thistle flowers plant life fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas

Fancy Creek Trail, just outside of Randolph, is my favorite local trail and is in my opinion one of the best hiking trails in the Manhattan Kansas area.

The entire nearly 6 miles of trails is almost completely shaded with tree cover and is accessible almost year round.

Where is Fancy Creek Hiking Trail located?

Fancy Creek Hiking trail is located in Fancy Creek State Park in Riley County Kansas. The park is a unit of Tuttle Creek Lake State Park and is located just outside of the big city of Randolph Kansas (population 170 or so.)

The drive to Randolph, located about 25 miles north of Manhattan, entails a nice country drive through the beautiful rolling Flint Hills.

Tuttle Creek Lake Fancy Creek Hiking trail guide
The mile long bridge: looking east, leaving the big town of Randolph, heading toward the big town of Olsburg.

Coming from Olsburg (east): Take highway 16 west. After crossing the mile-long bridge take the first right onto Fancy Creek E. Road, then take the first right, this road will take that to the parking area.

Coming from Randolph/Manhattan (south): Highway 77 North will take you to Highway 16/Green Randolph. Take the Green Randolph Road east (turn right). Just before you cross the mile long bridge take a left onto Fancy Creek E. Road, then take the first right, this road will take that to the parking area.

park address: Fancy Creek State Park, Fancy Creek E Rd, Randolph, KS 66554

You can see the parking area/trailhead on this map:

fancy creek hiking trail map parking area trail head randolph kansas
fancy creek hiking trail map parking area trail head Randolph Kansas

A park pass is required

All visitors coming into the Fancy Creek Campground must obtain a vehicle pass, there is a self-pay station as you come into the campground.  Day passes are $5 unless you have a state park pass.

Fancy Creek Hiking Trail: Let’s talk about the trail!

trail signs and markings

They have recently added these cute signs all along the trail. I haven’t yet figured out what they are about, but I like them! I have walked this trail innumerable times.

They recently cut in some new trails and has caused me to find myself a little lost more than once. They have not posted any new maps for the area which is frustration. Be sure to take notice whenever the trail spits off so you don’t end up wandering around aimlessly. 

trail marker signs fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas

Is the trail shaded?

If you know Kansas you know it’s covered in prairie, grazing pastures, wheat, corn sorghum and soybean fields but not a whole lot of trees.

Originating from Michigan and Missouri with all of their abundant trees and shade I sometimes feel a bit like a fish out of water in Kansas. That’s why I am so thrilled to have this trail just down the road.

There is plenty of tree cover on this trail to shade you from the sun. The shade allows me to escape the heat of summer and get out in nature and get some fresh air and exercise even in the heat of the summer.

trees shaded trail fancy creek hiking trail in Kansas

the scenic overlook

Along the trail, there is a overlook, that looks out over the Randolph Bridge, the longest bridge in Kansas. Locals call it the mile long bridge. The overlook is located along the trail between the parking area and highway 16.

mile long bridge as seen from overlook on fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas
Fancy Creek hiking trail guide angie kunze We're Not in Kansas Anymore travel inspiration
 As with most things in life, hikes are most enjoyable with friends.

Flora and Fauna

You’ll see wildlife on the trail, birds deer and the like. My favorite are the little hints of color I find on the trail or natures little treasures like pretty pinecones and mushrooms.

This is one of my favorite pictures, that I have taken, ever. It is a musk thistle, and apparently listed as a noxious weed in Kansas, but look how beautiful!

Now maybe it’s the Scottish in me (the thistle is the National flower of Scotland), or maybe it is because, on the surface I am a bit prickly, but either way, I’m kind of partial to it! It is just one of the many things you are likely to find in bloom on the trail.

thistle flowers plant life fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas
Musk Thistle

The following are all pictures that I have taken on this trail, at various times of the year, over many hikes.

I think it’s a bit like a treasure hunt, you never know what you are going to find out there!

plants flowers fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas Musk Thistle Purple Prairie Clover wild petunia Plains Prickly Pear
Top L: Musk Thistle, Top R: Purple Prairie Clover, Bottom L: wild petunia, Bottom R: Plains Prickly Pear
flowers fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas Plains Prickly Pear Fourvalve Mimosa, Plains Prickly Pear
L: Plains Prickly Pear, Top R: Fourvalve Mimosa, Bottom R: Plains Prickly Pear
treasures fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas mushrooms birds nests leadplant
Mushrooms, bird nests and leadplant, oh my!
leaves flowers flora fauna fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas Giant Blue Sage, American Asters, Fragrant Sumac
Top L: Giant Blue Sage, Top R: (and Bottom R:) American Asters, Bottom L: Fragrant Sumac
fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas pretty flowers wild bergamot
top L. wild bergamot
butterfly milkweed flowers fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas
top r: and bottom l: butterfly milkweed

Here’s some video I recently took on the trail.

Fancy Creek Hiking Trail


Speaking of treasure hunts, I occasionally run across geocache boxes along this trail. Just call us accidental geocache’ers! (these are two different boxes, how about trying to find them on you own?)

What is Geocaching?

participants use a Global Positioning System receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.


for more information check out the Geocaching website.

