“The complete, magnificent Rails to Trails route through the Flint Hills of Kansas!
— Andy Cramb
This is an amazing rail-to-trail experience! The route between Council Grove to Osage City is a very secluded and rural experience. You're one with the trail out there...nothing else matters. As far as you can see, you're the only one out there.
I saw two signs shot up by 9mm and 5.56mm...listen for illegal activity as such and report it to 911. Also, be aware of Kansas rifle deer hunting season...I wouldn't recommend riding in early December for this reason.
The little towns might offer support if you're in need of water or help, but I didn't have time to venture into them as I had lots of trail to cover in one day. I have a few friends on Facebook who bikepack and this would be the best way to digest this trail and the Prairie Spirit Rail Trail which connects to this one in Ottawa, KS.
I rode this trail on a super cold day; 42 degrees with 30mph NW winds. It offered a great tailwind, but the pictures were lackluster after sunrise. I aspired to do this trail for eight months or so and this was the day it had to happen...to overcome the problem of a super long trail such as this.
How do you get back to your car?! My parents had business in Council Grove and offered to move my car to Vassar mid-day. So even with frigid weather conditions, I felt I was up to the challenge and took them up on their offer.
Don't underestimate this trail...the climb from Council Grove to Bushong is the only challenging uphill, but the sheer distance is quite a challenge if you're not used to that type of energy draw. Be sure to take plenty of food and water. I drank three liters of water and a thermos of hot coffee and a small lunch spread out across a few stops and was still spent after exploring to Vassar.
East of Vassar, I drove to specific points on the trail to see if Google Maps was correct. They aren't. As of November 2016, this is the most accurate map of this trail online that I'm aware of. Even though I drove around exploring the last 60 miles of trail, I still enjoyed finding the true end of the trail, and documenting as much of the trail as I could. I'm sure others can get some awesome pics I missed and I highly recommend they upload them!