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↑ 3,700 ft
↓ 2,700 ft
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4.86 out of 5
About This Trail
added by dmbernasconi Granny Gear on July 10, 2009
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The mountain bike trail is a clockwise stacked loop system. It begins at the trailhead (go left at kiosk) in Switchgrass Campground with the Golden Belt Loop (aka, gold), then the Marina Loop (aka, purple), and finally the Hell Creek Loop (aka, red). If you wanted to ride all the loops in order, you’d ride Gold – Purple – Red – Purple – Gold. Begin at the trailhead on the Gold, then intersect with the Purple, then ride the Red. After completing the Red, you get back on the Purple. Completing that, you are back on the Gold. That’s about 22 miles all of which is great singletrack. If needed, the trail is never far from a bailout to a paved road back to the trailhead. Plan on 2-4 hrs depending on biking skill and how much sightseeing you might want to do. The loop record for racing is 1:40.
The novice level (EZ) loop is a 2-mi clockwise loop or 5-mi if you add the optional Bird Loop. EZ also starts and ends at the Switchgrass trailhead (go right at kiosk). It is non-technical with no climbs, no deep sand, and very few rocks. It is about a 20-40 minute ride suitable for beginners. But, EZ is a genuine mountain bike trail, so don’t expect a paved path!
Runners and hikers, if you want to try an awesome 3-mile section, start under the west end of the Hell Creek bridge, and do the Hell Creek loop. Any of the remainder of the trail system is also great for running or hiking. Just remember that bikes go clockwise and foot traffic goes counterclockwise. Watch out for trail user traffic, and be very cautious making the 4 pavement crossings within the park.
This trail has some technically difficult sections in all the loops (except EZ). Most of the trail is moderate to easy, but there are several rocky sections, deep sand, arduous climbs, highly exposed ledges, and steep drops. On average, the trail is rated blue (intermediate riders), but there are black (expert only) sections interspersed, and an ample amount of green (any rider).
The trail is open year-around, spring and fall are best, but there are many great days for riding in the winter and early mornings are spectacular for riding in the summer months. Many sections of the trail are very close to the lake shore, which can make for a refreshing stop during the summer. There is no drinking water or restroom on the trail, except at the Trailhead. All park restrooms have showers, but are closed October-March. Cell phone coverage is about 75%.
Short cutting the trail will almost certainly result in exposure to poison ivy, which can cause an allergic reaction even in winter. If you stay on the trail, you need not worry about poison ivy. Pets are allowed on the trail but must be under control at all times. If you encounter a maintenance issue on the trail that needs attention, please call the trail coordinator.
If you want to observe natural beauty amongst the rust-colored Cretaceous Dakota Sandstone cliffs and outcrops, this trail is the place. The park was created from former grazing land and on this trail you’ll see many limestone fence posts that are historical remnants of the early ranching era of this land. Furthermore, private land just outside the park is still actively used for cattle ranching. Southshore Drive meanders through spectacularly scenic native rangeland and a favorite of local motorcycle tourists.
Watch out for wildlife in the summer, particularly herptiles on the trail – the ornate box turtle, horned lizard, racerunner, skink, legless lizard, collared lizard, and several species of snakes are all common during warm weather. Rattlesnakes are present in the park, most are a petite species known as the massasauga or pigmy rattler. It is unlawful to harass, kill, or injure wildlife in the park. Take care not to run over any critters on the trail.
You might also see wild turkey, deer, bobwhite quail, pheasant, red-tailed hawk, and many species of grassland songbirds such as larks and sparrows. The wildflowers and grasses are a spectacular part of the park’s natural landscape. Every season is different. Wildflowers show a constant progression of colors from early spring to late fall. Winter colors are vibrant rusts, browns, and golds set against the blue water of the lake. The Switchgrass Trail is named after a native prairie grass that is common throughout the central and eastern plains. Switchgrass grows abundantly in the park and has gained national attention as a prospective source of cellulosic ethanol.
The best source of info on the trail is http://www.facebook.com/switchgrasstrail
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Recent Trail Check-ins
14 check-ins
3 weeks ago
on Nov 12, 2014
on Oct 26, 2014
on Oct 2, 2014
on Sep 20, 2014
ryno131 on December 16, 2014
0 out of 0 readers found this useful
Review: My favorite trail in Kansas. I have three younger boys, and this is where they want to go riding every weekend.