Geocaching geocache fancy creek hiking trail randolph kansas
geocaches that we happened upon on our hikes

Know before you go: more important information about the trail

trail type

This trail is heavily wooded, and gives you a good incline work out. The trees are mostly evergreen, so you will have some shade year round, unless you go midday.

trail length

The total length of the loop is 5.8 miles. If you don’t feel up to hiking the entire length of the trails you can simply walk as far as you care to and then turn around. It makes a great evening workout for me when I don’t have time for the entire 6 miles.

Here is a descent map of Fancy Creek Trail as well as other area trails, or you might prefer the map of Fancy Creek Trail on alltrails.

Fancy Creek Hiking Trail Map

Note: this is not the best trail map available but will give you an overview of the trails. I encourage you to review the map available on alltrails. The park has recently cut in some new trails and it has led to some confusion. I’ve been on this trail dozens upon dozens of times and have gotten turned around and ended up going quite a ways out of my way to get back to my car. 

fancy creek park map with hiking trails

are there bathrooms?

Because the trail runs by campgrounds and the lake, there are bathrooms to be found along the way. They are not exactly on the trail, but if you need them, you should be able to find them.

The most accessible bathrooms in relation to the trail can be found as you cross over the road leading down to the shore of Tuttle Creek Lake. The boat ramp and the campground closest to the lake can also be found in this area.

You can see the location of the bathrooms on this map:

bathrooms restrooms map fancy creek hiking trail Randolph Kansas

the trail terrain

This trail is good for anyone who is in good physical condition but it is rugged in places. You’ll be navigating your way through large boulders and up and down rocky uneven inclines. Rocks and branches often give way under my feet while going down hill. Sometimes I manage to stay on my feet, sometimes I do not.

Fancy Creek Mountain Bike Trails/ Tuttle Creek Mountain bike Trails

This is also a mountain bike trail. No worries, there’s room for everyone, just step aside and let them pass and they will be off, and gone, in an instant.

These trails are actually one of the best Manhattan ks mountain bike trails in the area but also one of the most challenging. If you think you might be interested the trail forks website has more information on mountain biking this trail.

trail safety

This trail is secluded, and foot traffic can be non existent at times, you may find you have the trail all to yourself. When I go alone, I carry pepper spray.

more area hikes

Randolph State Park

There are also trails across the lake, at the Randolph State Park. They are almost 15 miles long, and the parts that I have been on are VERY hilly. In addition to being a hiking trail, the trail in the Randolph SP is also an equestrian trail. More info here, a Fancy Creek Trail map is included. One of these days I plan to explore them a bit more.

Konza Prairie Nature Trail

the Konza Prairie Nature trail is a native tallgrass prairie preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University. There are 3 trails that all begin at the same trailhead. Nature Trail 2.6 miles, Kings Creek Loop 4.6 miles, Godwin Hill Loop 6.2 miles. Since these are prairie trails there is not any shade to speak of so I like them for the cooler months in Kansas. Get information on the 3 prairie trails at Konza here.

Linear Trail Manhattan Kansas

Looking for ” paved walking trails near me ?” Did you know that Manhattan has a trail that basically circles the entire town? The trail is 9 miles long and broken down into segments, some of which are paved, some crushed limestone. There are several trailhead access points around Manhattan. Check out Linear Trail Manhattan Kansas!

Lawrence River Trail

Looking for ” river trails near me ?” While there is a short section of Linear Trail that runs along the River in Manhattan for a really outstanding River Trail you’ll have to drive a bit further. The Lawrence River Trail is worth the drive! Not much of the trail actually follows exactly along the river however the trail is really quite beautiful and I highly recommend it. Check out my article Lawrence River hiking (and biking) Trails in Kansas: a guide for hikers.

more local trails

Looking for more ” local hiking trails near me ?” Check out the alltrails mobile app!

More recreational opportunities in Randolph


There are Kansas state fishing opportunities right here in Fancy Creek State Park. See the KS outdoors website for more information on fishing. 


there is a boat ramp in the park

Fancy Creek Shooting Range

Located in: Fancy Creek State Park

Address: 14890 Honor Camp Ln, Randolph, KS 66554

You can check out the Friends of the Fancy Creek Shooting Range’s Facebook page for more information.


There are 200 primitive campsites and 24 campsites with electrical hook-ups in Fancy Creek State Park. There is shade in the campground and day use areas and campsites can be reserved.

The 24 electrical sites can be reserved by calling the Park Office at Tuttle Creek State Park (785) 539-7941 or going online to Reserve America.

campsite map:

fancy creek campground map

other area activities:

How about a tour of a working Buffalo Ranch? get the details in my Plumlee Buffalo Ranch Tours article.

or a tour of the best Wizard of Oz Museum anywhere? It’s all things Oz at the Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego Kansas!

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  1. Totally agree with you that the Fancy Creek Trail is one of the best hiking trails in the Manhattan Kansas area. Love all the beautiful flora and fauna photos you’ve taken here.

    1. Yes, there are lots of trails in the Manhattan Kansas area! Since shade is a must for me I truly feel like Fancy Creek Hiking Trail near Randolph is one of the best trails in the area. The short drive through the country to get there is totally worth the drive. best wishes! Angie, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

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