The Prairie Spirit Trail State Park is a 52-mile biking and hiking trail built on a former railroad right-of-way. The rail line was originally built in the 1860’s as the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Fort Gibson Railroad, which later became the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad, the Santa Fe Railroad, the Kansas City, Lawrence and Southern Railroad, and the Southern Kansas Railway.
By the 1990s, service on the line had been discontinued, and was railbanked to maintain the right-of-way and provide for interim trail use. The Prairie Spirit Trail was constructed in stages, beginning with 17 miles from Richmond to Welda in 1996, Ottawa to Richmond in 1998, and Welda to Iola in 2008. A a trail extension was completed in Iola in 2012, completing the route to Iola’s Riverside Park.
The route runs from Iola in the south to Ottawa in the north, passing through the communities of Iola, Carlyle, Colony, Welda, Garnett, Richmond, Princeton, and Ottawa.
The Prairie Spirit Trail is free to use within the city limits of Iola, Garnett, and Ottawa, but the remainder of the trail requires purchase of a permit from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism. The cost of the permit is $3.50 per day (payable at trailheads), or $12.50 per year (available for purchase at retail establishments along the trail).
Within Allen County, there are two official trailheads, at Carlyle, and at Iola’s Cofachique Park. The Carlyle trailhead offers parking and a pit toilet. The Cofachique Park trailhead offers parking, water, picnic tables and shelters, and a playground. In addition, the southern terminus of the trail at Iola’s Riverside Park serves as an additional defacto trailhead, offering parking, water, restrooms, and additional services.
Learn more about the Prairie Spirit Trail: