Camping in Kansas?
July 16, 2010 1:02 PM   Subscribe

My 13 y/o niece and 12 y/o nephew are moving to Topeka this summer. I promised them I would take them camping this year -- now that they are moving, I'm thinking of driving up to Kansas for a long weekend this fall for a visit and taking them camping somewhere there.

What are good places to go either in Kansas or surrounding states? This would be car camping, but we like hiking, swimming, nice scenery, all the usual stuff.

The closer to Topeka the better, but it's not necessary.
posted by megancita to Travel & Transportation around Kansas (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Absolutely go to Clinton Lake. Half an hour from Topeka. Spend some time hanging out in Lawrence, too. I don't know what there is for kids there (although I'm sure there is plenty!) but the food there is great.

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posted by good day merlock at 1:07 PM on July 16, 2010

(Note: Perry Lake is also very nice, and arguably better than Clinton, although I haven't been hiking there, but it seems high waters are closing off parts of the lake and camping/hiking areas.)
posted by good day merlock at 1:14 PM on July 16, 2010

There are some beautiful locations in the Flint Hills, Southwest of Topeka. I camped on a bluff out there that had an amazing view of the surrounding ranch land and hills, but it was my friend's family land and I don't remember quite where it was. However, you should look into the state/national parks in the flint hills area.

You can't go camping on the Konza Prairie, but it is definitely worth hiking and would be on your way from Topeka to the Flint Hills area.

There is also an awesome swimming hole called Pillsbury Crossing just outside of Manhattan, which is in the same area as the Konza. A good way to spend a lazy afternoon, although it is almost always crowded in the summer.

I'm not sure about camping, but Tuttle Creek State Park, just North of Manhattan (which is about an hour West of Topeka) is beautiful.

If you are willing to drive 10 hours to Colorado, your options expand greatly.

Perry lake is indeed nice.

Clinton Lake is nice to visit, but you run a high risk of high school kids getting drunk in the woods near your site, which... ugh. There are a number of ways to access the lake, including some less known campsites on the South shore that can be relatively (or entirely) quiet.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 1:45 PM on July 16, 2010

Lone Star Lake is near Clinton Lake but a bit more out of the way and camping is allowed.
posted by cog_nate at 2:13 PM on July 16, 2010

Where are you driving "up" from? If your in TX or OK I would have the kids sent to you and go camping in the Ozarks. Kansas isn't great for camping.
posted by thylacine at 3:04 PM on July 16, 2010

I have not done this, but it sounds like fun: River Tanking in Nebraska. Basically they put a big plastic feed tank in the river, complete with tables and chairs and you just float down the river. You can search on "river tanking" to see a few sites, and I have included one here. This site has some camping options as well and looks to be 3 hours from Topeka.
posted by boulder20something at 3:33 PM on July 16, 2010

If you must camp in Kansas, I would second Clinton Lake. But as someone who grew up between Kansas City and Topeka, Kansans pretty reliably leave the state to camp. Kansas in the summer is muggy and sticky, with deer ticks, mosquitoes and brown recluses aplenty. In the Fall, the weather is unpredictable. There are plenty of lovely parts of Kansas (everyone should see the Flint Hills at sunset at least once...), but nothing is very camp friendly, especially for hikers. Clearly, I'm not a fan of camping to begin with, but if you must camp, the Ozarks is a lovely place to go. If it is more important to stay in Kansas, Lawrence would be a very cool town to visit as a pre-teen. Cool arts and music stuff, excellent cheap food of many exotic nationalities, good shopping, often fun festivals. And in the fall, it is so, so lovely on campus. But most importantly, you are not in Topeka. I say that with nothing but love.
posted by emilyclaire at 6:33 PM on July 16, 2010

I'd like to add that yes, there is much better camping in the Ozarks. You're gonna be driving a long, long time to get there, though. Really, "camping" is not an activity I would elect to do in Kansas.
posted by good day merlock at 10:36 PM on July 16, 2010

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