HIKING LITTLE JERUSALEM BADLANDS STATE PARK: What to know before you go
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Since its official opening to the public in 2019, Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park - Kansas' latest state park - has become a popular destination for travelers and outdoor adventures. Here's a guide to help you experience the park while protecting the fragile landscape.
PLANNING & PREPARATION
It wasn't my first time out west. As a life-long Kansan, I knew what to expect. When planning an impromptu trip in August to hike at Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park (I typically just call it Little J), I knew to prepare for three things - dry heat, wind, and bugs. Top of my packing list were jugs of water (check), a wide-brim hat (check), bug spray (check), sunglasses (check), and plenty of sunscreen (check, check).
What I did not plan for (but should have) was a wet, humid cool sixty-degree temp morning due to an unexpected thunderstorm that rolled in at sunrise. There's a joke in Kansas, and most of the Midwest, if you don't like the weather just wait five minutes. So, while I was disappointed at first driving in only to see a heavy haze making visibility poor, I knew to hang around.
I was not disappointed.
Here is my recommended packing checklist: (varies depending on the time of year & weather)
Sun protection (hat, glasses, sunscreen)
Clothes: Long pants, light-weight long-sleeve shirt & sturdy hiking boots (no, that's not how I dressed for this trip. I knew I was staying on the rim. This is what I would recommend if you take a ranger-guided hike into the formations.)
Simple drawstring bag to carry the water bottle, spray, etc. (You don't want to have to lug a bunch of stuff around.)
GETTING TO THE PARK
Located a short drive west of Kansas Highway 83 (south of Oakley and north of Scott City), your GPS may identify the area as Elkader, Kansas. Another indicator you're near the turn is a brown highway sign for the state park. From Highway 83, you'll turn west on to Gold Rd. drive the gravel road for about 3.5 miles until you reach 400 rd. Turn north.
Don't be surprised when you pull into the parking lot and only see high plains prairie surrounding you. Unlike Monument Rocks, where you see the formations in the distances, at Little Jerusalem you are above the formations and have to hike (walk) out to see them. So, don't expect to just drive through and grab some images from the car.
NOW THAT YOU'VE ARRIVED
Once you've parked, head over to the self-pay kiosk station. Unless you already have an annual Kansas State Park Passport. Fill out the form, slip the $5.00 into the envelope and follow the instructions. Leave the park pass in a place that can be easily viewed by park rangers - like your dashboard.
Walking to the pavilion, you can read more about the site and area. From here there are two trail options. First, the shorter Overlook Trail, perfect for visitors wanting to get a "quick" peek of the formations, heads off to the right. To the left through a metal gate is the trailhead for Life on the Rocks Trail.
LET'S HIKE... A QUICK OVERVIEW OF YOUR OPTIONS
OVERLOOK TRAIL .25 Mile (.5 loop) Difficulty: Easy
After a .25 mile, this well-maintained, wide gravel path ends with a breathtaking view of one of the park's most expansive outcroppings of the formations. Along the gently sloped terrain, you're surrounded by native grasses, western prairie foliage, and wildflowers.
More images from Overlook Trail