Outdoors

Ten great camping areas near Kansas City

A beginner's guide to camping

Doug Bryant of the Bass Pro Shops in Olathe provides tips on how to get started in camping. Video by Brent Frazee | bfrazee@kcstar.com.
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Doug Bryant of the Bass Pro Shops in Olathe provides tips on how to get started in camping. Video by Brent Frazee | bfrazee@kcstar.com.

You don’t have to drive for hours to find a place where you can pitch a tent and get away from it all.

Within an hour’s drive of downtown Kansas City, there are plenty of options. Here are some places where you can relax in the outdoors just a long cast from the metro area.

▪ BLUE SPRINGS LAKE: This U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir is only 20 minutes (17 miles) from the heart of downtown Kansas City, yet offers plenty of activities for outdoors lovers. It features 82 campsites, including 30 with full hookups. That camping area isn’t far from a reservoir known for boating, fishing, hiking and day-use areas. To reserve a campsite, go to the website makeyourdayhere.com.

▪ LONGVIEW LAKE: Longview, located in Lee’s Summit, has Jackson County’s largest public campground. The reservoir land, about a 25-minute drive (19 miles) from downtown Kansas City, offers 113 campsites, including 59 with electrical hookups. There is plenty to do here. A swim beach, the Fred Arbanas golf course, the Frank White Softball Complex, good fishing and hiking are among the drawing cards. Go to the website makeyourdayhere.com to reserve a camping spot.

▪ LAKE JACOMO: Jacomo is the granddaddy of area reservoirs. It opened in 1959, and continues to be a major Kansas City-area recreational area. Located in Lee’s Summit, only 25 minutes (21 miles) from downtown Kansas City, it is known for its fishing, sailing, hiking and day-use areas. The campground, managed by the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department, has 57 campsites, including 19 with full hookups. Go to the website makeyourdayhere.com.

▪ SMITHVILLE LAKE: Located about a half-hour drive (30 miles) north of Kansas City, Smithville Lake offers plenty places to pitch a tent or park an RV. It has two major campgrounds with a total of 777 campsites. The Crows Creek Campground has 415 sites, 82 of them with water and electrical hookups and 82 with electricity only. Camp Branch Campground offers 362 campsites, 34 of which have electrical hookups. Campers have plenty do. Smithville is well-known for its bass, crappie, white bass, walleye and catfish fishing. There also are swim beaches, two marinas, hiking and horseback trails, To reserve a campground, go to the website www.claycountymo.gov/camping.

▪ WATKINS MILL STATE PARK: This state park, located near Lawson, Mo., is popular with Kansas City campers. It is only 35 minutes (30 miles) northeast of downtown Kansas City, yet it offers a wilderness feel. A 100-acre lake provides good fishing, and a hiking trail that circles the body of water offers some great views. The campground is shaded and has 96 campsites, 74 with electric hookups. Call 877-422- 6766 for reservations or go to the website mostateparks.com.

▪ WALLACE STATE PARK: Located near Cameron, Mo., this state park is only 47 minutes (about 50 miles) from downtown Kansas City. It has both primitive and utility campsites, and visitors can hike in for more secluded places to pitch a tent. A 6-acre lake provides fishing opportunities, and hikers have four trails to choose from. Call 877-422- 6766 or go to the website mostateparks.com.

▪ HILLSDALE RESERVOIR: On the Kansas side, Hillsdale Lake is a popular destination for Johnson County residents. It is located about a 50-minute drive (44 miles) southwest of downtown Kansas City, and offers a wide range of camping opportunities. The largest campground is the Russel Crites area, with 98 sites that have water and electric hookups and another 18 for primitive camping Scott Creek is another area that RV campers find to their liking, with 60 campsites, all with full hookups. If tent camping is your preference, check out the Rabbit Ridge area, which has 30 campsites, all primitive. Hillsdale also has a campground reserved for equestrian enthusiasts. The Saddle Ridge campground has 22 sites with utility hookups and another 18 for primitive camp. To reserve a spot, go to the website reserveamerica.com.

▪ CLINTON LAKE: Located near Lawrence, less than hour drive (50 miles) from downtown Kansas City, Clinton offers plenty for the camper. It has 383 campsites, 140 with water and electrical hookups and another 74 with only water. The reservoir is popular with fishermen and boaters, and the state park offers hiking, mountain biking, an archery range, swim beach and nature trails. Go to the website reserveamerica.com to making camping reservations.

▪ PERRY LAKE: Located between Topeka and Lawrence, Perry is a popular playground for Kansas City-area residents. It is an hour west (60 miles) of Kansas City, and is known for its fishing, sailing, hiking and camping. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has campgrounds at Slough Creek, the Longview Area, Rock Creek and Old Town. Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has campgrounds in the state park. Go to the website reserveamerica.com to reserve a campsite.

▪ KNOB NOSTER STATE PARK: This park, located a little more than hour (68 miles) east of downtown Kansas City, is known for its wooded setting and its scenic Clearfork Creek. It offers something for all interests: fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and picnicking. It has primitive and improved campsites. Call 877-422- 6766 or go to the website mostateparks.com.

NOTE: Drive times and distance were calculated by googlemaps.com.

Brent Frazee: 816-234-4319, @fishboybrent

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