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b699305 on December 1, 2014
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Review: Was really nice trail. Great for all levels of riding. The signs can be a little confusing, but no chance of ever getting lost. I learned stay to left at the trails for the full ride. Nice place, will return. Make sure to have $5 for parking.

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f2.5 on November 8, 2014
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Review: Epic. Great great trails. Some very technical rock gardens, flowy singletrack made for speed, beatiful vistas. Couldn't ask for anything more. I will be back to ride Switchgrass every time I'm in the area.

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Schmo on October 28, 2014
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Review: I read the reviews. I've seen the pictures. I studied the TOPO map. I had no idea how spectacular this trail is. You can get overwhelmed with the view from each new hilltop. This trail has everything a mountain biker wants out of a trail. Rock crawling , tight switchbacks , sand traps , dirt & roots , rock bluffs , fast downhill , open prairie , timber , loose gravel , and canyon cruising. Just make sure you carry lots of liquid. This trail will suck it out of you fast. Low tire pressure will help in the sand and over the rocks. I ran about 28 lbs. on my 26" and did quite well.

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Gdb49 on October 7, 2014
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Review: First off I gave it 5 stars, so any criticism is for the next traveler to have an even better experience. This is a pure cross country trail, if you are looking for gnarly tech there are better places. But if you are looking for an awesome cross country experience then this is the place. Not enough trail for me to call it a destination stop, because you can comfortably ride the entire trail system in 3 hours- definitely worth a lap or 3. Add the camping and fishing and it becomes a better all around destination trip. Camp sites are well maintained and nice, the lake has great fishing, and you can easily do a couple laps without getting tired of the scenery. The EZ trail is a true beginner gem and will make your novice rider very happy. The Gold trail has a fair amount of tech, but if you take the "C" cut off you can ride with multiple different levels of riders and minimize the walking. They will only walk about 20ft and have to wait a few minutes- experienced riders don't miss this section- very fun and smartly put together! All trails are very ridable, with beginners needing to walk 10ft to bypass several drops and may need to finish a few hill walking their bikes. All 3 loops offer unique riding experience and if they ever add some more trails, maybe totaling 50 miles, this would be one of the great bike destinations. I live in Colorado and ride throughout the state and can tell you that this place holds its own against any of them. IMBA at it's best and a big thank you to the gentleman who maintains the trail- leave money in the donation box, he does it as a volunteer. Strava had it at 23.6 miles and 1249ft elevation gain. Rate this as an intermediate level trail, with a few spot that are bordering on advanced. Lots of water and snacks!

Similar Trail: Curt Gowdy

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Bruce Glassinger on August 30, 2014
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Review: I don't have anything to compare it to since this was the first time EVER I've mountain biked...I've ridden a mountain bike and jumped a few curbs but clearly not even close to what I experienced today...and I only rode the gold and EZ course. Sad to say, I was slightly relieved when the terrain smoothed out. Haha! On my way back to Olathe i stopped in Lawrence and rode Clinton Lake's blue trail. Switchgrass was way better!

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shockerdad on August 6, 2014
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Review: This trail system will give you all you want in a challenging workout. Hell's Creek is crazy riding the cliffs above the water and the gorges. The Marina trail has some serious climbs and descents and some beautiful lake views. Well worth the drive, hard to believe what you find out on the prairie!

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Fit4Life28 on July 12, 2014
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Review: If the temperature is 100 outside then this trail would be very fun. It is put together very well and provides good flow throughout. A lot of thought and work was applied when routing this trail to really use the terrain to keep it interesting. Great variety of loops to appease every riding level.

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tlongpine on June 26, 2014
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Review: Sadly, someone rode nearly all of this trail following rain and did a considerable amount of deep damage to the trail system. There is also evidence of recent motorized activity on this system.

The soil on this trail is very fragile.

If you witness any such breeches of trail ethic please notify park staff to prevent further damage.

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swimdusty on May 11, 2014
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Review: IMBA rated epic trail. Now 26 miles long. Wilson lake state park rated one of top three in Kansas. I think it's the best trail in Kansas, hands down. Tough trail though, not for the novice. Look to Golden Belt Bike in Great Bend our Bike Tek in Salina for support.

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Guest on April 29, 2014
0 out of 0 readers found this useful
Review: This is one of my favorite trail. It's awesome. Thanks

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dgw2jr on April 14, 2014
1 out of 1 readers found this useful
Review: My wife and I rode here back in January on a beautiful 70° day. This is now one of my favorite trail systems. I did not expect to find this much gnar and flow in Kansas of all places.

