Monument Rocks

Kansas

Trip Date: Wednesday, May 6th, 2020
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 0.8 miles roundtrip
Time 30 minutes
Terrain Mostly flat
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible Yes

Highlights

Hike Summary

One of the most interesting sights in Kansas are the Monument Rocks, a Niobrara chalk formation rising up to 70 feet above the surrounding desolate plains. If you're ever driving across Kansas on Interstate 70, take this detour onto some lonely back roads for a fun adventure! You'll be rewarded with the treasures pictured below.

The largest archway in the Monument Rocks

The largest archway in the Monument Rocks

The geologic history of the Monument Rocks begins in the Cretaceous Period when Kansas was an ocean and T-rexes roamed the globe. Over time, piles of shells and bones from deceased sea critters were compressed to form the Niobrara chalk layer. As the sea dried, the rocks were exposed, and the wind and rain the prairie is known for eroded the rock into the landforms you see here today.
Monument Rocks rising above the prairie

Monument Rocks rising above the prairie

The chalky rocks are soft and easily broken. Although it may be tempting, please do not climb the rocks! As pictured below, the rocks may crumble and fall, and you may permanently damage the formation. In fact, a sign near the rocks depicts an old formation that sadly has since collapsed.
These rocks are fragile and climbing may destroy them

These rocks are fragile and climbing may destroy them

Assuming you want to stretch your legs for a bit after a long, bumpy ride, looping around the first formation and walking to the second set of formations is around 0.8 miles roundtrip. If hiking isn't your style, you can easily drive around both formations. On your journey, take time to enjoy the peace that comes with being in the quiet shortgrass prairie of Western Kansas.
Yucca and shortgrass prairie dominate the landscape

Yucca and shortgrass prairie dominate the landscape

Endless dirt roads and prairie sky

Endless dirt roads and prairie sky

Also known as the Chalk Pyramids, the Monument Rocks were designated the first National Natural Landmark in Kansas. They were also selected as one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas by the Kansas Sampler Foundation -- the only geologic landmark on the list.
The first set of formations from a distance

The first set of formations from a distance

The first set of formations is more like one giant monolith, whereas the second set have more columnar formations. Compare the pictures below with the previous pictures.
Banded columns in the second set of formations

Banded columns in the second set of formations

The tallest column peeks through a gap in the wall

The tallest column peeks through a gap in the wall

This is truly a unique spectacle you wouldn't expect from Kansas. Stop by and discover there's more to Kansas than flat farm fields! Connect with me using the social media links below and share your adventures!



Important Information

It is advisable to keep dogs on leash since the rocks are surrounded by active cattle ranches. Anyone of any age or ability level can visit here at any time of the year. Note that the Monument Rocks are closed after sunset, and weather conditions may make the drive difficult or impassible. The rocks are soft and brittle, so avoid climbing them! Since the rocks are in the middle of nowhere, you're unlikely to see anyone here.

Directions

From Interstate 70 in Western Kansas, take the exit for U.S. Highway 83, then head south. Follow signs to stay on U.S. Highway 83 through Oakley, turning left then turning right. Watch for a sign for Monument Rocks, then turn left onto a dirt road. A sedan can drive on these roads just fine in good conditions, but rain and mud may make the drive more difficult. When the dirt road ends at a T-intersection, turn right. Follow the road as it makes 90 degree turns, and you should see the rocks in the distance on the right -- it's so flat and empty out here, they should stick out on the horizon. Park next to the rocks.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! There are no facilities here.

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External Links