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Level: Intermediate
Length: 22 mi (35.4 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Loop
Elevation: +1,115/ -836 ft
Total: 189 riders

Mountain Biking Switchgrass

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#1 of 88 mountain bike trails in Kansas
#51 in the world

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

First added by dmbernasconi on Jul 11, 2009. Last updated May 11, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
From I-70, take exit 206 north about 5.5 miles to Wilson State Park. Go west on Shoreline road across the bridge then turn into Wilson State Park at the sign. There is an entrance fee for the state park, its less then $5/vehicle (varies with season). Continue into state park to Switchgrass Campground.
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Switchgrass Trail map

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Local Info

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Trail conditions

Good (on May 23, 2021)
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Camping & Lodging

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Switchgrass videos

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Wilson Lake KS Marina Loop Part…
Hell Creek Loop @ Switchgrass Mountainbike…
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Rider questions

Q: How are the riding conditions at Wilson Lake? We got a ton of rain Kansas City overnight.
A: I was out there yesterday, for the first time, and the trails were fine where I rode. I didn't ride the whole thing though. I didn't run into any mud at all.

Q: Is it open today may 13,2016?

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  • Daniel Lopez K

    An excellent MB course for those stuck in the middle of Kansas like me. It Possesses technical sections that can challenge experienced riders, as well as sections that beginners will enjoy. Highly recommend if you are in the area!

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  • c-hawkzROLL

    I've been excited to ride switchgrass for a few years. This weekend I made the 4 hour drive down. Like others have said ,if you can avoid the heat that would be best. It trails were very well taken care of and marked. It is a beautiful area for sure. I think the trail was a little more than my bike could handle. ( And maybe me a bit to). I have a hard tailgate xc bike 100mm travel, with 29x 2.0 tires. There are alot of rocks along the path and I never was able to have any good flow. It would be much easier with full suspension and a wider tire. When I upgrade to a new bike....hopefully soon... I will definitely make another trip down and ride it again. .

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  • Rmhchs

    Very well maintained . . . Great scenery

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  • Midmoab

    Granted we rode in 100 degree heat....but I did not find this trail to be all too interesting. We rode the eastern hell creek loop. Although I am sure that with multiple rides and more familiarity one could really fly, we did not have that advantage. The terrain is relatively similar throughout. A narrow dirt and flint path with long grass on both sides, some drops and flowing ups and downs. Not much variety, not many obstacles, no shade, no trees. If I were in the area I would ride it again, but I would not make this a travel destination.

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  • claudepotter

    I made the trip here last summer and it was an amazing time. This trail is marked out well and maintained well also. It has a little bit of everything on a ride, smooth sections, rock gardens, sand, and some nice views. This is a staple on my list for every summer now, it is worth the weekend trip for me.

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  • halfdome

    Parts are so overgrown that it affects the shifting

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  • ITP78

    Well worth the trip from KC.

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  • PHRANQUY   ✓ supporter

    A fun beginner to intermediate level trail system with some more advanced features (drops, rock gardens, exposure) thrown in for good measure. Lots of short cuts that direct you back to the trailhead in case you feel it's time to return to your vehicle.

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  • rottshower2

    Fun trail for Kansas. Presents challenges for all levels of riders.

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  • DCLamp

    Great trails no doubt about it. If youre thinking about doing some bikepaking or just like camping stay for a night or two. Getting through all 22.5 miles is not for the faint of heart, this trail will challenge everything you know about yourself as a rider, mechanic and internal toughness. This place will awe you with its beauty and make you earn every mile of it. This aint no cheap date. So much fun and if you camp dont find a spot by yourself, you could miss out on missing out on a new riding buddy.

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  • Jason Liske

    Switchgrass is an IMPA Epic trail, or at least still in their hall of fame, hard to keep track [IMBA]. I haven't flowed a ton of EPICs yet though I've ridden quite a few MT trails in my time. What I found was tons of twisty fun, solid singletrack with some patches of new school flow. The rock garden portion has something for the more advanced [Golden Belt Loop], while most of the trail is oriented towards the intermediate rider. The turns are so frequent on some of the portions that I wonder if burm-ing would help on a few sections. I found the hell creek section to the East the most fun. Bird walk to the West is all flat and SUPER turny-turny. Like a cornering clinic. Golden Belt is honest single track with some intermediate to advanced rock garden section. If advanced rock gardens aren't your thing take the C3 shortcut and get about the same EPIC loop mileage without the emergency room visit.

    I was unlucky hitting this late summer with temps around 100º and 30MPH winds, the week prior it was 80º so I would guess in the spring and fall or on a good summer day it would be a great ride. Or on a cooler summer weekend. If you are driving through on the interstate it is worth a stop and don't forget to check the Micro brewery in Sylvan Grove [open thurs-sat, 2015]. We stayed in the state park campground and had no problems getting a spot on the lake for a good swim to recover the legs. Happy trails!

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  • trek is amazing

    fun track lots of hills and sand. my second favorite trail. This trail is my personal favorite. Watch out for snakes. I have seen about 5 out there on the trail.

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  • asparks65

    Nice trail. Nothing super about it but I was impressed that Kansas has a nice single track trail. It flows in and out and all over itself. Plenty of lava like rocks that will test your technical riding. Not sure it's up to the IMBA epic status though. If you're in the area it's definitely worth stopping as its close by the interstate. The campground is really nice and there are free showers (after you pay the $5 gate fee) to use after your ride if you're traveling!
    If you're a racer you could knock the 22 miles out in 90min or so. It's an easy 2hr ride nonetheless. Kudos to the trail builders and maintenance peeps!

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  • dmcewin

    Awesome trail system. Spent the 4th weekend out there. Everyone was super friendly thanks to the park ranger for giving a ride back to the truck. Had a ruff weekend on the bike. 3 flats after I busted my bead off my tubeless. Some bigger drops than I would have liked my first time around. But would tackle almost all of them next time.

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  • Niko Rivera

    I only give this 4 stars because I can only imagine some trails could be better and I haven't ridden that many places. That said, this course is difficult and very technical at times, i probably stepped off/took a break around 10 times but it super fun and worth it. Some areas are difficult, but you can always walk them. Other sections flow for a long time, with some lovely riding along ridges that overlook the lake. This trail was pretty badass overall, we just camped on the lake that night... It also sheds water pretty quickly, we rode it in mist/light rain/over-cast weather but the trail held up fine

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  • getgreedy

    EPIC is right! Wow. This trail (particularly the rock garden) kicks my A**. This trail is a blast and incredibly scenic along the waters edge. You ride on top of sandstone bluffs 20 plus feet above the lake. Great views and good times. There are 3 plus foot rock drops keep you on alert. Incredible trail for Kansas.

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  • floSoulo

    What a surprise! Didn't show up to Hell Creek for the biking, but it was outstanding! Climb and flow down hills with a near empty, rolling horizon. There were some rocky spots with drops too big for my body, I mean Bike! I'm sure with time, I'd challenge it. This destination is definitely worth the tedious drive if you stay a couple days.

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  • tidwe255

    The trail has a good mix of technical and flow. There are some exposed drop offs which makes riding challenging and fun. I never knew Kansas would have this terrain. Thoroughly enjoyed this trail and will return if I'm in the area

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  • shockerdad

    Ridden 1/15/15. Snow in places, wet and slippery in places but bone dry where the sun shines.

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  • b699305

    Fun trail, stay to the left at all the intersections to do full ride.

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