Manhattan offers trails for bikers of all experience


For students interested in taking advantage of the spring weather, riding a bicycle provides a low-impact means to stay fit and have a good time. Manhattan residents are fortunate to have several trails that provide traffic-free alternatives to riding on the often-congested streets of their city.

The River Trails

Mountain bike trails can be found just east of Tuttle Creek Boulevard beyond the Kansas River levee. While not officially recognized by the city, the so-called “River Trails” are a haven for riders interested in riding non-technical single-track. The loop boasts fast-flowing sections that require minimal experience or technical bike handling skills to have a great time.

The River Trails are not strewn with rock gardens or extreme climbs or descents as will be found on more difficult trail systems. For anyone interested in picking up mountain biking, this loop provides suitable terrain to obtain valuable off-road experience.

Location: East of Tuttle Creek Boulevard between the levee and the Kansas River.
Access Point: Enter via the Linear Trail near the Hwy. 24 bridge and the Manhattan Water Treatment Facility.
Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate
Distance: 2 miles (one-way)
Pros: Fast-flowing single-track.
Cons: Lots of blind corners, so watch out for riders up on the trail.
Trail Highlights: Various stunt jumps interspersed along the trail at the top of ravine drops and in a small basin, providing adequate opportunity to show off.

Fancy Creek State Park

Arguably the most suitable trails for more experienced riders desiring a test of their technical skills, the Fancy Creek Trails, near Tuttle Creek Reservoir, provide just the challenge.

“It’s the most challenging riding in the area,” said Tyler Whetstone, president of the K-State Cycling Club. “[The Fancy Creek trails] are the best single-track within a couple hours’ drive. They really develop good bike handling skills. I don’t think I’ve ridden the whole thing without putting a foot down.”

For riders seeking a challenge, Fancy Creek is the place to find it. For the less experienced, recent upgrades to the trail have made certain sections far more ridable. Whetstone said the past rainy off-season has damaged the trails, but thanks to the work of Dan Oldehoeft, bike coordinator for the City of Manhattan, and several other advocates, the trails have been groomed back to a pristine, ridable state.

Location: Fancy Creek State Park, 25 miles north of Manhattan, 2 miles east of the intersection of Highway 24 and Highway 16, near Randolph, Kan.
Access Point: Enter on the north side of Highway 16, just west of the bridge crossing Tuttle Creek Reservoir
Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
Distance: 5.5 miles
Pros: Most technical single-track within a few hours of Manhattan. Great diversity of terrain.
Cons: Almost 20 miles north of campus.
Trail Highlights: Great views of Tuttle Creek and the surrounding hills and plains.

Manhattan Linear Trail

The most accessible trail around Manhattan is the Linear Trail. This stretch of trail surrounds a great portion of the city’s north, east and south sides, providing an easy, gravel-paved means to get active. Linear Trail is great for casual riding and allows anyone an easy escape from the hectic traffic-ridden streets of Manhattan. This recreational trail is suitable for running, walking or bicycling.

“You don’t need any fancy bike to ride on the Linear Trail,” said Whetstone. It is this casualness that makes the Linear Trail such a valuable asset to Manhattan. A suitable ride for families and people looking to get some fresh air, the Linear Trails are worthy of an hour’s exploration.

Location: The trail circles much of the city, and could eventually surround all of Manhattan.
Access Points: Ft. Riley blvd and 4th St. (turn south on 4th; trail will be to your left), Ft. Riley blvd & Manhattan Ave (turn south on Manhattan Ave, plenty of parking at Griffith Park, trail south of the ball fields), Ft. Riley blvd & Richards Dr (turn north of Richards; trail behind Holiday Inn), Anderson Ave & Wreath (next to the Fire Station), 24 Hwy & Levee Dr (Parking across from Levee Dr), Casement Rd & Hayes Dr
Difficulty: Beginner
Distance: 15 miles, uncontinuous and depending on construction
Pros: Easy gravel trails for riders of any ability.
Cons: Part of the trail is closed while a bank of Wildcat Creek is stabilized.
Trail Highlights: An abundant amount of entry points enabling easy access.