Nestled among Kansas City’s western suburbs, a tranquil acreage twice the size of New York’s Central Park awaits outdoor enthusiasts who want to escape the daily to-do list to run, ride, swim, hike, stand-up paddleboard, fish, ride horses or romp with their dogs.
Located at 79th and Renner Road (just outside the 435 Loop), Shawnee Mission Park recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as the most visited park in the state of Kansas. The sprawling 1,600 acres include approximately 20 miles of unpaved trails and roads, a 120-acre pond, an off-leash dog park, a disc golf course and archery range.
The park is the perfect training ground for Kansas City’s many cyclists, either for building endurance on the rolling roads or honing technical skills on the 10 miles of singletrack. The three interwoven loops of trail cater to varying levels of experience for mountain biking. Orange is perfect for beginners to get their bearings, red is for the more advanced, and violet is a rocky ride suited for the more adventurous. All three of the trails are favorites of hikers and runners, so everyone should be on alert and practice proper trail etiquette – especially when bikes and horses can easily cross paths with tight corners.
With the marina parking lot being the hub of activity – water access, ample space, paved and off-road trailheads – Shawnee Mission Park hosts several events throughout the year, including the USAT Sanctioned Shawnee Mission Park Triathlon (July 12, 2015), with short and long triathlon courses and a duathlon. The park’s easy-to-navigate web of paved trails connecting to Mill Creek Streamway Trail System also provides ample opportunity for runners wanting to get in their long training runs for the area’s many half and full marathons.
If your hiking or running partner has four legs, the off-leash dog park gets rave reviews from visitors of both species. Spanning 53 acres, there’s plenty of room to roam alone or make new friends, and the dog-specific beach access serves as a great gathering space for any pets who love to splash around or could provide a nice introduction to the water for otherwise landlocked pups. There’s a water station at the entrance and disposable bags for those who may have forgotten to bring their own, but prepare to leave the dog park a little dirtier than expected. Between the puddles and the playing, there’s too much fun to be had to stay clean.
For those seeking more relaxation than recreation, the park is also home to The Theatre in the Park, a quiet beach, several comfortable shelters and picnic areas, family play areas, and a marina that rents canoes, pedal boats and fishing boats.