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The Top 12 Can’t-Miss Scenic Drives in Kansas

Here's what you need to know...
  • Going on a road trip is a chance of a lifetime
  • Kansas is home to 12 of the most scenic byways in the United States
  • It’s imperative that your car is road-trip ready before you hit the open road

What could be more beautiful than a place where the sky is blue, cool breezes blow, and a view that takes your breath away?

As you drive through Kansas, there’s a lot more to see than farmlands, sunflowers, and straight roads. Kansas has rolling hills, lush grasslands, prairies, lakes, and unusual rock formations.

If you want to add Kansas to your travel list, enter your ZIP code above first and ensure that your car is fully covered before hitting the road! Compare at least three to four policies today!

The Top 12 Scenic Drives in Kansas

So if you haven’t considered it, you may want to add the Sunflower State to your travel itinerary. Kansas is a top travel destination.

Whether you’re making Kansas your new home or cruising down the highway, here are 12 Kansas byways you won’t soon forget.

#12 – Rural Kansas 7

Length of Route: 90 miles
Highlight: Indian Casino

The majority of this route follows the Missouri River, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop and swim or just take in the sunshine.

After you’ve had your fill of solitude, why not stop by the Indian casino that’s just west of White Cloud?

#11 — Route 66

Length of Route: 11.27 miles
Highlight: Old Nelson’s Riverton Store

Even though Route 66 is now State Highway 66, there are still a lot of great sites to see. Considered the “Ozark Plateau” portion of the original Route 66, this old highway goes through three towns:

  • Riverton
  • Galena
  • Baxter Springs

You can drive over the only remaining Marsh Arch Bridge on Route 66, or stop at the Nelson’s Old Riverton Store, which has been in operation for more than 75 years and is considered one of the most authentic stores of its kind on all of Route 66.

Or you could plan a visit to Schermerhorn Park and the Southeast Kansas Nature Center. Ultimately, this route has something for everyone.

#10 — Post Rock Scenic Byway

Length of Route: 18 miles
Highlight: Wilson Lake

Post Rock Scenic Byway’s unique beauty is sure to capture your attention. You’ll find lush wildflowers along endless stretches of rich grasses, which are perfect for an impromptu photo shoot.

Wilson Lake is the perfect spot to go bird-watching, with over 225 species of birds known to visit every year.

#9 — Native Stone Scenic Byway

Length of Route: 48 miles
Highlight: Beautiful limestone

From the hillsides to historic buildings, beautiful limestone can be seen on everything as you make your way down this scenic byway. Limestone has been the building block of many historical buildings and the source of numerous natural landmarks.

The course of Native Stone Scenic Byway highlights not only the amazing craftwork of masons, but also impressive rock formations around every turn.

#8 — Prairie Trail Scenic Byway

Length of Route: 56 miles
Highlight: Maxwell Wildlife Refuge

Beginning south of Canton, this 56-mile stretch goes straight through north-central Kansas. The Prairie Trail Scenic Byway gives you the chance to follow the same steps of Native Americans, explorers, and pioneers as they sought food, shelter, adventure, and a better life. 

In those days, huge herds of bison roamed the majestic Flint Hills, and mainly Swedish immigrants settled in the area and built towns highlighting their culture and heritage.

As you venture down the open road, make a pitstop at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge where you can stop and see elk and bison still roaming the hills today. Tram tours are available on the weekends.

#7 — Western Vistas Historic Byway

Length of Route: 102 miles
Highlight: Wildlife

Visit the badlands of Kansas and gaze upon limestone formations that seem to reach the sky. Various museums and monuments are yours for the taking as you cruise down the Western Vistas Historic Byway.

Here you can explore Fort Wallace, “the fightin-est Fort in the West,” and visit Battle Canyon, site of the last conflict between American Indians (the Cheyenne) and United States troops.

Imagine what it would be like to hunt bison like Buffalo Bill Cody! Keep your eyes open for the stunning wildlife you are sure to encounter, which includes:

  • Bison
  • Turkey
  • Pronghorn
  • Deer
  • Pheasants

#6 — Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway

Length of Route: 42 miles
Highlight: Big Basin Prairie Preserve

Also known as the Red Hills, Gyp Hills and the Medicine Hills, the Gypsum Hills is a lush region of rolling hills, canyons, and mesas in central Kanas. Just north of the Oklahoma border, the area is home to beautiful red cedar trees.

Much of the route is along dirt roads, but if you’re not quite ready to throw caution to the wind, you can still enjoy the views from along US Highway 61 in between Medicine Lodge and Coldwater.

Be sure to stop off at Big Basin Prairie Preserve, just south of Clark County where you can toss a coin into St. Jacob’s Well, which is 58 feet deep.

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#5 — Frontier Military Scenic Byway

Length of Route: 168 miles
Highlight: Old military trails

Created to move soldiers and military supplies, the Military Trail is a vital part of American history. Traveling from North to South, you’ll see various historical landmarks like:

  • Fort Leavenworth
  • Fort Scott
  • The John Brown Museum

When on this route, you can learn about places that hold historical value from the turbulent times of “Bleeding Kansas” and the Civil War.

#4 — Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

Length of Route: 60 miles
Highlight: Threshing Machine Canyon

Coined for the hazy, blue appearance and sunset, the Smoky Hills divide the shortgrass prairie of the Western Great Plains.

The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway travels through the Smoky Hill River Valley (see video above), which is feast for your eyes with the wildflowers and native grasses all year long.