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Guest on February 14, 2014
1 out of 1 readers found this useful
Review: Fantastic all the way around. This truly is an Epic Trail.

Similar Trail: Have not seen one yet

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John Fisch on December 2, 2013
1 out of 1 readers found this useful
Review: This is a superb trail system in the middle of the prairie! The trail does wind back and forth to the point of getting a little dizzy, but many of the zigs and zags aren't just random switches to add mileage, but rather there to reel in as many of the rock formations as possible. Somebody did a fantastic job of finding all these outcrops and incorporating them into the trail. Other than the EZ loop, this is definitely not a beginner zone. I'm glad I made the trip from Colorado to his this one.

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jimcummings on August 26, 2013
0 out of 0 readers found this useful
Review: The jewel in the Kansas crown. Wonderful riding and camping - and you can finish off your day with a swim in the lake.

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dcteater on August 24, 2013
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Review: I cannot top the description on the initial page. I have to agree with all of it that I know. And hope I can experience more of it as described. Planning another trip now. Rode some of this trail on the afternoon ofSunday this past Memorial Day Weekend 2013. Took my significant other but we got a late start and did not get there until the afternoon. Got too hot to continue. Saw a lot of small lizards and birds. It was very windy that day, but it was a hot wind and it made the ride very uncomfortable. It was a beautiful ride and although a bit confusing at first, the trail marking system is very comprehensive and well marked.

Similar Trail: Buffalo Gap in Medora, ND was a bit like this in terms of terrain and types of plants.

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breed007 on April 2, 2013
2 out of 2 readers found this useful
Review: A jewel of a trail system tucked away in an unexpected location. Brilliantly designed and meticulously maintained. And best of all, due to it's location, never crowded. A must stop for any trip west along I-70.

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CFM on October 23, 2012
0 out of 0 readers found this useful
Review: Top prize for most comprehensive description!!! As for the trail . . . an amazing ride on very twisty singletrack with a good dose of rock challenges and exposure along the lake. It is simply amazing how much trail is layed out in this open exposed area. And built in a sustainable fashion that makes it extremely fun to ride. The only downside to our ride was the presence of goatheads! We had no sealant in our tires and suffered 3 flats before we were half way around so be warned to prepare better. It would be a shame if you let this keep you away, however. You absolutely MUST experience this trail.

Similar Trail: Swope Park in Kansas City, Brand Trails in Moab

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RoadWarrior on July 1, 2012
0 out of 0 readers found this useful
Review: Some sweet single-track in the middle of KS. Wonderful mix of flow, and technical sections. These kinds of trails are what dropper seat posts are all about. Also very scenic. A tremendous amount of work went into designing these trails. There is shade there; it's called "Lone Tree". There is some shade on the EZ Loop. EZ loop makes for a fun cool down at the end of the ride. Showers at the TH "YES"

Similar Trail: McCoy Flats in Vernal UT

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jeff on June 28, 2012
1 out of 1 readers found this useful
Review: Incredible trail system is an unexpected location. Solid camping and trailhead facilities, this seems like a great trail for races and MTB festivals. Fun times.

Similar Trail: Similar to many trails in Colorado (seriously).

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dvon2005 on June 25, 2012
0 out of 0 readers found this useful
Review: This trail is great.

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Greg Heil on June 5, 2012
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Review: The fact that this trail, this lake, this topography, and this scenery exists in the middle of kansas blows my mind! These trails range from smooth and flowy to really tight and very technical with serious consequences if you crash. Yes, exposure is the name of the game, and with exposure comes some cool scenery... Just don't spend TOO much time looking at it! If you are driving past on I-70, you owe it to yourself to stop and ride this trail system!

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tlongpine on September 20, 2011
1 out of 1 readers found this useful
Review: This is the best trail in Kansas, and one of the best trails I've ridden in the country.

This trail is a hidden gem in the middle of nowhere.

It offers fantastic lake views as the trail winds up and down rolling hills and bluffs. Rocks, roots, and some surprising slickrock stretches makes for non-stop fun an features.

If you're passing by on I-70 don't skip this one. It deserves IMBA Epic status.

EDIT: It has been awarded IMBA Epic Status. Bravo!

