Can’t get enough of the urban outdoors? We have many warm months ahead, so here are some “best of the rest” metro locations worth visiting.
Check their websites for directions and hours of operation.
“Here you can stare a buffalo in the eye,” a county website says. Families of elk and white-tailed deer mingle, and it’s OK to feed them apples or pears when they approach the fencing.
Your family, if lucky, will hear male elk, known as bulls, shout out to females with throaty calls that can be heard for miles.
It’s called bugling.
▪ In Blue Springs, Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area is a 1,071-acre hiking haven spared from the neighboring development of 1980s and ’90s sprawl.
Five trails as short as a half-mile, paved or covered with wood chips, take hoofers over bridges and through dense oak forest, savannas and prairie plantings. The area’s Nature Center is at 1401 N.W. Park Road.
Pets aren’t permitted.
▪ The private, nonprofit Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary is an idyllic gem tucked up in Liberty.
Funded by donations — no tax support or required fees — the 100-acre site features 4 miles of short, wooded trails, a living encyclopedia of wild birds, winding Rock Creek and impressive Nature Center.
No pets here, either. They scare the wildlife.
And if you’re caught on the grounds much after the 5 p.m. closing, you could be charged with trespassing: You’re on private land.
▪ A Worlds of Fun roller coaster can be seen from the trail head to the rugged Hidden Valley Nature Area. Heed the omen, because a journey into the valley includes steep ups and downs.
But for your trouble you’ll discover fields of orchids and ferns beneath a forest of red and white oak, sugar maple and hickory. Don’t expect leisurely; off-road vehicles have rutted some areas.
The faint of heart might at least check out the overlook, a short hike south in Hidden Valley Park near Northeast Parvin Road and Bennington Avenue.
▪ Seach Google Maps for “7310 Oakwood Drive” and discover Swope Park’s hidden constellation of trails, coiling everywhere for hikers and mountain bikers. From Oldham Road, head east toward the Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure and pick your trail head.
▪ With 9 acres of wetlands, wildlife, walkways and gardens, the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center, 4750 Troost Ave., serves as a swell starting point for a stroll ending at the south yard of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City’s outdoor centerpiece.
Parking is a snap. After circling the Discovery Center on foot, step down to the paved walk hugging the north bank of Brush Creek. Mosey west to the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden on Rockhill Road, where you’re apt to spend some time.
Then another block north to the Nelson’s sculpture park. There you can learn about the pieces through an app on your smartphone. Youngsters might prefer the glass maze.
▪ Kansas City’s century-old Roanoke Park, ringed by rocky bluffs near Karnes Boulevard and Roanoke Road, offers sports fields and walking paths.
Buffered from the din of Southwest Trafficway by cliffs and stately houses, the place is lovingly tended by four neighborhood groups on the park’s perimeter. “It’s got the coolest playground in the city,” said Heidi Downer, marketing director for Kansas City parks.
▪ Atop a treed hill surrounded by the Kansas City, Kan., business district, Huron Indian Cemetery at Seventh and Ann streets holds old graves of the Wyandot tribe, hundreds of them unmarked.
The tribe had been removed from Ohio to mostly settle on government-owned tracts in the West Bottoms. A flood in 1844 put their homes under 14 feet under water, and disease later claimed at least 100 tribe members.
The Wyandot nation had acquired parts of the burial ground before the tragedy, and it filled rapidly. For decades, generations of the community would be placed there to rest beneath still-standing tombstones.
▪ In the last 30 years, disc golf at Rosedale Park has transformed a once-declining Kansas City, Kan., public area into a whir of activity.
On rolling hills (and occasionally steep drop-offs) off Mission Road, Rosedale boasts two 18-hole courses: the often windy “Up Top” course and the calmer “Down Under,” which winds along a woody hillside.
“A favorite training ground for young Jedi,” the Kansas City Flying Disc Club calls the latter.
▪ Stretching across nearly 900 acres on the west edge of Olathe, Kill Creek Park offers a lake and swimming beach, playground, picnic spots and trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. The park entrance is south of 115th Street on Homestead Road.
About 20 acres are devoted to prairie sprouting more than 200 plant species.
And if prairie is your thing, it’s worth a short drive southeast to 135th Street and Cedar Niles Road. That’s where the 300-acre Prairie Center preserve serves up the largest prairie community in the metro area.