After you’ve had your fill of flowers, make your way over to the Threshing Machine Canyon, which is near Cedar Bluff State Park. Otherwise, there are windmills, farmlands, and limestones along the byway to give you some variety.

#3 — Glacial Hills Scenic Byway

Length of Route: 63 miles
Highlight: Lewis and Clark’s route

Beginning at the intersection of K7 and K92, a beautiful landscape and highly fertile farmland begins where ancient glaciers receded and left behind a lush view.

Named after the green hills and valleys that surround it, Glacial Hills Byway doesn’t get much better.

Running along the eastern half the state, make sure you stop and check out the historic points along this Pony Express route. Gaze upon the same route that Lewis and Clark took along the Missouri River.

#2 — Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway

Length of Route: 115 miles
Highlight: Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms

Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway is the perfect day trip for animal and nature lovers.

As you pass through the world’s most ecologically profound wetlands, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms, make sure you have your camera ready to capture amazing photos of the bald eagles and whooping cranes you encounter.

Stop over at Great Bend for a quick bite or head over to the Brit Spaugh Zoo and Raptor Center, which has free admission.

#1 — Flint Hills Scenic Byway

Length of Route: 86 miles
Highlight: Lush foliage

Flint Hills Byway is a colorful tallgrass prairie that runs through quaint towns where you can stop for lunch or shopping. You can take in 140 million acres of never-ending grasses and plants with named like Butterfly Milkweed and Big Bluestem.

It’s also an ideal route for history buffs since the Flint Hills area is home to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and historic venues like the Kaw Nation Heritage Park and Kaw Mission State Historic Site and Museum.

A Sunday drive down Flint Hills National Scenic Byway is the perfect backdrop to see where ranchers still roam the prairies.

Preparing for Your Scenic Drive

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Before setting off on your adventure, you need to ensure that your car is ready for the open road. But what does that entail?

Figuring out what to bring on a road trip can be overwhelming, and you might be inclined to fill just about every inch of free space in your vehicle. And while many people think that taking a day trip is as simple as getting in and taking off, you still need to be prepared.

So, even if you’re hitting the open road for only a few hours, below are a few reminders that may slip your mind when preparing for your road trip:

– Navigational Devices

Even the most directionally oriented person needs a little help sometimes. In addition to a GPS, you should have:

  • A paper road map
  • Printed directions
  • Travel guide

– Important Documents

Don’t forget to bring along any important documents you think you may need. The top four documents you should have with you include:

  • Your license
  • Car registration
  • Medical information, if necessary
  • Emergency phone numbers
  • Car insurance and roadside assistance contact information

– Emergency Kit

Accidents happen when you least expect it, so having an emergency survival kit is imperative.

A basic roadside emergency kit should include:

  • Non-perishable food
  • A flashlight with batteries
  • Extra cell phone with portable charger
  • Water
  • Blankets
  • A first-aid kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra coolant
  • A quart of motor oil

If you decide to travel during the summer, make sure to have at least two to three gallons of extra water with you.

— Vehicle Inspection

Neglecting to do a quick mechanical check before taking to the highway puts you at high risk, even if you own a newer car. Whether you are traveling alone or with family and friends, it’s essential that your car has a clean bill of health.

An inspection should include the following:

  • Oil – Check the oil levels and make note of when your next oil change is due, preferably before you venture out onto the highway.
  • Battery – Check your battery and make sure it is fully charged. A road trip won’t be any fun if your car doesn’t start.
  • Tires – Inspect your tires for bulges and tears in the sidewalls. Your tires should also have a good amount of tread left. If you’re in doubt, have your mechanic look to ensure that your tires are in excellent condition.
  • Brakes – Brakes that squeak can quickly become a complete loss of brake power, so make sure your brakes are in working order.

Car Insurance Requirements in Kansas

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Your car is in perfect condition, and you’ve prepared your emergency kit. Now all you need to do is get in the car and go. But do you have sufficient insurance coverage?

Kansas has a no-fault car insurance system in place, so if you’re involved in an accident, personal injury coverage (PIP) on each person’s policy will pay for medical expenses and other specific economic losses, regardless of who is at fault.

It’s important to note that this type of insurance covers anyone and everyone who is in the vehicle at the time of the accident. If your passengers have their own insurance coverage, they can file a claim under their plan.

– Liability Coverage

Kansas also requires that you have a minimum amount of liability insurance on your vehicle:

  • 25,000 per person for bodily injury for an accident caused by you or a covered driver
  • $50,000 per accident for bodily injury for an accident caused by you or a covered driver
  • $25,000 per each occurrence for any property damage resulting from an accident caused by you or another covered driver

Although these are only the minimum state requirements, you can choose a policy that has higher coverage limits.

Having increased coverage will result in higher premiums, but if you are at fault for an accident that causes injury or property damage that exceeds the other party’s PIP coverage, you will have to pay the difference.

The personal injury protection minimums in Kansas are:

  • $4,500 per person for medical expenses
  • $900 per month for one year for disability or loss of income
  • $25 per day for any in-home services
  • $2,000 for all funeral expenses
  • $4,500 for physical rehabilitation

– Additional Types of Coverage

You can also opt for others types of protection, which includes:

Even if you’re happy with your current car insurance plan, you should review it every six months and update it if there have been any significant life changes, such as marriage and divorce.

If you’re not happy and are looking for a new insurance provider, it’s a good idea to compare at least three different quotes before making a final decision. While the price is important, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

Looking for cheaper and better auto insurance? Start comparison shopping today by entering your ZIP code below!

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