Take a Hike, Kansas City!
Don't take anything with you either. Native plants, flowers and small animals all have their roles in the natural cycle. By carrying them away, you not only break the cycle, but you break the law. In fact, if you found it along the trail, consider leaving your hiking stick at the trailhead for the next hiker.
Kansas Citians are fortunate to have a good selection of hiking trails at nearby conservation areas. Here's a sampling.
James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area
The Shawnee Trace Nature Trail is tucked in the back of this 2,456-acre wildlife area. This loop trail begins and ends at the Bodarc Lake dam.
The Shawnee Trace Trail, which gets its name from an American Indian trail that passed nearby, is actually made of three interconnected, unpaved trails. All of the hiking is easy, which makes this a good family adventure.
The Big Creek Loop covers one mile along the east branch of Big Creek on the way out and then passes along a ridge on the way back. When you cross the creek, look for horsetail (scouring rush) growing in the rich soil.
The .75-mile Glade Loop runs along the top of the hill. As the name suggests, the soil is rocky and includes several treeless areas. Look for prickly pear and an old homestead along here.
The mile-long Habitat Loop crosses the creek on a swaying wooden foot bridge. Though the area is thickly forested now, a massive sycamore pops up along the trail and shows that the area was mostly open within this century. Have the kids join hands and try to reach around the trunk. It's a great break in the hiking and an opportunity to teach about trees and history.
Before leaving the area, be sure to stop in the office, which has wildlife displays, a touch table, several aquariums of native fish and turtles, vending machines and staffers who love to make conversation.
James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area is on Ranson Road, south of Highway 50 and just east of Lee's Summit in southeast Jackson County.
Burr Oak Woods
There are four trails at Burr Oak Woods and an outstanding nature center. Every hiking ability and interest will be satisfied by a visit here.
Start with the best. The Bethany Falls Trail is the showcase trail for all of Kansas City. Though only 1.3 miles, it offers some challenging hiking, so wear sensible shoes. You start with