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Hike the Carnahan Creek Park Loop

Olsburg, Kansas



8 miles

Elevation Gain

250 ft

Route Type



Added by Landon Ochsner

This is a secluded park with hidden campsites and miles of scenic trails-- only 30 minutes from Manhattan. Free camping and lengthy trails make this park a prime spot for a weekend getaway. 

Carnahan Creek Park is located 20 miles north of Manhattan, Kansas near the historic Carnahan Church on the north shore of Tuttle Creek Reservoir. This secluded park offers visitors free camping in many roadside campsites, as well as remote campsites only accessible through scenic forest and prairie hikes. Trails throughout the park allow visitors to trek through nearly eight miles of dense lakeside forest and spacious tallgrass prairie blanketing the region's famous Flint Hills. When the water level is high, much of the park's roads are inaccessible, but campsites and trails within the park are not usually affected. The high water creates marshes that are great for kayaking and fishing, activities usually not possible when the water level is low. 

Carnahan Creek Park is owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers and maintained by Pottawatomie County, however camping in the park differs from many other Corps owned campgrounds-- very few amenities are available at roadside campsites, and none are available at dispersed sites along the trails. Roadside sites are furnished with grills, picnic tables and pit toilets in the relative vicinity, while trailside sites have only a fire ring. The lack of amenities gives the park a natural feel that is often lost in larger, more popular campgrounds. The most secluded campsite is located near the summit of the central hill and is out of view from all roads leading to and within the park. The seclusion provides a feeling of natural solitude, something that is often hard to come by when camping in Kansas. 

Trails within the park loop a central hill and provide an in-depth experience of the region's unique ecosystem. The trails begin at multiple posted, easily recognizable trailheads throughout the park and are marked with blue or white ribbons along their lengths to help hikers navigate the area. As the trails enter wooded areas, their paths become obvious on the worn forest floor, however, navigating prairie lengths requires following the ribbons. Portions of the trails, especially in the forested areas, can be hazardous and exceptionally muddy during times of high rain, but this provides hikers the unique opportunity to witness the park's many small streams and springs. Other hazards along the trails include steep slopes and fallen debris. Hikers can summit the park's central hill and see for miles in all directions with very scenic views of the surrounding prairie and lake. 

Due to the park's remote nature, no services or stores are available in the area, so pack all food and supplies you'll need before you get there.  

The park is also the trailhead for Carnahan Creek Trail, a 30 mile out-and-back trail on the shore of the lake. 

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Dog Friendly
Picnic Area

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