When Lee’s Summit native Roy Harryman first began looking for local places to hike, he discovered it was not always easy to find an enjoyable trail.
Many government websites listing trails in their jurisdictions have sparse or outdated information. Additionally, many of these sites do not reflect the current reality. He checked out many places that looked promising online only to find trash at the trail head. To top it off, he also found many great privately maintained trails on public property that are not listed on public maps.
“Putting all those things together, it’s a bit of a needle in a haystack to find good places to walk,” Harryman says.
Given this difficulty in finding trails, he began documenting and listing trails on LeesSummitGo.com.
“Since I was already out exploring, I saw there was a need for a reliable and comprehensive listing of trails in the area,” he says.
Harryman was already compiling local hiking listings on LeesSummitGo.com before the pandemic began, but when things shut down last year, the project took on an even greater importance.
“It’s always true that exploring nature is good for your health physically and psychologically, but it’s even more true through the pandemic,” he says.
As a result, he expanded his work during the pandemic to include trails all over the greater Kansas City area by launching KansasCityHiker.com as his second hiking and outdoors website.
“I knew I personally wanted to branch out and explore more,” Harryman says. “There are nearly 2 million people in the greater metro area, and I knew the pandemic was limiting the things you could do. I want people to know about all the unique outdoor experiences they can have in the greater KC area. There is so much more here than meets the eye.”
While some might view the land around Kansas City as flat and boring, Harryman points out the unique geography in our city. After all, there are bluffs that rise high above the Missouri River, all kinds of waterfalls, and wildlife including bald eagles. He says limestone is part of the bedrock of the area, which results in cliffs, boulders, and canyons to explore. Prairie environments also provide unique beauty.
Harryman only lists trails he has personally visited because he does not want people to show up to a site that is overrun or no longer accessible. In addition to maintaining a trail guide on his websites, he uses the associated social media accounts to share more pictures and details.
Given his experience out on the trails, where are some of his favorite places to hike in and around Lee’s Summit?
Burr Oak Woods
With about 1,000 acres in Blue Springs, this conservation area has six trails that total six miles of hiking. Those miles feature pastoral settings, woodlands and boulders kids love to climb.
“It’s got a little bit of everything,” Harryman says.
The park is not especially large, but it is cut in half by Cedar Creek and has beautiful boulders and waterfalls. In warm weather, it is common to see children and adults alike wading in the water and playing in the creek.
Additionally, the park serves as the primary trailhead for the longer Rock Island Trail, which will eventually connect walkers and bikers all the way up to the Truman Sports Complex.
Harryman acknowledges many in the area have discovered this park, and it can often be crowded.
“It’s well-loved, but as long as we take care of it, we can all enjoy it together,” he says.
While Legacy Park might be known best as the site of youth sports in Lee’s Summit, the park also has 10.3 miles of total trails. Of this, 7.3 miles are paved walking and biking trails.
In 2020 the Urban Trail Company opened the 1014 Loop, a three-mile mountain biking trail in the park that is also open to walkers. Harryman says the new mountain biking trail offers another area of wooded groves, prairie and waterfalls that makes for a beautiful place to take in a sunset or sunrise.
The Urban Trail Company maintains over 27 miles of trails at Lake Jacomo that can be used as walking trails in addition to mountain biking. Harryman describes the trails as beautiful and extremely well cared for, taking you to unique places. He says it is always helpful to check the Urban Trail Company website for trail conditions before going out to explore.
With numerous trails to choose from, Harryman encourages everyone to seize the day and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors here in Kansas City.