Hike Location: Indian Rock Park
Geographic Location: east side of Salina, KS (38.83735, -97.58878)
Length: 0.8 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: July 2020
Overview: A short loop featuring rock formations and a pond.
Park Information: http://www.salina-ks.gov/content/18394/18534/20376/22688.aspx
Hike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=822873
Summary Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdqsXbd-UlI
Photo Highlight:Directions to the trailhead: Near Salina, take I-70 to Ohio Street (exit 253). Exit and go south on Ohio St. Drive Ohio St. south 3.1 miles to Gypsum Avenue and turn left on Gypsum Ave. Drive Gypsum Ave. east 0.2 miles to Indiana Avenue. Turn right on Indiana Ave., then almost immediately turn left to enter Indian Rock Park. Park in the first small gravel parking lot on the right.
The hike: Owned and maintained by the City of Salina, Indian Rock Park consists of roughly 60 acres on the heavily residential east side of Salina. The park is most famous for some small waterfalls on the Smoky Hill River, which forms the park's eastern boundary, and also for its namesake rock. The rock's name comes from the Battle of Indian Rock in 1857, where the eastern Kansa, Delaware, and Potawatomi nations successfully held the rock's high ground against the western Cheyenne and Arapahoe nations. This battle effectively eradicated the western tribes from present-day central Kansas. The City of Salina was founded next to Indian Rock in 1858. In terms of amenities, the park offers only a small lodge, 3 picnic shelters, and the small system of nature trails featured in this hike. The trail system was in need of some maintenance when I came here, and that point leads to one warning about this park. Due to the park's urban location and the lack of trail maintenance, I might not come here on evenings or weekends due to personal safety concerns. I came here on a Wednesday morning, saw more rabbits than people, and had a nice hike.
From the parking lot, head down the dirt/gravel entrance trail and then turn left to begin a clockwise journey around the trail system. Prairie wildflowers of various kinds line the trail as it climbs to an overlook of the park's pond. The small grass-ringed pond appears nearly 70 feet below you, and the relatively tall buildings of downtown Salina appear in the distance. Be careful where you step up here: the soil and rocks that make up this bluff are very loose and easily eroded, so putting a foot in the wrong place could send you tumbling down the steep hill.
|High above the pond|
The trail continues climbing along the bluff with the pond downhill to the right until it comes out at the park road at 0.2 miles. The park's lodge sits just to the right of this point. Walk south (downhill) along the road for a short distance, then look to the left for a two-track gravel road that leads to the river. Step over the chain that blocks vehicle access to this road and head for the river.
|Smoky Hill River|
Next you pass some partially obstructed views of the river, which was wide and muddy on my visit, before curving right near the park's south boundary. The open prairie is replaced by dense shrubs in this wet area. At 0.45 miles, the trail curves right to cross the park road again and arrive at what used to be this park's main trailhead. Indian Rock itself stands here, and an historical interpretive sign tells about the 1857 Battle of Indian Rock.
|Final leg of trail|
The final leg of this hike may be the roughest one as the trail heads north around and over some large boulders with the pond you stood high above earlier now just feet to your right. Some numbered posts indicate the existence of an interpretive guide, but none were available on my visit. After passing the final pond view, you come out at the dirt/gravel entrance trail beside the parking lot that contains your car, thus signalling the end of the hike.