historic site preserves 20 historic structures, 5 acres of restored prairie, and a parade ground.

Visitors are welcome to enjoy tours of the site and learn about this National Park history in the Great Plains. 

Details of Fort Scott National Historic Site:

  • Fort Scott National Historic Site is open year-round but hours vary by season.
  • Admission to Fort Scott National Historic Site is free.
  • Click here to visit the NPS page for Fort Scott National Historic Site.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

This national historic trail is about 8,000 miles long and runs through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. This trail exists to commemorate the 1803 to 1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition, which aimed at documenting and exploring historical, natural, and cultural resources in the U.S.

Details of Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail:

  • Visitor centers and museums along the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail vary in opening hours and seasons.
  • Admission fees for these sites and museums also vary.
  • Click here to visit the NPS page for Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail.

Nicodemus National Historic Site

Nicodemus National Historic Site, Kansas

This site is known as the historic site in the Great Plains, which preserves the only remaining western town built by African Americans after the American Civil War. This town celebrates the pioneer spirit of African Americans who fought to seek personal freedom and develop their talents. Tour this historic site and have the opportunity to learn about the history of the African American liberation.

Details of Nicodemus National Historic Site:

  • Nicodemus National Historic Site is open year-round except Sundays and federal holidays.
  • Admission to Nicodemus National Historic Site is free.
  • Click here to visit the NPS page for Nicodemus National Historic Site.

Oregon National Historic Trail

Oregon Trail

This historic, multi-state trail spans 2,170 miles through Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. Before embarking on a journey through the trails, check out the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to learn more about the journey’s history and hardships. There are various museums, historic sites, original trail segments, and churches to visit along this trail.

Details of Oregon National Historic Trail:

  • Visitor centers and museums along the Oregon National Historic Trail vary in opening hours and seasons.
  • Admission fees for these sites and museums also vary.
  • Click here to visit the NPS page for Oregon National Historic Trail.

Pony Express National Historic Trail

We’ve all also heard about the Pony Express, right? The Pony Express National Historic Trail was used in the 19th Century for long-distance communication. Men would ride on horses through this trail for ten days or more to deliver mail from Missouri to California, including across Nebraska.

This trail ran through eight states and was the only means of east-west communication before the telegraph was invented. When touring this trail, make sure to check out the passport stamp sites and learn more about this mail delivery system’s history.

Details of Pony Express National Historic Trail:

  • Visitor centers and museums along the Pony Express National Historic Trail vary in opening hours and seasons.
  • Admission fees for these sites and museums also vary.
  • Click here to visit the NPS page for Pony Express National Historic Trail.

Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Spanning about 900 miles through five states (Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico), this trail has become a popularly walked site. Currently, it is hard to identify its exact routes, so most visitors resort to other means of plying the route. Take the Colorado route to enjoy beautiful scenes of farmlands, mountains, rivers, and beautiful low-land meadows. Other attractions on this trail include Bent’s Old Fort, swimming holes, and bird watching sites.

Details of Santa Fe National Historic Trail:

  • Visitor centers and museums along the Santa Fe National Historic Trail vary in opening hours and seasons.
  • Admission fees for these sites and museums also vary.
  • Click here to visit the NPS page for Santa Fe National Historic Trail.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Established in 1996 to preserve the tallgrass prairie ecosystem, this national preserve covers over 400,000 square miles and is home to the Tallgrass Prairie bison herd. Visitors will enjoy visits to private farms in the preserve and have sightings of the bison herd. There are hiking trails and a cultural ranch site for guests to explore.

Details of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve:

  • Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is open year-round.
  • Admission to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is free.
  • Click here to visit the NPS page for Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

While Kansas might not seem like there’s much there, hopefully you’re now pleasantly surprised! Though there are no National Parks, Kansas is home to 10 national park service units worth exploring. Best of all, they’re diverse and interesting – covering the range from historic sites to natural wonders. The only question is: which one(s) do you want to visit?

If you have questions about these national parks in Kansas, let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget: join our Great Plains Travel Tips group for even more travel inspiration!

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