The Flint Hills National Scenic Byway was Kansas’ first National Scenic Byway, and it’s an especially pretty drive in the spring.
“It brings people through this area that may have never come before,” said Charley Klamm, chairman of the byway committee. “We were born and raised with the bluestem in the Flint Hills and we love it.”
He laments that sometimes visitors speed past the prairie’s true beauty.
The overlook the rolling hills, bluestem pasture, cattle grazing certain times of the year, and the wildflowers in the spring. Stop and look down. Out here it is wide open — the grass, the vistas — you can see forever,” Klamm said.
Here’s a suggestion: Ride a bike.
Cycling the Flint Hills Scenic Byway is the best way to really experience the beauty of the country. On a bike, you’re moving slowly enough to appreciate the majestic scenery and smell the wildflowers on the breeze. On a bike you can easily stop, look down, and really see the incredible diversity of the tallgrass prairie for yourself.
As Ernest Hemingway put it: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
The scenic byway runs for about 48 miles along highway K-177 between Council Grove in the north and Cassoday in the south, and makes a great weekend bike trip.
In addition to the Flint Hills themselves, there is plenty to do along the way, including:
- Council Grove offers a number of historic sites such as the Kaw Mission State Historic Site and Museum, Council Oak, Santa Fe Trail, Old Cowboy Jail, Post Office Oak and Museum, KATY Depot, Hays House, the Last Chance Store and Kaw Nation Heritage Park.
- The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas) is the largest remaining expanse of native tallgrass prairie in North America, an ecosystem that once covered more than 400,000 square miles.
- Cottonwood Falls features the Chase County Courthouse, the oldest working courthouse in the state of Kansas, built in 1873. It’s also home to the Roniger Museum, featuring local native American artifacts, as well as the Chase County Historical Society Museum.
- You can also find the Emma Chase Cafe, which offers a Bicyclists’ Breakfast Buffet the first Sunday of every month, in Cottonwood Falls.
- The Flint Hills Gallery in Cottonwood Falls showcases the work of Flint Hills artists Ken and Judith Mackey.
- Strong City is home to several attractions, including the Prairie Fire Inn & Spa and the Strong City Depot.