The Prairie Earth Trail system was a pleasant surprise that we found less than 20 miles from our home in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The day after Christmas we found ourselves with a combination of free time and gorgeous weather. It was the kind of day that was so beautiful it felt like it would be a crime to stay inside. So we didn’t.
Instead, we did a quick Google search for “trails near us” and were reminded of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. We’d been to the preserve many times but had never been on the trails. We were happy to learn that the preserve offers a series of well-maintained trails complete with stops to learn a little something about the prairie and its ecology along the way.
We set off on the gravel road for our 17-mile trip to the trailhead, and felt pretty excited when we caught a glimpse of bison grazing along the way.
Trails at the preserve
The preserve has three different trails. The first is called the Bottomland Trail. It’s about a half-mile long and loops around some creek bottom land on level ground. The second is called the Study Trail. A mile or so in length, it is still a moderately easy hike peppered with some loose rocks and uneven terrain.
The final trail was our goal: the Prairie Earth Trail. This trail is about two miles long and includes a few steep hills and some rough terrain. That said, much of it is pretty easy; overall we would categorize the trail’s difficulty as moderate.
While at the preserve, we hiked all but a small portion of the Bottomland Trail and finished in about an hour and a half. We will note that we were there in late December; had we been there in the summer, we definitely would have wanted to have plenty of water with us on the trail as well as a hat and lots of sunblock. Much of the trail is across a prairie, meaning there are no trees to give relief from the sun.
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Be sure to pack a picnic
Near the trailhead there is a grove of trees with several picnic tables. These were perfect for our lunch after hiking on this warm day in December. We just gathered some of the leftovers from our Christmas charcuterie board, packed a few cold drinks, and enjoyed eating outdoors on a sunny day.
A few things we liked about the trails
First, we felt like we had the place to ourselves. It’s a really large area, so we could easily social distance from other groups. We loved that it was quiet and we truly felt connected with nature.
Second, the prairie was just beautiful, even in the winter months. Our hike there was very different from hikes we’ve done in state parks, wooded areas, or the mountains. The prairie is wide open and peaceful. It is a blank canvas of sorts where we could only imagine what it was like for the Native Americans who lived on grasslands like these for generations before Europeans arrived. There were also lots of educational opportunities to learn about things like cross timbers, bison wallows, and Indian history.
Much of this information is compiled in a brochure you can pick up at the entrance to the trails. Just follow along and watch for the metal markers like the one below.
Finally, the Prairie Earth Trail is well marked and well maintained. Where the trail got more difficult, there were railings (and even bridges) to help hikers along the way.
Final thoughts about the Prairie Earth Trail
We are not experienced hikers by any stretch of the imagination, so this trail was perfect for us. It offered a combination of beauty, ease to follow, and a little bit of challenge to make for a fun couple of hours. We also think it will be fun to return to the prairie in the spring to see how it changes with the seasons.
A hike on these trails is a good, low-risk outdoor activity especially for groups traveling with kids. Click HERE to visit the preserve’s website and to plan your visit. In a time when our travel options are limited, it was good to be able to explore someplace new to us. And to find it so close to home was even better.
When you Visit Pawhuska, Oklahoma, in Osage County
The trail is located close to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and all the wonderful things it has to offer, including The Pioneer Woman Mercantile. We’ve written a lot about Pawhuska and all it has to offer. You can read our blog post on 70+ Things To Do in Pawhuska HERE. Another good resource is the Osage County Tourism website found HERE.
What are some places you’ve explored close to your home and would recommend to others?