Trail Running in Wichita
As a runner and triathlete, I thought I knew all the best places to run in Wichita. I had routes with shade, a couple with hills, and I knew which ones had water stops and access to restrooms. They were also all on sidewalks or paved paths. Then I met my husband, who’s an ultrarunner (he runs distances longer than a marathon), and he introduced me to the world of trail running. I had no idea what I’d been missing!
I love running on trails because the uneven terrain keeps your attention and helps build strength. Dirt and gravel paths cause less impact on your feet, knees and ankles than pavement, making long runs a little more comfortable for a masters-age (which is a nice way of saying 40+) runner like myself.
But my favorite thing about trail running is the ever-changing scenery and the peaceful atmosphere. I much prefer the sound of birds to noisy vehicle traffic, and tree-lined paths provide a nice canopy of shade and a break from the infamous Kansas wind.
While I haven’t personally explored them all (yet), here are some of the best places in Wichita to give trail running a try. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been running for years, why not head out for a few miles on one this weekend?
Air Capital Memorial Park Singletrack
Located just south of Kellogg between Tyler and Maize Road, Air Capital Memorial Park is made up of three loops with varying distance and difficulty. The North Loop is .4 miles with no switchbacks (sharp turns), so it’s a good beginner trail. The East Loop is also .4 miles, but it has a lot of rocks and broken concrete that make it more technical. The West Loop is 1 mile and has smoother terrain but a lot of switchbacks. Each loop is clearly marked, and there are directional signs for mountain bikers and runners/hikers. There are no restrooms or water fountains, but there’s a QuikTrip just down the road at Kellogg and Maize Road.
Santa Fe Lake Singletrack Trail (Augusta)
Even though it’s not technically Wichita, the trails at Santa Fe Lake in Augusta are only a short drive outside the city. Located five miles east of Andover and a mile and a half north of Highway 400, you can find a total of nearly 8 miles of singletrack and dirt roads. The North Trail is about 1.7 miles and is fairly flat, so it’s good for beginners. A new 5.7-mile singletrack section south of the access road just opened up in 2016. Both trails can be accessed from the south parking area, and there’s a $6-day use fee, or you can get a $40 yearly pass. These trails are also popular with mountain bikers but horses aren’t allowed.
Between Woodlawn and 159th Street in east Wichita, the Redbud Trail has a portion of its rails to trails path that has not yet been paved. It’s located between 13th and 21st Streets, and the road crossings are unmarked, so use caution. The trail can be accessed from the north Waterfront parking lot, next to Eastminster Presbyterian Church. If you run east from there, you don’t have to cross Rock and Webb roads.This 5-mile section of east-west trail is lined with trees in many places, which provides shade and a block from the wind. There are gas stations a half mile to the north on 21st street that can easily be accessed for water and restrooms. The path is paved east of 159th and extends past Andover Road, and a paved section west of Woodlawn extends all the way to I-135. Terrain varies, but much of it is small rocks, so trail shoes are advised.
Prairie Sunset Trail
Prairie Sunset Trail in west Wichita, there’s a longer section of rails to trails that runs from Maize Road just south of Kellogg, past Goddard to Garden Plain. The 12.5-mile trail is crushed limestone so it’s comfortable to run on. The path is straight and there isn’t a lot of elevation change, so it’s a good option for beginners. Horses and bikers may be encountered on the trail, so be alert. This is a more secluded path where you’ll encounter more wildlife than cars, and road crossings are not as busy as the ones on the Redbud Trail.
Pawnee Prairie Park
Just south of Air Capital Memorial Park likes Pawnee Prairie Hose & Nature Park. Access is from Tyler just south of Pawnee, but there is more trail access from Pawnee about half a mile east of Maize Road. A paved path runs between the two entrances, with restrooms at either end. A water fountain is available near the Tyler entrance. Currently, the paved path is open to foot traffic only, and there are horse trails that branch off of it. In the future, bikes may also be allowed in the park, but that’s currently up for debate. We didn’t explore every inch of trail in our test run to confirm mileage, but the sign near the Tyler entrance said 4.76 miles.
There are a lot more places for trail running around Wichita. Many mountain biking trails are also open to runners, and the International Mountain Biking Association has a free tool called MTBProject that can be accessed online and via an app for iPhone and Android. It includes trail maps, photos, amenities, and even trail conditions.
Many of the trails in Wichita are maintained by volunteer groups who work hard to keep them cleared, maintained, and free of trash. Consider spending a few hours helping out Kansas Singletrack Society, Prairie Travelers, or Andover Augusta Rail Trail Initiative (AARTI).