Riding in the Flint Hills

The Flint Hills of Eastern Kansas have become a bastion for cycling in the past decade. It’s easy to see why. This region is rugged, remote, and beautiful. It’s one of the last remaining tracts of natural tallgrass prairie and Emporia is perfectly situated within the area as the Gravel Grinding Capital of the World. It’s chock full of gravel roads which take riders away from the hustle and bustle of pavement.

In many ways, gravel is one of the safest ways to travel by bike. However, there is much to know about the nuances of gravel riding and the challenges that the Flint Hills provide. That’s why we’ve put together this list of things you need to know before selecting a route and heading out on a two-wheeled journey into the rocky hills!

Murder Ordained - 13.7 Miles

Despite its ominous name, ‘Murder Ordained’ is a very tame, beginner friendly route. It is nearly pancake flat with only 249 ft. of climbing over the 13.8 miles. It is so aptly named for the Rocky Ford bridge (Bird Bridge to locals) that it traverses. While the through truss design is interesting enough in its own right, the real allure comes from its troubled past. This bridge was the site of a murder by a local minister. While that event occurred decades ago, the history still lives on to locals. Whether you’re new to gravel or just looking for an easy spin, this is the route for you!

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Flint Hills Nature Trail - 18.6 Miles

The Flint Hills Nature Trail is a converted rail bed. Climbing is minimal and the grades are gentle. You won’t find any steep climbs on this route. And while this particular section is set up as an out and back starting and ending in Admire, KS, the FHNT actually extends for 117 miles. There are plenty of views as this path generally follows the Santa Fe Trail and ultimately concludes in historic Council Grove. A great ride for families, beginners, and advanced riders alike. Everyone can find all day enjoyment on this trail, as you can set your own distance.

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County Seat Run - 27 Miles

This beginner friendly route takes riders to the town of Americus, which at one time rivaled Emporia for the position of county seat. While Emporia eventually won out, there were many cries of outlandish behavior to make that so. There are even claims of a nighttime raid to steal county records. Have no fear, the animosity has long been put to rest and Americus has welcomed many gravel cyclists, even those coming from Emporia. The Casey’s General Store in Americus makes a great place to stop and refuel if needed. Because the route from Emporia to Americus and back stays close to the Neosho river you won’t encounter a lot of climbing, making this a great exploratory ride for gravel enthusiasts of all abilities.

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Vitamin G - 32 Miles

While each person’s daily recommended dose of ‘Vitamin Gravel’ may vary, this route surely is a staple for gravel grinders. This route does encounter Minimum Maintenance Roads (MMR), which are typically dirt. This route may not be suitable if conditions are damp, as these roads can turn to mud. When the forecast is favorable, these roads set the foundation for a nice foray into the Flint Hills. While the climbing is still relatively low, you will get a taste for some hills. Do this route often to get your recommended Vitamin G!

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Teapot Mound Loop - 49.2 Miles

Now this is what you travel to the gravel capitol for, open range and wide open vistas! This loop takes riders over Minimum Maintenance Roads (which can be muddy if wet) and into the open cattle grazing range that makes this area so special. Big climbs lead you south down YY Rd. (Teapot Mound Rd. to the locals) and across the cattle guards into open range. Don’t worry, the cattle are friendly! At mile 36 you’ll have the ability to top off bottles and get snacks if needed in Olpe. This is the kind of route that will keep you coming back for more!

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Kahola Krusher - 53.5 Miles

Many UNBOUND Gravel veterans will know Kahola Lake quite well, as it typically features in the final leg of most editions of the famed gravel race. And those memories are generally spurned by the late leg crushing climbs to be found there. With just 53.4 miles, this scenic route will give you the same taste of those hills without the epic distance.

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Wind Power - 52.5 Miles

Generate your own power as you traverse in and around 200 megawatts of wind-producing power. This route offers hard-packed, fast-rolling, well maintained gravel that features constant microrollers punctuated by a few pitchy climbs. Long, straight sections of non-technical riding allow you to focus on your form, push your pace, or appreciate the beauty of the rolling hills. Ready to lengthen your distance? A seasoned rider with a need for speed? Your power outlet awaits.

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Ride the Chase - 73.1 Miles

The Flint Hills are certainly vast and can not be entirely seen within a reasonable ride from Emporia. A short trip to Cottonwood Falls in neighboring Chase County is a must. Gravel aficionados be warned, this route will take you on 15 miles of pavement before reaching the gravelly goodness. The remaining 60 miles of gravel roads that lie ahead are worth pounding the pavement for. You’ll be treated to vast swatches of Prairie in a county where the cattle greatly outnumber the people. Because of the low population you’ll have roads nearly all to yourself. It does also mean you will have no services for the entire route. Rider must be prepared to carry enough food and water for the entire route.

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Prairie Fire - 86.6 Miles

No trip into the Flint Hills would be complete without a ride to historic Cottonwood Falls. This beautiful small town makes a perfect stop for weary riders. On this route, it’ll take 60 miles before reaching that stop. The good news is you’ll cover some of the best roads in the area en route! This course takes riders over remote and demanding terrain. There is also no support in the way of towns until mile 60. It is for this reason that this route is recommended for seasoned gravel riders who are well equipped for the rigors of such a challenging course.

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Native Stone - 100.4 Miles

Wabaunsee County, our neighbors to the North, are famous for their Native Stone. As if the primitive roads weren’t enough, catch a glimpse of a native Limestone Fence and you’ll certainly feel like you’re pioneering along the Santa Fe Trail. Along the way you’ll pass through historic Santa Fe Trail town, Council Grove, which boasts 24 national historical sites. Don’t dally too long, as there are still plenty of miles to be ridden!

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The Grind - 141.2 Miles

This route is not to be taken lightly by even the most accomplished gravel riders. You’ll have 100 miles of the best that the Flint Hills has to offer before finding a town to refuel in. We’ve pulled out the stops and have given you the green light on the world’s best gravel roads. You will be completely on your own, with little to no civilization in sight, for the first 100 miles before arriving in Madison. You’ll have another pit stop at mile 126 in Olpe. This one is not for the faint of heart!

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(620) 208-7680





Tuesday - Friday 

10:00am - 6:00pm


10:00am - 3:00pm


Merchant Cycles

716 Commercial St.

Emporia KS, 66801