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stevethousand on September 6, 2011
0 out of 0 readers found this useful
Review: Excellent trail with many challenging features. The soil is sandy, crunchy, and rocky, and there are small cactii just off the trail. There are three different loops you can take with multiple bail out points onto the road. There are showers and campsites near the trailhead. The scenery is gorgeous and the trail uses every inch of the Hell's Creek peninsula area at Wilson Lake, doubling back on itself over and over again. Next time I head back, I'm going to go tubeless because of thorns. If you live in Manhattan, the drive is about an hour and forty five minutes. Can't wait til I can go back.

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derekscott8130 on July 11, 2011
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Review: Best in Kansas...nothing else touches it! Very scenic and challenging.

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Sucio_Sanchez on May 19, 2011
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Review: If you are headed across Kansas on I-70 en route to your mountain bike vacation, you've GOT to put this place on your riding agenda. It's out in the middle of no where, but only a few minutes north of I-70. As of 2011, it costs less than $5 to enter the park and you're given access to over 20 miles of the flowiest, fastest and techy singletrack you could desire. The builders of this trail have done an amazing job of creating what mountain bikers crave: flow, tech, scenic beauty and speed. Hats off to them for their hard work, as it looks like they've been quite busy on this trail system. Even better, the trail is very well marked. So the first-time rider can hop on here and enjoy the ride without the worry of a matrix of intersections or the risk of getting lost. A word of caution, this area is exposed. And I don't mean shade is rare. I mean you won't find so much as a single square foot of shade on the entire stretch unless you're under a rock. So ride smart. Don't be afraid to wear some sunblock in the summer. And, obviously, bring at least 50% more fluids than you would normally drink on a 20 mile ride in the trees. I'm sure winter riding can be pretty chilly, too, as the winds out here blow pretty steady all year. Morning & evening rides are probably you're best best. Wilson Lake will entertain you. And if you don't walk away from this trail thinking it was well worth your time, then you will never be impressed with any trail. And even if you live within 4 hours of Wilson Lake, don't be afraid to make an overnight road trip out of this trail with a few buddies. There is plenty of affordable lodging in nearby Russell (about 15 miles west of Wilson) as well as a really cool and fully restored hotel in Wilson called the Midland Railroad Hotel (414 26th Street, Wilson, KS 67490 ). This place beats the run-of-the-mill Super-Econo-Mega-8 type motels by far. And right across the street from the Midland Railroad Hotel is a cozy little grocery store, a liquor store and a diner....what more could you ask for?! The town of Russell will have more of the familiar amenities us city-types are used to but even the Midland Railroad Hotel has Wi-Fi so it isn't like they're living in the dark ages or anything. As for your bike shops, the closest shop you'll find is the Golden Belt Bicycle Company, located in Great Bend about 40 minutes away (1111 Main Street, Great Bend, KS 67530-4431 tel: (620) 793-7060). Whether you're passing thru this area or making it an overnight roadtrip, you gotta check this place out. I came in from Kansas City and it was well worth the drive. Here are some pics I took during a photo-hike: http://s271.photobucket.com/albums/jj130/AdrenalineImages/Wilson%20Lake%20Kansas%20Spring%202011/?albumview=slideshow

Similar Trail: Well, there isn't much else within several hours of here so not much. ;)

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KansasMTBer on September 16, 2010
0 out of 0 readers found this useful
Review: Clockwise from trailhead

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KansasMTBer on September 16, 2010
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Review: This trail has abit of everything, steep climbs, lots of switchbacks, rock decents, super fast down hills. You would never guess you were in Kansas. Several new sections have been added in the past year. Total length is just over 17 miles. It will take a very good rider 2 hours to ride the full loop. * Review edited 9/16/2010

* Review edited 9/16/2010

Similar Trail: Fancy Creek Horizon

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markgowan on May 26, 2010
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Review: I really enjoyed this trail! Great singletrack, technical climbs, rolling hills, great views, and well kept trails. The camp site is also wonderful. There is an easy loop that was great for my mountain unicycle, and the total loop was a great ride for the mountain bike. I would recommend doing this in May maybe June, but I suspect it would get pretty hot as the trail is not covered. I was the only one on the trail when I rode. The club there does a nice job keeping the trail up. Kudos!

Similar Trail: Council Bluff, Fancy Creek

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Switchgrass MTB Trail 4.86 out of 5 based on 29 ratings. 29 user reviews.
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Trail Features
  • Lift Service
  • Drinking Water
  •   Night Riding
  • Pump Track
  • Restrooms
  • Winter Fat Biking
Trail Conditions
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