Osage Hills of Oklahoma
Recommended Tire Size
March to June
Scenic, rugged, and beautiful rock, gravel and dirt road bikepacking adventures in Kansas. Your travels will take you along the geological spine of the Flint Hills, a distinct ecoregion with the densest coverage of intact native tallgrass prairie in North America.
The Flint Hills represent an interesting space in our world. Kansas and the many surrounding states are considered “fly over county,” which although intended as a slight, the concept has become a point of pride for those looking to wander through a less modern world and immerse themselves in an exposed wilderness.
This physical landscape has not changed in any dramatic fashion since colonial westward expansion. This sliver of native tallgrass prairie, 40 miles wide and the length of the state north to south could not be tamed by the plow. Ten inches below the soil is a solid limestone shelf, and another below it, and another below that one, the result of an ancient inland sea. You can still see the waves moving across the land as you ride, especially if the south wind is working it’s way through the grass. The tall grasses (Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indiangrass, Switchgrass) have a root structure that creeps up to 15 feet below the surface.
The Flint Hills Traverse carves its way through the spine of this region. In the spring as is tradition passed down from Native inhabitants, the region is set on fire. Controlled burns flush out the prior years death and allow for the germination of the most protein-rich grass in the world. A cycle of life not controlled by humans, but guided along by stewards who know this place is to be experienced but not changed. This place forces you to change, adapt, and experience the habitat with all five senses.
You will also not meet more kind people (locals) willing to serve you. They might not understand your crazy adventure, but the spirit that brought you there is deeply respected by those who forge a way of life on this land daily.
- Paved: 8%
- Smooth Gravel: 0%
- Rough Gravel: 75%
- 4×4 Road: 17%
- Singletrack: 0%
There are a number of off route accommodations and food resupply options which have been indicated in the Ride with GPS route map.
If you are short on time, consider breaking the route into short one- or two-day sections.
Aaron Apel created and stewards this route.
Additional thanks to Scott and Shawn O’Mara as well as Jerrod Foster for their willingness to help recon and refine the route.
Here is a little about Aaron in his own words:
A self-ascribed enigma of the bicycle industry, for almost two decades Aaron blends a passion for educating and promoting an active lifestyle on two wheels with a drive to see his community thrive and businesses creatively serve others. Nineteen of the last twenty years Aaron has called the Flint Hills of Kansas home; owning and operating small brick and mortar bicycle shops with a flair for off-road adventure. As part of the entrepreneurial spirit from the get-go, Aaron found cultivating (designing and constructing natural surface trail, exploring roads, mapping and promoting road and gravel routes, partnering with land managers, running local recreation funding political campaigns, linking state parks and resupplies for multi-day trips) both relationships and resources helped others in enjoying immersive outdoor experiences. In early 2014 two joys collided for the first time for Aaron. After acquiring the bare minimum of bags to strap bedding and food to his single speed hardtail mountain bike he was off to a local fishing lake for a night of campfire food and stargazing. Fast forward a few years and after a relocation Aaron found himself in Emporia, KS, managing a bike shop that specializes in gravel road riding and bikepacking! It was in Emporia that his route building skills were honed in with the help of an already well established community of adventurers. For the next three and a half years, (even through the pandemic) Aaron either organized himself or assisted and led approx. 4-9 bikepacking trips in the Flint Hills region annually. From sub-24 overnight adventures, to multi-day 100+ mile explorations of the amber waves of gravel roads that he called home.
The Flint Hills Traverse is a love letter to the land that has inspired a lifetime of love in nature and a desire to share it with others. Aaron has had the privilege of living in two communities immersed in the Flint Hills. One about 100 miles from the northern border of Nebraska and the other about 150 miles from the southern border with Oklahoma. The entire Flint Hills has been his home. Exploring roads in every direction from each location has given Aaron a truly unique knowledge of the roads and how they connect over hundreds of miles. Anyone can put lines on a map…. But to make a route there is a deeper investment in both oneself and those they are hoping to guide through an experience. As of the day this was written Aaron resides in Merriam, KS just an hour and a half from being able to jump onto the Traverse.
Aaron has offered to be available to answer questions if you are planning a trip on this route.
Please also get in touch with any updates on route conditions that may be relevant to other riders.
Please submit your questions and comments on the route via the contact form below.
This route traverses the traditional lands of the Wash tage Mo zha, Ochethi Sakowin, Kiikaapoi, Wichita and Osage peoples.