Exploring Nature in the City

Spending time in nature reduces stress and elevates our mood. We've compiled our staff's favorite nearby sites for getting a healthy dose of nature, along with a list of essential items to have on hand. For more locations and ideas for nature engagement, check out Discover the Forest and the Outbound Collective.

In Your Own Backyard

EXPLORE THE 5 SENSES
Find a peaceful area or go on a short walk, and jot down what you see, hear, taste, feel and smell. Do this at different times to see if there are notable differences. Be creative!

IDENTIFY TREES
See how many species of trees you notice from your own backyard - what makes them different or alike? Use a blindfold and feel the difference between one tree and another.

OBSERVE BIRDS
Do online research or borrow bird books from the library to familiarize yourself with native birds. Can you identify the birds in your neighborhood? Observe their physical traits, behaviors and feeding habits.

PLAN A NATURE SCAVENGER HUNT
Create of list of natural things around your neighborhood and set out to find each item. Turn it into a friendly competition!

CATCH BUGS
Use a small plastic container with a lid to catch different bugs. If possible, use a magnifying glass to study them. Describe their physical traits and how they survive. Then let your bugs go!

Nature Centers

ANITA B. GORMAN CONSERVATION DISCOVERY CENTER - 4750 TROOST AVE, KC, MO
Check out the 10 acres of gardens, wetlands and walkways as well as their educational programs.

BURR OAK WOODS - 1401 NW PARK RD, BLUE SPRINGS, MO
Find wild animals and hands-on exhibits here. Venture outdoors using one of their six trails to see restored prairies and woodlands.

BURROUGHS AUDUBON - 7300 W PARK ROAD, BLUE SPRINGS, MO
This center offers a natural history library and a peaceful place to observe birds and wildlife.

ERNIE MILLER - 909 NORTH 7 HIGHWAY, OLATHE, KS
Learn about native fish and observe them in a 500-gallon aquarium. Hike winding trails and explore grassland, forest and creek habitat.

LAKESIDE - 4701 E GREGORY BLVD, KC, MO
Visit this center for native wildlife exhibits, educational programs, and walking trails.

MARTHA LAFITE THOMPSON - 407 NORTH LA FRENZ RD, LIBERTY, MO
Explore forest, prairie and wetlands in this 100-acre sanctuary.

Parks

BLUE VALLEY PARK - EAST 23RD ST & TOPPING AVE, KC, MO
Enjoy picnic areas, a water playground, a pond, a Frisbee golf course, and the Little Blue River.

CAVE SPRING PARK - 8701 E GREGORY BLVD, RAYTOWN, MO
Search this park for old buildings, creeks, and a small cave with a spring in it.

JACOB L. LOOSE PARK - 5200 WORNALL RD, KC, MO
This park features paved trails, a rose garden, an arboretum, tennis courts, a playground, and a lake.

KESSLER PARK & CLIFF DRIVE - GLADSTONE BLVD & CLIFF DRIVE, KC, MO
This historic park has bike trails and a lake. Find Missouri's largest living tree near Lookout point on Cliff Drive which is closed to car traffic.

MILL CREEK PARK - WEST 43RD & BROADWAY, KC, MO
This park includes a walking path, an outdoor fitness loop, and a large water garden.

PENN VALLEY PARK - WEST 29TH ST & BROADWAY, KC, MO
Explore this park that has a lake, dog park, walking trails, and Liberty Memorial.

SWOPE PARK - EAST MEYER BLVD & SWOPE PKWY, KC, MO
Discover playgrounds, sports fields, hiking/biking trails through a savanna, Lakeside Nature Center, and community gardens.

TOWN FORK CREEK GREENWAY - EAST 57TH ST & BELLEFONTAINE AVE, KC, MO
This park features walking/biking paths through beautiful savannas and ball fields.

WYANDOTTE COUNTY LAKE - 4051 WEST DR, KC, KS
This beautiful park is home to the F.L. Schlagle library, with nature books, live animals and programming. Visit the library, and hike the trails around the lake.

Trails

BLUE RIVER PARKWAY & MINOR PARK
11500 Blue River Road, KC, MO
4.1 MILES, EASY LEVEL

INDIAN CREEK TRAIL
9901 Holmes Rd, KC, MO
5 MILES TRAILSIDE CENTER TO ALEX GEORGE LAKE, EASY LEVEL

MISSOURI RIVERFRONT TRAIL
1001 Argosy Pkwy, Riverside, MO
4.8 MILES, EASY LEVEL

PLATTE LANDING & ENGLISH LANDING PARK
8701 McAfee St, Parkville, MO
4.6 MILES, EASY LEVEL

RIVERFRONT HERITAGE TRAIL
East 2nd & Main, KC, MO
2.5 MILES, EASY LEVEL

ROCKY POINT GLADES
7331 Oakwood Rd, KC, MO
2.3 MILES, INTERMEDIATE LEVEL

WHITE TAIL TRAIL
100-198 E 12th St, Parkville, MO
3 MILES, INTERMEDIATE LEVEL

State Parks & Conservation Lands

COOLEY LAKE CONSERVATION AREA - MISSOURI CITY, MO
Missouri River bottomland forest with oxbow lake

HARRY S. TRUMAN STATE PARK - WARSAW, MO
Restored glades on bluffs above the lake

JAMES A. REED MEMORIAL WILDLIFE AREA - LEE'S SUMMIT, MO
Woodlands, native grass, lakes and ponds

KNOB NOSTER STATE PARK - KNOB NOSTER, MO
Open oak woodland with patches of prairie along Clearfork Creek

LOESS BLUFFS NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE - FOREST CITY, MO
Hike the bluffs near refuge office and drive along the wetland pools to see thousands of water birds

PERSHING STATE PARK - LACLEDE, MO
Wet prairie near a meandering stream with oxbow sloughs and cutoffs

WALLACE STATE PARK - CAMERON, MO
Serene 6-acre Lake Allaman and extensive trails

WESTON BEND STATE PARK - WESTON, MO
Scenic overlook of the Missouri River along numerous trails

See Missouri State Parks and Missouri Dept. of Conservation for more information.

Travel Necessities & Staying Healthy

It's good to be prepared, and even more important with COVID-19. Before you venture out, check to make sure parks and trails are open. And remember that even if the area is open, restrooms and other facilities may still be closed, so consider bringing these essentials along:

  • Water in a reusable bottle
  • Toilet paper and trowel
  • Hand sanitizer or soap, extra water and towels
  • Masks and gloves
  • Simple snacks and small bag to carry out trash
  • Bug repellent and sunscreen


Then follow these tips to stay healthy while in nature:

  • If you have been sick in the last two weeks, stay home.
  • Travel in a group of 10 or fewer, and keep a physical distance of at least 6 feet while visiting areas, especially on trails.
  • If an area is crowded, or parking lot is full, find a less-crowded location. Avoid spots where people congregate such as scenic overlooks, fishing docks, etc.