The Flint Hills are a favorite destination for hikers, amateur photographers, bird-watchers, stargazers and sunset revelers. The picture postcard landscape is home mostly to cattle ranchers, since the flint that gave the region its name proved unyielding to the plow.
Forget the GPS and use DeLorme’s Kansas Atlas & Gazetteer to plot a “blue highways” and rock backroads tour through the spectacular rolling, rocky hills that are home to North America’s largest remaining stand of virgin tallgrass prairie. Just make sure you have sturdy tires and a spare in the trunk.
Wildlife abounds, from wild mustangs on private pastures to wild bison at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Strong City. And yes, antelope roam, as do bobcats, wild turkeys, prairie chickens and meadowlarks. Folding lawn chairs, a cooler and binoculars are must-have accessories for Flint Hills cruising. And go ahead and top the tank off whenever you pass a gas station – the distances between them can be vast, and it ruins the fun of being lost in the hills if the needle on the gas gauge is sinking toward “E.”
History buffs will want to read up on the area’s Civil War and westward trails sites before a visit. If you’re into vintage collectibles, just about any medium-size town on the map will have an antiques or vintage store full of interesting things.
Drive the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway, a 47-mile stretch of Kansas 177 from Council Grove to Cassoday that recently made Smarter Travel’s list of 10 iconic drives in the U.S. The northern stretch of 177 from Manhattan to Council Grove offers equally breathtaking vistas.
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