Traveling down a country road is often the best way to explore the amazing beauty and many surprises found throughout Western Kansas. With that in mind we’ve compiled three day trips within Trego County that will delight and excite you as you cruise down the “road less traveled.”
NOTE: The bridge over the Cedar Bluff Reservoir spillway is currently under construction on K-147 until August 2020. The road is closed for 1.8 miles, but the rest of the highway is open to travelers. KDOT has created a 60-mile detour around the lake. For a shorter detour, take one of Trego County’s scenic country roads, such as TR CO U or X. Just make sure road conditions are good, especially after wet weather.
To get to the North Shore: Access to all the north side landmarks can be reached as usual from I-70 at the Ogallah exit traveling south on K-147. (Emanuel Lutheran Church, the Bluffton Campground, Cedar Bluff State Park’s office, Threshing Machine Canyon, and the BOD Marker)
To Get to the South Shore: Access the South Shore by traveling north on K-147 from Hwy 4 at Brownell. (Page Creek Campground, Agave Ridge Hiking Trail, and the Scenic Bluff Overlook)
Day Trip 1: The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway
Begin your exploration on the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway! There are eight features along the 60-mile route that offer insight into the landscape and history of the region.
Begin your drive by turning off I-70 at Ogallah and head south at Hwy. 147 and drive to the Emanuel Lutheran Church. Constructed in 1902 by Swedish immigrants using native limestone, it is a beautiful example of the craftsmanship of our early settlers.
Just down the road from the church is Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir, Trego County’s scenic natural playground.
As you continue drive on K-147 to the Bluffton area keep a sharp eye out for a quarried limestone post with “BOD 1865” carved into its front. It is located south of the turn into the park’s Bluffton Area and the Cedar Bluff State Park office. It marks the Butterfield Overland Despatch route that took early pioneers to the goldmines in Colorado. It is one of several that trace the historic trail from Atchison, Kansas to Denver and was erected in the 1960s as a memorial to the arduous journey.Nearby, you can hike a trail leading to Threshing Machine Canyon where pioneers carved messages into the limestone rock as they traveled west.
The Cedar Bluff State Park office has several brochures that can add to your experience along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway, and park officials can give you tips to help you get the most out of your day trip, including spending time at the 350-acre Bluffton Area campground and picnic area.
NOTE: At this point, due to the bridge construction, you will either have to turn around and take the KDOT detour (60-miles) to the South Shore or take the shorter detour on the Trego County roads.
Suggested Alternative Route: We suggest a more scenic country road that starts at Trego CO CC Road from K-147 on the east side of the reservoir and connects to Hwy 283 on the west side. Follow the road, which eventually becomes Trego CO AA Road as it continues west, then turn toward the Scenic Bluff Overlook turnoff.
Once you reach the south side of the reservoir, we suggest taking the scenic country road to the Page Creek Area, the Agave Ridge Hiking Trail, and the Cedar Bluff Overlook. It’s a beautiful natural area where visitors often spot wildlife in the prairie grasses and along the shore.
The overlook boasts towering 100-foot limestone bluffs that is a perfect place to take in beautiful landscape and Cedar Bluff Reservoir.
When you reach Hwy. 283 turn north to WaKeeney and make a stop at the Wilcox School, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1886. The limestone was quarried along the Smoky Hill River and brought to the site by local stonemasons. For sixty years it was used as a school and community center, and eventually a motorcycle club claimed it as their clubhouse. Today, you’ll find informative panels that provide details into the history of the building, the region, and the wildflowers growing in the area.
Get to know our prairie better at the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway Kiosk. It is full of information about the surrounding flora and fauna and interesting historical facts that occurred in the area.
Look for a beautiful example of early Volga-German construction at the Zion Lutheran Church. Built in 1905,it continues to be an active church, with many of the original descendants still filling the pews.
End your adventure inWaKeeney, Trego’s county seat. You’ll find beautiful parks, friendly businesses, hotels and restaurants, and many fun festivals happening throughout the year. Be sure to stop by the F-14 Fighter Jet in Eisenhower Park near Exit #127 to view the interpretive panels about WaKeeney and Trego County before you begin your road trip.
Day Trip 2: Shiloh Vineyard
Enjoy a glass of Trego County sunshine at Shiloh Vineyard!
This family-owned winery was founded in 2008 by Kirk & Treva Johnston and is the only vineyard located in Western Kansas. All varieties of their wine are produced from fruit harvested on the Johnston family farm and includes dry whites, dry reds, semi-sweet white, fruit, and dessert wines. Shiloh offers regular wine tastings and an informative tour of the production facility, vineyard, and surrounding landscape. They often host special events and classes throughout the year. To get to Shiloh Vineyard travel west from WaKeeney on I-70 seven miles to Exit #120 on Voda Road. Turn south on Voda Road/180 Avenue and travel 4 1/2 miles to M Road. Turn west on M Road and drive 1-mile to the vineyard.
Day Trip 3: Castle Rock
Take a trip into the past with a visit to Castle Rock, one of the most notable features on our prairie. The large chalk pillar was formed from limestone deposits during the mid- to late Cretaceous period when a great inland sea divided North America. Designated as one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas,” it was used as a landmark for pioneers and has become a favorite among today’s fossil hunters. To find Castle Rock take I-70 at Exit #115 to Collyer, turn south on Banner Road/130 Avenue and travel for approximately 12.4 miles to TR CO U. Turn west on TR CO U Rd and travel approximately 2.8 miles. You will be traveling from Trego County to Gove County, where the road becomes GO CO K. Turn into the pasture at the Castle Rock sign, cross the cattle guard, and stop at the overlook to enjoy the view below of Castle Rock and it’s nearby rocky neighbor call the Badlands. You may drive down into the valley below but pay attention to the road conditions and the weather as the chalk dust can get slick and sticky.
Before you head out on your day trip through Trego County grab aWaKeeney Visitor’s Guide & Map. In it you’ll find all the roads in Trego County mapped out for you to explore “off the beaten path” where the scenery and landscape come alive. You can find them at many different locations in WaKeeney or at the Cedar Bluff Office at the North Shore or at Sport Haven.
See Western Kansas’s beauty, grandeur, and historical significance on a day trip through Trego County!