Parkville Nature Sanctuary

Nestled in downtown Parkville behind historic Park University is the Parkville Nature Sanctuary. The nature sanctuary is a 115-acre outdoor area with several miles of winding trails that offer plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities including deer, turkey, birds, and butterflies. The sanctuary is maintained by volunteers and Eagle Scout projects. Parking for the Parkville Nature Sanctuary is available behind the Plate County Health Department on 12th St and Mo Hwy 9 in Parkville, Missouri.

A baby whitetail deer
A whitetail deer fawn is one example of wildlife you might encounter at the Parkville Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Tim Vernor

Separate female and male restrooms are available in the parking area. The restrooms are maintained by Park University for the soccer and softball complexes and are subject to seasonal closures. Generally, the restrooms are closed during the winter months and remain open through the spring, summer, and fall.

The Parkville Nature Sanctuary is open daily from sunrise to sunset for hiking and running. In order to prevent disturbance to wildlife, dogs and other pets, horses, bikes, and motorized vehicles are not allowed in the sanctuary.

A swallowtail butterfly resting on a wildflower
A zebra swallowtail butterfly nectars at the Parkville Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Cheryl Lynn Palmer.

The nature sanctuary has two main trails of differing difficulty, with both beginning from the parking area. Old Kate Trail is an easy, one-mile path covered with wood chips. It is shaded and wide enough to accommodate several people. The trail winds along a creek and there are numerous benches where one can sit and enjoy the natural scenery. The highlight of Old Kate Trail is the waterfall and observation bridge. Most weekends will find family, wedding, or senior pictures being taken in front of this backdrop. The Parkville Nature Sanctuary boardwalk and Girl Scout shelter—which hosts numerous events—can be found further along the Old Kate Trail.

The waterfall on the Old Kate Trail
The highlight of the Old Kate Trail is the waterfall. Photo by Kent Auf Der Heide.

For those who require a dose of vertical with their trails, Whitetail Trail is the path to tread. The 1.5-mile loop climbs about 200 feet, has a wonderful half-mile ridge run, and descends 200 feet again to the beginning of the loop. One side of the incline is steep and rocky and is the most technical section of the trail. The other side of the incline is more gradual and winding. Most of the winding Whitetail Trail is single track and covered in gravel or rocks with tree roots throughout.

Perhaps the best feature of the Parkville Nature Sanctuary is the climate-proof accessibility. During the winter months or during rainy periods, the trails in the Parkville Nature Sanctuary remain in suitable hiking condition due to the gravel and woodchips. When other dirt trails are closed or should be avoided, Parkville Nature Sanctuary is ready for your activity. However, the bridges and steps in the Nature Sanctuary become extremely slippery when wet! Heed the posted warning signs when wet, icy, or snowy conditions are present.

For those in the Parkville area, the Nature Sanctuary is likely not a secret. For everyone else, bring your hiking shoes and binoculars during your next visit to historic Parkville and enjoy a little nature time in the city.

About the Author
Keith Wurm is a trail runner and ultrarunner who lives in Parkville, Missouri.