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Monument Rocks Kansas
Monument Rocks National Natural Landmark in Kansas.

Stunning Monument Rocks definitely worth the Detour

When I saw these beauties online, I knew we had to pop by the Monument Rocks on our 2022 Summer Road Trip. The kids thought I was lost as we cruised down dirt roads for what felt like an eternity them. Groans about wasted time erupted as the rocks appeared small in the distance. But when we finally pulled up, they jumped out of the car eager to explore!

Where are they?

Monument Rocks Natural Landmark is located on private property about 30 miles south of I-70 in western Kansas. The owner doesn’t charge admission, just asks visitors to be respectful of the rocks and animals and visit between sunrise and sunset. It only costs about an hour of time and a few miles on a dirt road to visit.

Monument Rocks Kansas
Monument Rocks from road.

What are they? (Science alert)

A regular visit for early road-trippers on the early American highway system, Monument Rocks were the first site to be designated as a National Natural Landmark in Kansas. The striking structures are composed of chalk (sedimentary rock calcium carbonate formed by the bodies of ancient plankton under the weight of the ocean about 80 million years ago). After the ancient sea that formed them withdrew, the surrounding land was slowly eroded exposing the towering beauties. If you look closely at the surrounding hills, you can see the chalk lying just beneath the prairie grass.

monument rocks
Largest free standing Monument Rock.

Hike around the rocks

Climbing on the rocks is prohibited, but the water eroded chalk on the ground makes for a great walking surface to explore the numerous sides and angles. While wandering we even found a whole colony of barn swallows that had taken up residence on the northern face of one of the formations.

barn swallows on Monument rocks
Bo found a colony of barn swallows living on the Monument Rocks.

Take some awesome pics

Contrast always makes for interesting photos. The white rocks and afternoon shadows were super fun to play with. There isn’t a lot of vegetation to add pops of color, but the kids and Arlo are my favorite additions anyway. The small formation on the west side of the road has an amazing arch that we just couldn’t resist.

pose in arch at Monument Rocks
Macey posing in the eroded arch at Monument Rocks.

Visit some ponies

The kids were elated to see an entire herd of horses adjacent to the monument. As we approached the fence line, several backed away, but a few came closer and seemed to enjoy a little love from the kids. This was honestly the hardest thing to pull them away from, but we were all anxious to get to the World’s Largest Handpainted Czech Egg and our friend’s farm.

ponies at Monument Rocks
Kids visiting a pony at Monument Rocks.

Be safe off the beaten path

With a seven-mile dirt road drive through oil fields and pastures, this site is definitely off the beaten path. Some might think “It’s just a quick our detour, but weather on the Great Plains can be extreme and unpredictable and there are no services or facilities at this site.

Monument rocks in distance.
Monument Rocks as seen from a mile north on dirt road.

Bring plenty of water. It was well over 100 degrees the afternoon that we stopped. This is a cool summer day for us Phoenicians, but Arlo and the kids each drank an entire bottle of water in the 30 minutes we were there. Arlo loves slurping a cool drink out of his bottle (similar style), and I love that it keeps the dripping to a minimum.

arlo at monument rocks
Arlo enjoyed exploring the rocks at this dog friendly location.

Dress for the weather. I worked in special events for over a decade and have seen dozens of people drop within minutes of exposure to triple digits. Hats, loose breathable clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses will keep a summer visit short and enjoyable. Winds and winter temps can also hit quickly, so we never leave home without sweats and blankets just in case.

hanging in the shade of monument rocks
There are a few shady spots in the afternoon.

Respect the road. If you’ve never driven on dirt roads, they can be a little tricky. I find a bit of light wash boarding fun, but water can really do some damage. Keep eyes open for potholes, mud or ice if traveling in the wet and cold seasons.

trees arched over road to monument rocks
A bit of shade from some trees arched over the dirt road to Monument Rocks.

Eternally on the hunt for the science in every adventure.

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