High Plains Hiker

Author amidst the plains of southwest South Dakota

Author amidst the plains of southwest South Dakota

Here’s a link to the article about the Great Plains Trail that appeared in a recent edition of the Rapid City Journal:

Rapid City Journal Article

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Is this the biggest henge in the world?

Is this the biggest henge in the world?

OK, this one’s just for fun.  Sitting on the western edge of the Sandhills, near the town of Alliance, Nebraska is Carhenge.  Admittedly, Carhenge is not the typical fare that I usually promote on this blog.  It will not entice you with scenery, there are no natural features to contemplate, but it will impress nonetheless.  I guarantee it.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, and you can arrive at your own interpretation of the permanent art installation, but you tell me:  How DO you stack cars on one another?  It’s an enduring mystery of the druids . . .

Prairie Schooner?

Prairie Schooner or Grocery Getter?



What was the rule about quicksand again?

What was the rule about quicksand again?

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The Gloss (Glass) Mountains of Oklahoma

Trails reach the mesa tops

Trails reach the mesa tops

A classic western look

A classic western look

Here’s a Great Plains site that I have never been to, but looking at some of the photos of the Gloss Mountains makes me want to check it out for sure.  I love learning about new places on the Great Plains and the list is growing!

The Gloss (or Glass) Mountains got their name from the concentrations of the mineral selenite that sparkle on the tops of the mesas.

Oklahoma operates Gloss Mountain State Park which preserves 640 acres of the site.  There are no overnight facilities at the park, but there are numerous hiking trails that can get you into the “backcountry.”

Gloss Mountain State Park is in Major County about 45 miles west of Enid, Oklahoma.  This is probably too far east for the Great Plains Trail to connect to, but it’s just one more example of the diversity and grandeur of the whole region.



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Not Far From the Freeway – Monument Rocks, Kansas

Monument Rocks in western Kansas

Monument Rocks in western Kansas

Thanks to everyone who commented on last week’s post about some of your favorite places in the Great Plains.  I’m going to dedicate the next several weeks to “showing off” the places you mentioned!

Just south of I-70 in Gove County Kansas are a series of abrupt rock formations rising 60-70 feet above the otherwise fairly flat terrain.  These are the Monument Rocks, and they were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968.  They are also known as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas.  

The rocks are remnants of an ancient sea bed that once covered the central part of North America from about 140 million years ago to about 65 million years ago.  Fossils of ancient sea shells are commonly found there.

What to do:

There are no formal hiking trails, and in fact, you can drive right up to most of the formations.  You could, however, choose to walk the informal roads.  There are two main clusters of formations less than 1/4 mile apart.  Probably the best thing to do at Monument Rocks is just to take in the silence, and imagine just how much the earth has changed over the eons.  There are not many places in the world where geology and geologic time can be so transparently viewed.  Monument Rocks is one of them, and just another example of how cool the Great Plains are.


Twenty miles south of Oakley (Exit 76 from I-70) on U.S. 83, then 4 miles east on Jayhawk Road, 3 miles south, and 1 mile east (dry weather road only)  


Eighteen miles north of Scott City, east 2 miles on Dakota Road, 1 mile north, 3 1/2  miles east, and 2 1/2 miles north

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What Are Your Favorite Great Plains Sites?

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Nebraska - One of my favorite Great Plains places

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Nebraska – one of my favorite Great Plains places.

Pawnee Buttes in Pawnee National grassland is another one.

Pawnee Buttes in Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado is another.

2015 – The Year of the Great Plains

As I have brazenly declared, 2015 is The Year of the Great Plains, and I’m dedicating this blog all year to providing information for anyone on where to go to enjoy some Great Plains scenery and recreation.  I’ve started the year by mentioning some places that are not far from major Interstate Highways such as Badlands National Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Special Places

Not that I’ve run out of ideas, far from it, but I thought now might be a good time to open it up to anyone out there who wants to mention their favorite spots in the Great Plains.  I don’t have too many criteria, just that the places be in the United States, east of the Rockies, and west of the 100th meridian (or close to it).  Other than that, they could be federal, state, local, or even privately operated areas.

All you have to do is mention it in the comments section.  You can just give the name, or if you’re inclined, tell us more about it, and why it’s special to you!

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Not Far From the Interstate – Cross Ranch

The bison herd at Cross Ranch

The bison herd at Cross Ranch

Cross Ranch on the Missouri River in North Dakota is not too far from Interstate 94 (about 30 miles north of Bismarck).  It consists of a smaller unit (600 acres) that is actually a state park, and a system of larger nature preserve units (6,000 acres) that is administered by the Nature Conservancy.  There are plenty of things to do and see at Cross Ranch.   There are over 16 miles of trails, campsites, cabins, and interpretive programs.  Due to the importance of the Missouri River riparian habitat, the park teems with birds and other wildlife, including a bison herd!

Admittedly, I’ve never been to Cross Ranch, but in this little bit of research I’ve done, I’m now itching to go!  If anyone reading this has been there, I’d love to hear some first hand accounts.  Just leave a comment!

Follow this link for the best information on what to see and do in the park:  Cross Ranch

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Found WInter Photo: Bison

Originally posted on Old Road Apples:

I’ll admit it.  I went looking for this one.  The American Bison evolved with their massive heads and necks so they could plow their way through the prodigious snows of the American Great Plains.  You probably know these animals colloquially as “buffalo,” but that is  a misnomer. Buffalo are a very different animal.

http://horsefeathersphotography.com/shop/snow-bison/ http://horsefeathersphotography.com/shop/snow-bison/

In 1900, an estimated 50,000,000 bison roamed the Great Plains, but they were hunted for meat, for their skins, to undermine the Native American cultures that traditionally depended on the animals, and often for sport.  Within a few decades the population was reduced to less than a thousand animals.  Yep, that’s how we roll.

They are magnificent animals–more impressive, I think, than the great predators (Griz, Wolves) that hog the wild west spotlight–and certainly more charismatic.

http://goeddelphotography.com/portfolio/wildlife/bison/bison-single-file-deep-snow/ http://goeddelphotography.com/portfolio/wildlife/bison/bison-single-file-deep-snow/

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