Flint Hills National Scenic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2005)
- Intrinsic QualitiesScenic
- Length47.2 miles
Gateway to the tallgrass prairie, this Byway offers travelers an unchanged view of the grasslands of the Great Plains. Explore historic sites, quaint towns, and scenic vistas as you discover where the West truly begins
Story of the Byway
The Flint Hills National Scenic Byway offers incredible views of the native grasses and flowers of the tallgrass prairie - one of the last remaining such landscapes left in America. The drive itself is beautiful year-round. Much of the land along the Byway looks as it did thousands of years ago when the Kaw, Osage and other native tribes lived here. Early settlers navigated the famous Santa Fe Trail through here, some stopping to build the towns of Council Grove, Cottonwood Falls and Strong City.
Today, the Flint Hills area is home to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and such historic venues as the Kaw Nation Heritage Park and Kaw Mission State Historic Site and Museum. You'll also find towns filled with charming shops, restaurants, artwork and antiques.
As you follow Highway 177, tune into 1680 AM radio to hear the history of the Flint Hill prairie. Strong City Caboose Park offers an informational kiosk and Cottonwood Falls Bates Grove Park, next to the Cottonwood Falls River has a walking trail. Five miles south of town is a scenic overlook with stunning views of the hills and native foliage. For a real-life cowboy experience, stay at one of the many ranches that cater to visitors. Food and lodging varies from rustic to lavish and gourmet. Excursions by wagon train or by horse are available in many locations.
Continuing south, the byway passes the recently designated Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve with its showcase limestone mansion, Fox Creek Schoolhouse and barn. It then goes through Strong City and Cottonwood Falls, site of the Chase County Courthouse, in operation since 1873, and the Roniger Native American Museum. South of Cottonwood Falls, the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway travels above the hills for more panoramic views of the ranches in the area then dips down into the creekside to follow magnificent stone walls around historic farmsteads still in operation. Cassoday is the southern end of the byway where antique shoppers may find just what they have been looking for and may also visit the Cassoday Museum.
The Flint Hills National Scenic Byway is a two-lane, paved road easily reached from the Kansas Turnpike (I-35) , I-70, U.S. 50 and U.S. 56. Tourist amenities are available in the towns along the route including historic restaurants, hotels, antiques, artisans, and other facilities. A scenic overlook site is located just south of Cottonwood Falls with a raised bed of native wildflowers, interpretive signs and a panoramic view of the surrounding area. The local byway committee is in the process of developing additional educational kiosks to further enhance the traveler's experience in the future.
There are many good wildlife viewing opportunities along the Byway. These include Chase State Lake, Council Grove Lake, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. When road conditions permit, the Flint Hills Wildlife Drive is a good way to see the back country here.
Travelling along the byway and exploring historic sites, quaint towns, and scenic visitas, visitors will discover where the rugged West truly begins.
The route leaves Council Grove on Highway 177 and continues south through several communities before ending in Cassoday.
Points of Interest
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
The last large contiguous remnant of tallgrass prairie on earth offers an unspoiled landscape of serene natural beauty.
Kaw (Kanza) Nation Heritage Park/ Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park
168 acres donated by Kaw Nation, hiking and biking trails. One trail follows the Old Missouri Pacific Railroad that ceased this line in 1994.
Kaw Mission State Historic Site and Museum (Council Grove)
On the Santa Fe Trail where the Kaw Nation was relocated. Hundreds of wagon trails stopped in this town on their way to the gold fields
Little John Creek Valley
One of Kaw Heritage Park's trails travels beside this tree-lined creek.
Flint Hills Wildlife Drive
When road conditions permit, this is a great way to see the back country.
Community known as the “Prairie Chicken Capital of the World.”
Chase County State Lake
Great place to view wildlife.
Unchanged Views of Great Plains Grasslands
Starting at Council Grove make your first stop at the Kaw Mission State Historical Site and Museum, then take Highway 177 to travel south out of town. A quick side trip can be made to the Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park (Kaw Nation Heritage Park) where you will learn more about the area’s native people. Enjoy a hike on the trails in the park. Back on Highway 177, stop at the visitor center at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. This large contiguous remnant of prairie land offers the visitor a serene, unspoiled landscape.
Another side trip is to take Highway 50 at Strong City to Emporia and on to the Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge. Depending on the season and the weather, take the Flint Hills Wildlife Drive to experience the backroads of the area.
Back on Highway 177, watch for the Kansas Scenic View pull-off sign, just south of Cottonwood Falls. West of Cottonwood Falls is Chase County State Lake, a great place to view wildlife. Continuing south on Highway 177 is the community of Cassody, known as the “Prairie Chicken Capitol of the World”, where the byway ends.
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