Prickly Pear Nature Trail (2 miles, easy)
Located in Lee’s Summit, the Prickly Pear Trail contains a variety of rock formations that keep the hike interesting throughout. Be sure to use the trail on a dry day or else the mud will prevent you from passing certain areas. A variety of wildlife and hidden gems, such as the pond, make this trail a must-do if you’re looking for a short trek on a nice autumn day.
Directions: From I-470, take exit 11 onto Strother Road then turn right onto 83rd Street. Turn right onto N.E. Todd George Parkway, left onto Leinweber Road and stay right onto Beach Road. Park in one of the lake’s lots. The trail will be on the opposite side of the street.
Rozarks Nature Trail (4.5 miles, moderate)
Rozarks Nature Trail is proof that a moderate-difficulty trail can exist in an urban setting and even make you feel like you’re tucked away in a state park. Just off Southwest Boulevard, the trail includes some moderately steep elevation changes and sharp turns. There’s even an obstacle section of the trail dedicated to bikers or parkour, if that’s your thing. After your hike, follow the road up to the Rosedale Memorial Arch, where you’ll find killer skyline views.
Directions: From Southwest Boulevard, turn onto Rainbow Extension (near the Sonic and Home2 Suites). Take the winding road up to Park Drive. The trailhead is at the first parking lot.
Hidden Valley Park (3 miles, easy)
This three-mile trail begins in an open field but soon takes you into a beautiful, shaded woodland. Named for the valleys hidden behind the trees among the trails, this is a great smooth and easy trail to try out on a cool autumn day.
Directions: From I-29 north, take exit 6. Turn right onto Armour Road, then left onto Searcy Creek Parkway, then right on N.E. Russell Road. There will be a parking lot for the park on the left side of the road. The trail is located on the other side of Russell Road and is marked by a sign in between the rocks that line the street.
Carl L. Chinnery Nature Trail (3 miles, easy)
Unity Village is the headquarters of an international spiritualist movement founded in the late 1800s. Although it’s incorporated as a village, to the public it’s mainly a conference center with bucolic grounds, including this three-mile trail which begins just beyond the labyrinth in the parking lot. The trail is wide and mostly covered in crushed stone. It travels through thick forests and along the edge of two lakes and rolling corn fields, making it an ideal jaunt on a crisp fall day. A bonus side hike to a damp cave, called a natural bridge, is a must.
Directions: From I-470 east, take exit 7A to go north on Blue Parkway, then follow signs to go east on Unity Circle into the Village.
Gary L. Haller Trail (13.5 miles, moderate)
The beginning of this hidden gem trail can be found in Mill Creek Streamway Park in Shawnee. However, there are at least eight different access points, as the trail stretches across Shawnee, Lenexa and Olathe. The trail is completely paved with mostly flat terrain, though there are some hills here and there. There are many sights to see along the way, including heavily wooded areas, a railroad and Mill Creek. If you start at Wilder Drive, keep an eye out for the photo-worthy bridge, which you’ll see about a mile into the trail.
Directions: To start at Wilder Road access point, take I-435 west to Shawnee. Take exit 8A toward Holliday Drive. Follow signs for Mill Creek Streamway Park.
Deer Run Trail at Wallace State Park (2.1 miles, moderate)
About forty-five minutes out of the city, Wallace State Park—and its centerpiece, Lake Allaman—is a quiet and serene getaway. Deer Run Trail loops just over two miles—three if you decide to take the Deer Creek outlet, which was closed when I was there due to bridge issues. Cool off after your hike by dipping your feet in the lake, which is plenty clean and filled with anglers.
Directions: Take I-35 north about 45 minutes. Take exit for US-69 toward Lawson/Cameron. Take a left on 121, which will take you into the park. Follow signs to the lake.