Those in Kansas City who enjoy taking their activities off-road are quite fortunate. Kansas City has a plethora of public nature trails for hiking, running, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Some of those trails are well known and some are hidden gems around the city. In each issue of REC Midwest, our Trail Profiles section examines the amenities, activities, and closure conditions for the trails around the KC area.
Bikers, riders, hikers and runners know about Wyandotte County Lake Park, otherwise known as “WyCo”. Let it be known, WyCo is a four-letter word. There are some excellent, moderate recreational trails in the Kansas City area, but this is not an article about those trails. Any trail adventure at Wyandotte County Lake Park will leave you exhausted and wondering if you’re still in Kansas, Dorothy.
Wyandotte County Lake Park is a 1,500-acre public recreation area in northern Wyandotte County, Kansas. Circumnavigating the lake is an undulating road that could be used for an Audi commercial. Encircling this road is the infamous WyCo bridle trail. Nestled between the road and lake resides a series of mountain bike trails; these will be discussed in a future article.
The beauty of the bridle trail is its pure aggressiveness.
Picture the “go-through-anything” topography of electrical power lines curved around a 10-mile perimeter. That is WyCo. Additionally, the trail is open to any activity all year-round, so you can expect a healthy dose of mud and muck pretty much anytime you step foot, wheel or hoof on the trail. The bridle trail winds through hardwood forest and you will feel deep in the woods for the majority of the route.
Although there are numerous access points to the bridle trail, suggested trail access is at Shelter 2, Shelter 10, Shelter 1 and the leash-free dog park. While circumnavigating the lake, there are several sections of the bridle trail that enter open areas and are difficult to navigate without an experienced guide. Do not attempt to make the entire circuit on your own. Additionally, the terrain makes perceived effort versus actual mileage a challenge to track. Many hikers and runners have looked at their GPS in disbelief after seeing their current progress and mileage pace.
The classic bridle trial route is to park at Shelter 2 (near the ranger station) and proceed counter clockwise around the lake. For a brief moment over a grassy area known as the Goose Flats (named for the feathered residents who loaf there), you are inside the road before you cross over the park road and enter the trail by the maintenance shed. For the next 9 miles, the trail goes up and down against the teeth of the Wyandotte hills. Again, the bridle trail is used year-round, regardless of the weather, and is available to horses, hikers and bikes, so there are several portions of the trail that can be quite muddy. This is not a trail for your best pair of trainers.
There are few flat portions on the WyCo bridle trail. The trail wastes no time in getting to the top or bottom of each hill. The up-and-down nature of the trail is best encapsulated in the infamous “Three Sisters” section. The Sisters are three back-to-back-to-back hills on the southwest corner of the bridle loop. The Sisters section is less than a mile long, but a user will be greeted with three of the best trail climbs in the Kansas City area. The sweetest of the Sisters is so long that you’ll be tired of being out of breath by the time you reach the top. This challenge is the allure of the Wyandotte County Lake Park bridle trail. There are easier, drier and flatter trails in Kansas City, but if you want to max out the difficulty meter, WyCo is the place for you.
All photos by Mile 90 Photography
About the Author
Keith Wurm is a trail runner and ultrarunner who lives in Parkville, MO.