Take a Hike, Kansas City!
a gentle climb through a lowland forest, where you'll pass the foundations of settlers' cabins. The trail gets its name from the outcropping of Bethany Falls limestone it passes over, under and through. Bring your camera for some interesting shots. Markers along the trail identify history and topography.
The longest trail here is the 1.5-mile Wildlife Habitat Trail. This loop trail takes you through various habitat and scenery. You'll pass through uplands and bottomlands, over creeks, past ponds and glades and along more Bethany Falls limestone. Some of the inclines are moderately steep. A shortcut trail along the bubbling creek shaves half a mile off the hike.
Two trails near the nature center offer hiking opportunities for those who prefer pavement. To the west of the building is the Missouri Tree Trail. This .8-mile, paved loop trail includes a photoblind, a bridge across a pond and a deck that overlooks a glade. The Discovery Trail immediately behind the building is also a paved loop trail, but it has some steep inclines. Look for a short spur off the trail that crosses a creek. Even on the hottest days, you'll enjoy an appreciable drop in temperature here.
Burr Oak Woods is on Park Road, west of Highway 7, just north of Blue Springs in Jackson County.
Maple Woods Natural History Area
The vigorous development of northern Kansas City surrounds the 39 wild acres of this little park. A clearly defined, mile-long loop trail takes hikers through a dense forested area filled with bird song. Maple Woods is the largest remaining stand of virgin maple trees west of the Mississippi. How surprising that such an unspoiled area is located right in the middle of suburbia!
The trailhead is beside a parking lot on 76th Street. You begin your hike by crossing a wooden bridge, and then you are faced with a choice. You can take the steep trail to the right or the more moderate one to the left. Each is an end of the same trail, so whichever you choose will eventually bring you back to the trailhead.
Along the way you'll pass a couple of short spurs you can take to explore further into the dense forest. Don't be surprised, though, to spot the houses of new subdivisions peeking through the trees when the trail takes you close to the perimeter of the area.
A short cutoff trail halves the distance of your hike, but since the entire trail is only a mile long, you might choose the cutoff so you can make a figure-8 hike.
Expect some moderately steep¿g and some serious mud in wet weather. Be sure to bring along your tree guide.
Maple Woods Natural History Area is within the city of Gladstone in northern Kansas City. It is on 76th Street, west of Antioch Road in Clay County.
Bluffwoods Conservation Area
For a fun day-trip, make the drive to Bluffwoods Conservation Area. The two hiking trails here offer a moderate challenge to the hiker.
The Lone Pine Trail is the longer of the two. Its overall length depends on the various spurs you might take. The trailhead is in the bottomland, near an old cemetery. Go to the left and you quickly begin a moderately steep ascent as the trail mounts and follows a ridge. On the way up, you'll hike along an old road that has been worn nearly 10 feet below the surrounding ground in some areas.
Along the ridge you'll find persimmons galore in season and dozens of varieties of wildflowers. Once you reach the ridge, make sure to take the spur to the north. Not only will you see the massive, gnarled pine that names this trail, but you'll reach a bluff with a dizzying view of miles of open bottomland.
On your return, you can choose the loop trail back to your car or a second spur that takes you along a creek and another old road. If you go this way, though, you must retrace your steps to get back to the trailhead.
The Forest Nature Trail is in another part of the area, running from and to a picnic shelter. The trail is gently sloped and allows a pleasant, short hike through both forest and grassland.
Bluffwoods Conservation Area is nine miles south of St. Joseph on Highway 59 near the town of Halls in Buchanan County.
See you on the trail!