KC Mountain Bike Trail Review – Shawnee Mission Park

The KC Metro has a ton of mountain bike trails – and there are tons of informative sites that cover that system of trails.There don’t seem to be, however, any that provide photos.

This series hopes to remedy that.

Shawnee Mission Park

Experience Level: Intermediate

Length: Short

Elevation Changes: Minimal

Here’s a map to Shawnee Mission Park so you can find your way. When you enter the park, take a left and follow the main road around until you see some tennis courts on your left. Park across the street from the tennis court. Look north, and you’ll see something akin to this:

The Beginning

Ride the path up to the woods and there you will find a trailhead proper:


The trails here are undergoing some much needed (and much appreciated) overhauling. As such, there is not yet an established flow for trail traffic. This post uses green arrows to show the loop I usually take while riding. The loop is roughly 3 miles long and takes about 20 minutes to ride. The trail vacillates between smooth (“butta”), hard-packed singletrack and rather technical rock-strewn climbs and downhills.
some rocks

Many portions of the trail also feature plenty of exposed root systems to manuver.

My loop is to generally ride clockwise. (There are exceptions that I will note.)

This trail is fun, fast and furious if you’re a competent rider. If you’re a novice, the trail is probably too technical for your enjoyment (but keep at it!).

At close to the half-way mark, the trail turns to almost complete rock.

To the left, there is a steep, rocky downhill which leads to the main road looping Shawnee Mission Park. But we’re not ready to leave this gnarlyness quite yet. We’ve got this to look forward to:

After the rocky mess at the west end of the trail comes three loose-rock-covered switchbacks in a row, which I fondly dubbed “The Three Amigos”.

Shawnee Mission Park is loaded with deer. During my brief afternoon ride I came across six. I tried to get photos, but they wouldn’t heed my hunter’s call. It’s a fun kinda freaky to come barreling around a corner into a bunch of grazing deer. Just watch out for Wendigo.

After The Three Amigos, there’s a slight, steady incline toward the northwest corner of the trail system. In this corner, you’ll find the trail branches.

This is where I break with the clock-wise flow and instead head up to a slightly higher point. This section of trail wasn’t weed-eated when I visited so I’m uncertain if those maintaining the trail plan to abandon it in the future.

Nevertheless, the riding is much the same: some smooth, some root, some rock.

Then, the crossroads.

A left turn takes you back to last trail branch. I don’t remember where a right turn takes you (perhaps the second branch?). I prefer straight, over a small piles of logs.

The path straight leads to a quick, slight descent over many exposed root systems.

More fast fun…then comes one of two major ascents up nasty rock hills. Both ascents feature either a path directly up the hill or an indirect path up. Even the indirect paths are challenging. The first uphill, I take.

And get some support from the Aether.

A bit more cranking, through another branch.

Then the other major ascent (or descent if you’re coming from the opposite direction).

No support from above exists for this climb. And, like I said, even the alternate route is a bitch.

(I spent the spring and summer of 1998 learning to navigate both of these hills. I did it then – and I will do it again, OHHH Yes!) Until then, just walk the hill, then re-mount and follow the trail back around to the trailhead. You can really build up some speed on this last leg, so get cranking!

Shawnee Mission Park is a great ride and getting better all the time, thanks to the efforts of Earthriders. The trails are challenging enough for a decent rider and short enough to be enjoyed as a pre-work dirt breakfast.

KC Mountain Bike Trail Review – Shawnee Mission Park

12 thoughts on “KC Mountain Bike Trail Review – Shawnee Mission Park

  1. Trail photos…

    KC is fortunate to have a wealth of mountain biking.  Within a half hour drive of Downtown you can find more than a 100 miles of single track, lovingly built and maintained by the great folks of EarthRiders. 
    However, most of those trails cou…


  2. well, the lack of photos wouldn’t have been surprising 5 years ago – but nowadays, with all the other info available on-line to riders, I think it makes for a more complete mt. biking scene if you can present some photos to accompany trail reports.

    next time i do this though, i’ll probably not try to ride the trail with my DSLR in tow. i was a nervous wreck. i’ll either get a smaller camera or just walk the trail and shoot photos.


  3. Dodo says:

    Nicely done, J. Though I was hoping for a picture of that fork where somersaulted into a rather stout tree. That’s one trail I was never quite able to navigate alone without getting lost.


  4. that section where you bit it is no longer available to ride, dode. you wouldn’t believe how much the trail has been improved. also blocked for now are those massive rock uphills that led from the valley bottom back up toward the horse trails. i expect the earthriders are salvaging what they can from those sections and will re-open them once they’ve been repaired.


  5. Glad you like the improvements, more are on the way. I have two comments:

    First, the primary goal is to eliminate as many intersections as possible. We are about two thirds of the way done with this phase of the project and expect to finish by the end of the year. At which point we will be able to put up logical signage.

    Second, many of the trails have become “easier” but this is because we are building a stacked loop system, trails closer to the trailhead are easier. Phase two will take us into a new peice of land we have not be allowed to ride on before and will contain more difficult but sustainable trails.

    Enjoy and come help us build next fall.


  6. i think it’s fantastic that the plan for SMP provides for trails suited to all experience levels.

    and i do plan to come help you work. i’m quite curious about the process and practice of sustainable trails and have been wanting to be part of the community in that respect.

    at any rate, SMP trails are much more enjoybable today than they were 10 years ago.


  7. Thanks for pointing this entry out. I had a BLAST on this trail yesterday. Although I’m not a complete neophyte to off-road riding, this was my first actual “mountain bike trail” ride. The way the trail cuts through the trees had me feeling like I was in a Star Wars Imperial Speederbike scene. The trail has some amazingly fast sections, but there were more than a few spots where I had to transition from balls-to-the-wall pedal pushing to technical navigation. I’m pretty sure that the trail I rode yesterday has some significant differences from what’s shown here. You can tell where they’ve been doing lots of work.


  8. oh, hell yes. there has been so much improvement just in the last year. seriously, though, let me know if and when you want to hit it up again (or the levee or minor park).


  9. Brenda says:

    This post is amazingly helpful! Have you created (or will you create) a similar post for other trails in KC? Thanks for doing this!


  10. brenda, i do hope to create similar posts for other local trails – i hoped to do it all last summer and you can see how far i got :). this post is actually very much outdated. the trails at SMP are now so much better and have plenty of signage to help you find your way. (although i still like my photos of the trails.)
    i hope to get the levee trails in lawrence captured. then start on the blue river. it’s difficult now that we have only a single car…


  11. Kyle Plummer says:

    Nice pictures! Sean was mentioning new trail on phase 2. How is that coming along! I live by Landahl and would like to check out some new paths. Did some work with Aarron, Ben, and John on some new Tasty stuff.


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