Destination Kansas: Little Jerusalem Badlands, the newest state park

Destination Kansas

LOGAN COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — Kansas is known for its prairies, but now we’re connecting you to an ancient wonder of the prairie, Little Jerusalem Badlands, Kansas’ most dramatic Niobrara chalk formation.

Take a step back in time. Imagine a vast sea, waves crashing, water as far as the eye can see.

Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park (Courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism)

Now, fast forward nearly 85 million years. The ocean is gone, and what’s left behind has been drawing the eyes of people from across the region.

“My sister came to visit from Austin and we said, ‘You need to come and see Little Jerusalem,’” said tourist Adrian Price.

Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park is Kansas’ newest state park. This is its first summer to be open to the public.

Some say it got its name because it resembles the ancient walled city of Jerusalem.

Hike through those walls to scenic viewpoints, where you can examine fossil formations of ancient flying reptiles and learn about the current wildlife and vegetation.

Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park (Courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism)

Visitors are encouraged to bring their hiking gear, a jug of water, and a camera to catch all the precious moments and breathtaking views.

The park has two hiking trails. One stretches a quarter of a mile for those that just want a taste of the park. Another winds more than a mile along the rim of canyons for those who want the full experience.

“It’s kind of a combination of the really, kind of the scenic beauty but also the natural history and then the human history, too, that really makes it unique,” said Matt Bain, program manager, Western Kansas Conservation.

Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park (Courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism)

Explore the trails and dive deep into the badlands as columns tower over the prairie, some reaching more than 100 feet tall.

Before you leave, you can carve your name on the park’s limestone marker.

“We think that if folks have a chance to see a place like this, they’ll be really inspired to conserve what’s left of our native prairie,” said Bain.

The park is open every day of the year, including holidays, from sunrise to sunset. It does stay open late some nights for things like viewing the Perseid meteor shower.

Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park (KSN Photo)

The experience will cost you the regular state park daily vehicle fee. That’s just $5 at the park office if you don’t have an annual parking pass.

Location:

The park is just over 30 minutes south of I-70 and Oakley. It is just over an hour north of Garden City.

Visiting the Park:

The park is a fragile landscape. The chalk formations can be easily damaged by weather or when people walk or climb on them. The Nature Conservancy, which owns the park, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism offer these guidelines:

  • Stay on the marked trails, walkways and overlooks. Only guided tours are allowed off-trail.
  • Trails are for pedestrian traffic only, except for wheelchairs. No bicycles, ATVs, UTVs or horses are allowed. 
  • Take nothing but pictures! Fossil hunting and collecting of anything (including rocks, flowers and plants), even if found lying on the ground, are not allowed.
  • Rock climbing, camping and fires are not allowed. Camping opportunities are available at Historic Lake Scott State Park, about 7 miles south. 
  • Guided tours into the interior must be scheduled in advance by calling the office at Historic Lake Scott State Park, 620-872-2061.
  • Dogs must be on a leash and take along supplies to clean up messes.

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