Explore the Great Outdoors

Kansas City’s best parks and nature sanctuaries–there’s something for everyone!

Cedar Lake Park

With some of our regular summer go-to activities canceled or altered this summer (we miss you, Royals!), we’re inspired to hit the trails this summer and explore the Great Outdoors! Here at Go Explore KC, we’ve created the FREE Great Outdoors tour to guide you and your family on amazing outdoor expeditions located across the metro map!  We’ve handpicked 10 parks and nature sanctuaries for this tour…so many great options, but where to start?!  While you are sure to find paths to explore and nature to enjoy at each of these locations, this article will give you a glimpse into what might make each park perfect for your unique adventure needs.

If you’re looking for kid-friendly places to play and explore:

Try Lakeside Nature Center,  Cave Springs, Black Hoof Park, and Antioch Park –all feature great areas or points of interest for kids!

Lakeside Nature Center:  If you’ve got some little nature-scholars in training, or even if you just love learning about nature yourself, Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park is the perfect place to learn about local nature and wildlife.  Lakeside features exhibits that teach about wildlife local to the area such as birds of prey, snakes, amphibians, turtles and more.  You’ll also find trails to explore, wildflowers, a butterfly garden, and scenic prairies and savannahs.

Black Hoof ParkFeaturing a unique dam and spillway pouring into the 35-acre deep Lake Lenexa (stocked for fishing), trails through wooded areas and open grass, and several playgrounds of varying sizes and equipment, and natural play areas for children, there’s a lot to love about this park! Lots of options for kids of all ages.

Antioch Park: A classic Johnson County go-to, especially with the littles.  Overland Park’s Antioch Park is well-known for its historic Dodge Town play area (designed to look like a mini-town right out of the wild west).  Additionally, the park features 2 fishing lakes–one of them includes stepping stones for the kids to safely cross, winding paths, tennis and basketball courts, along with additional playgrounds and shelters.  There’s a reason it’s one of the county’s most popular parks!

Cave Springs

Cave Springs: Cave Springs in Jackson County prides itself on being among one of the best places to hike in KC, and one of the top free places to take the kids in the metro area.  This hidden gem of a park features trails (including easy ones for kids), picnic areas, play areas, an interpretive center with historical displays, and yes, a small cave! Keep an eye out for “Raytown Rocks.”  This community initiative creates a treasure hunt for painted rocks located in easy-to-access areas around the park! 

If you’re on the lookout for natural beauty, wildlife sightings or hiking excursions:

Try Burr Oak Woods, Maple Woods, Line Creek Trail, and Parkville Nature Sanctuary

Burr Oak Woods:  Located in Blue Springs, this nature center features several natural beauties of our area.  Hike the steep forested hillsides, look for the large limestone boulders, marvel at the restored prairies and woodlands.  Be sure to check out the trail complex to guide you on your adventure!

Maple Woods: Catch a glimpse or listen for a tune from the songbirds in this Gladstone park.  Hike under the cool shade of the old-growth forest canopy–a National Natural Landmark! Everywhere you turn, you’ll encounter the wildlands that once dominated the area.  Keep this park on the list for the fall, too—spectacular autumn colors!

Line Creek Trail

Line Creek TrailThe countryside of Platte County is the setting for this serene and peaceful escape.  Enjoy the natural scenery and wildlife, explore the multi-use trail for hikers and bikers,  or venture near the wooded areas along the creek. The park even includes a fix-it bicycle station along the trail!

Parkville Nature Sanctuary: This lovely 115-acre nature sanctuary includes 3 miles of trails, a butterfly garden, a memorial tree grove, waterfalls, a winding stream, an old-growth forest, prairie grasses and wildflowers, and local wildlife like deer, turkeys and songbirds.  FYI-Dogs are not allowed at this park in order to preserve and protect the natural wildlife.

If you’re searching for places to picnic, play, and exercise:

Try Shawnee Mission Park and Cedar Lake Park

Shawnee Mission Park: This park is your all-in-one knockout located in the heart of Johnson County.  Featuring a large lake for fishing, boating, and paddleboarding (be sure to call ahead to reserve items), a swimming beach and marina, large shelters, trails for biking/hiking, multiple playgrounds, an archery range, an off-leash dog park and more, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most visited parks in Kansas. 

Cedar Lake Park: With 3 shelters, a playground with swings, a 67-acre lake for fishing, a winding paved path, and a sand volleyball court, this park is a perfect spot to picnic and play. Don’t miss the waterfall located at the northwest end of the lake!