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Get Out and Blaze a Trail!

KDOT & Shawnee County Parks and Recreation Invested Nearly Half a Million Dollars in Nature Trails to Connect Communities

Shawnee County Parks and Recreation offers nearly 60 miles of beautiful, diverse natural and concrete trails. Roughly 32 miles of paved pathways and about 28 miles of natural surface trails run through forested, prairie, and open natural areas. In 2022, the trail system connected the community via the Shunga, Deer Creek, and Lake Shawnee Trails. The connectors provide a conduit within the community from SW 29th and McClure to and around Lake Shawnee.

Trail connectivity was an essential part of Shawnee County’s 2014 Master Plan. Trails help build community as runners, hikers, bicyclists, and nature enthusiasts travel through parts of the community they may not have explored otherwise. The Kansas Department of Transportation and Shawnee County Parks and Recreation invested almost half a million dollars in the new trail system through KDOT Transportation Alternatives Grants. In this distribution, KDOT covers 80% of construction costs up to a dedicated amount determined after bids are received. SCP+R is responsible for 20% of construction costs, design fees, any non-participating funds, and annual maintenance.

Tucked in the southeast side of Topeka, the public recreation grounds of Lake Shawnee feature a 6.8-mile, moderately trafficked trail that winds into a newly developed Dornwood tributary, adding another 9.9 miles. Add to that the Shunga, Landon, and Topeka’s trail systems which seek to serve thousands of two-and four-legged trail visitors year-round.

At the heart of these scenic trails is Lake Shawnee, the man-made lake created by Works Progress Administration crews from 1935-1939. The paved trail, completed in 2009, wraps around the lake and invites patrons to meander through professionally maintained botanical gardens and waterfall features. The west side of the lake at Ted Ensley Gardens offers an ideal rest stop showcasing 37.5 acres of garden and a panoramic view of the lake.

Completed in late 2022, the Dornwood trail offers both paved and natural trails. Dornwood is in southeast Topeka and accessible from a trailhead on SE 25th Street, east of California Avenue. The path has evolved from prairie to hardwood forest. Several trails ramble along Deer Creek in heavily forested, rolling terrain. Newly installed wrought-iron bridges provide a unique view of Deer Creek and a waterfall on the far north side.   

Azura Trails at Skyline Park – Four single-track, natural surface loop trails comprising 4.47 miles of natural surface. This higher elevation provides a beautiful vantage point of the capital city.

Warren Nature Area – Four miles of natural surface trails beginning at SW 25th and Gage east of Felker Park. The route includes a wetland to slow and clean runoff water from streets and neighborhoods. Birds, mammals, and aquatic species can be found here.

In addition to the featured trails, the Shawnee County community can also enjoy the following routes:

Gage Park Fitness Loop Trail – a two-mile paved trail encircling the park and crossing over Westlake via a bridge.

Shawnee North Nature Trail – a two-mile natural surface trail on undeveloped parkland comprised of grasslands and wooded areas. A short, paved perimeter trail encircles the west side of the park.

Grant-Bradbury Trail – Located west of Forbes Field, a two-mile natural surface trail running through 80 acres of virgin prairie. The area includes hundreds of native species, some of which are scarcely found elsewhere in the state.

Soldier Creek Trail – 1.8-mile paved concrete bicycle/pedestrian trail from Garfield Park to NW Lyman Road.

Please consider the following before, during, and after using the trails.

·     Adhere to leash laws for your furry friends

·     Check the weather, dress in layers, and hydrate

·     Be aware of your surroundings, walk with friends

·     Leave the trail better than you found it, dispose of trash and pet waste