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Featured National Recreation Trails

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Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.

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Pioneer Nature Trail, Kansas

map of Kansas

The US Army Corps of Engineers manages this hiking trail in the Flint Hills of Kansas at at Council Grove Lake. Designated as a National Recreation Trail in 2009.

arrow Click on map or link to see detailed map of the area


photo of rangers and sign

Buffalo Wallow Loop Dedication on National Trails Day, 2006

The Pioneer Nature Trail is located at Council Grove Lake, which is a 3,310-acre lake owned and managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The trail is located three miles northwest of the Historic town of Council Grove, near the Neosho River, which is nestled in the scenic east Kansas prairie known as the Flint Hills. The 1.25 mile long trail offers many wildlife viewing opportunities due to the abundance of wildflowers, butterflies, birds, mammals, and reptiles that make their home along and in the area of the trail.

Another very interesting feature along this trail that is explained in more detail by an interpretive wayside sign that is located on the trail is the presence of buffalo wallows. The wallows were created back in the 1800’s when millions of buffalo roamed the tall grass prairie region of the United States. Some wallows were 30 feet across and more than 2 feet deep and the remnants of the wallows that remains along the trail still benefit wildlife by providing protection, nesting area to raise young, and a source of water during the rainy season.

photo of butterflie on flowers

Butterflies and wildflowers along the trail

The trail consists of two loops. The first trail loop is ¾ of a mile long and was completed in June 1981 by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas State & Extension Forestry, and Kansas Trails Council. The second trail loop “Buffalo Wallow Loop” is ½ mile long and was completed June 2006 by the US Army Corps of Engineers Park Rangers and Volunteers.

The area in which the trail is located is historical and offers many outdoor recreational opportunities. Council Grove offers an authentic old trail town experience at the crossroads of the Santa Fe Trail and Flint Hills National Scenic Byway.

A council held in 1825 between the Osage tribe and government agents gave the settlement its name. Ample water and grass and the last stand of hardwood timber between Missouri and Santa Fe helped make Council Grove the pre-eminent rendezvous point for the thousands of wagon trains traveling the Santa Fe Trail. Over twenty-four historic sites are located in Council Grove including the Kaw Mission State Historic Site & Museum and one of twelve Madonna of the Trail Monuments in the United States. Council Grove Lake where the trail is located offers outdoor recreational opportunities such as camping, boating, picnicking, hiking, and fishing to over 375,000 visitors each year.

photo of people hiking

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger conducting A nature hikE

The trail is open to walkers and is largely grass covered with a width of six feet on average. Accessibility information is available at trailhead signs. Visitors may use the trail anytine between sunrise and sunset.

Facilities at Council Grove Lake and nearby include:

For more information:

US Army Corps of Engineers
945 Lake Road, Council Grove, KS 66846
Phone: (620) 767-5195

See the Council Grove Lake website


trail noteWe frequently add NRT information, photos and maps to these pages. Send suggestions and information requests to American Trails. Research additional NRTs in the NRT database. Trail managers can update online trail information in the NRT database. You may also e-mail information on minor changes or to update Featured NRT pages.



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The on-line database has details on the currently designated National Recreation Trails. The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails:


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