Outdoor enthusiast Roy Harryman launched KansasCityHiker.com just last month. His goal was to provide a definitive hiking guide for the six-county area that makes up Greater Kansas City. After scouring the outskirts of the metro, he’s included trails in Platte, Clay, Jackson, and Cass counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas. “Eventually I would like to expand and include day hikes, which could take people two to three hours out from Kansas City,” he says.
Currently, his recommended list has expanded to about 60 trails—and is growing by the day. “We only list trails we’ve visited. We want to provide a clear-eyed assessment for every visitor so they can see if the trail is for them. For example, we list trails’ suitability for children, for people with disabilities and whether you can bring your dog or ride your bike,” he says. “We also assess how well the trail is marked. Is it likely you’ll get lost? How challenging is it? These are things that government and parks guides usually don’t address. We want to save you time and help you discover nature in our area.”
We caught up with Harryman during a rare sit-still moment to find out more:
Tell me more about the genesis of the website.
“I launched this site for a couple of reasons. I had already started one for my own community, Lee’s Summit, called www.LeesSummitGo.com. Since I am a lifelong resident of Kansas City, I had already experienced much of the great outdoors here and realized there was no authoritative source for trails across the metro area. What you get are a patchwork of half-baked government sites, apps, and random blog posts that people have published over the years. In short, it’s frustrating and difficult to explore the great outdoors. We wanted to change that.
The pandemic restrictions also fueled this project. Because everything was closed in the spring, my teenage daughter and I tore up a lot of trails with our cameras in hand, documenting everything we could with this project in mind. Even now, there is great interest in the outdoors because options are so limited in terms of recreation.”
What sort of feedback have you received?
“I have been humbled by the response of people who are both avid hikers and those who simply like a pleasant stroll. They have expressed a great deal of appreciation for the work because I think they, too, have experienced the frustration of trying to locate good outdoor opportunities in KC.”
It’s getting chilly out—are people still getting out and about?
“Yes. Part of this is due to the COVID-19 restrictions. What else are you going to do? Also, we have moderate winters here in Kansas City with the exception of maybe two weeks a year. If you add a few extra layers and grab some Hot Hands, you can go most anywhere you want. It amazes me how many people I see out walking before sunrise, even on cool days, even when it’s snowing and raining.”
Do you hike all year-long? Any tips we simply must know?
“Yes! Spring is beautiful but it’s my Achilles heel because I have brutal allergies in that season. But, even then, I do what I can. Fall and winter are my favorite to get outdoors. Winter is often overlooked, but we get plenty of 40 – 50 degree days even from December to February. The beauty of winter hiking is that crowds are down, there are no bugs and you don’t have to worry about poison ivy, poison oak, and the rest. Summer is hit and miss. It can be beautiful, but it’s a constant battle with ticks, no-see-ums, poison ivy, and intense heat.”
I’m a nature buff. Where am I most likely to see out-of-the-ordinary wildlife?
“The further you are from roadways and development, the more likely you are to have a serious encounter with nature. Lake Jacomo’s Augie Trail, in Lee’s Summit, is one of those places. My son and I recently saw two deer clashing antlers in a battle to determine who was the alpha male. In the same area, I also walked right up to a bald eagle at eye level. We scared each other nearly to death.
Although the location is important, timing is too. If you’re out at dawn or dusk you’re likely to see deer or turkey, even in somewhat urban areas. Careful, patient observers may see flying squirrel, bobcats, coyotes, fox, and a wide range of waterfowl and migratory birds.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
“There is much more to the outdoors in Kansas City than meets the eye. You can find 250-foot bluffs above the Missouri River, dense forests along with cliffs, boulders, and canyons. Get into the ‘back country’ and you’ll find crystal-clear streams, pristine prairies, and places that will become your favorite.”