Wichita on the Cheap

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Kansas Road Trip: Coronado Heights

 

Approximately 80 miles northwest of Wichita, you will find the Coronado Heights Castle atop the only hill for miles around. It is a fun place to explore with your family and makes a great family road trip. Read about our family day trip from Wichita, a short history of Coronado Heights, and get a few helpful tips to make your visit fun and successful.

Our adventure to this “castle” in Kansas is just one in a series of Day Trips from Wichita that you can try with your own family!

Coronado Heights: Day Trip from Wichita, KS | Wichita on the Cheap

More Kansas Road Trips

Maxwell Wildlife Preserve and McPherson State Fishing Lake
Mushroom Rock State Park and Kanopolis Lake State Park
Kansas Road Trip Essentials
Cowley State Fishing Lake Waterfall
Henry’s Candy Co. in Dexter, Kansas
Chase State Lake Waterfall
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Monument Rocks and Lake Scott State Park (Weekend Getaway)

When to Visit Coronado Heights Castle in Kansas

Coronado Heights Castle is open every day from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and admission is FREE. However, since it is on an unpaved dirt road, I would not recommend going after a hard rain when the roads may be too muddy to navigate or if there has been a lot of ice and snow.

How to Get to Coronado Heights

From Wichita, KS, follow I-135 North toward Salina. Then take exit 78 for KS-4 West (aka Coronado Avenue) for 3 miles north of Lindsborg to Coronado Heights Road. (Coronado Heights Road is an unpaved dirt road.) Continue 1 mile west, past the Smoky Hill Cemetery, and turn right at the stone gate. From there, you will travel up a short, winding dirt road to the parking lot.

Coronado Heights Castle in Kansas
Coronado Heights – a fun family day trip in Kansas

Our Day Trip to Coronado Heights

My daughter and I went on a weekend trip with her scout group to Lindsborg, KS and Coronado Heights. Due to the threat of rain later in the day, we decided to go to Coronado Heights first. Since it was July when we went, the summer wildflowers were in full bloom, making a beautiful view from the top of the castle.

The castle itself,  has a main room with some stone picnic tables and a fireplace. The only light inside comes from natural light streaming through the window-like cutouts in the stone. To get to the top of the castle there is a narrow, spiral stone staircase. From the top, you can see for miles in every direction, making this a great stop for families, photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.

View from Coronado Heights "Castle"
Photo credit: Emily Schuster | The view from the roof of Coronado Heights

The castle is surrounded by stone picnic tables, dirt trails and a stone staircase that leads down to a 1988 sculpture by John Whitfield that states Coronado Heights “A Place to Share” and on the other side, it says “Coronado 1541”. If you don’t want to walk down the stairs, you will also see this monument halfway up your drive to the top of Coronado Heights. It is a great place to stop and take a picture.

We enjoyed walking the dirt nature trails, climbing on the rocks, watching the cows grazing in nearby fields and enjoying all that the outdoors in Kansas has to offer.

Hiking trail up near Coronado Heights
A beautiful wooded hiking trail near Coronado Heights

Note: There is a stone enclosed restroom area, but it is very rustic. In other words, it is an outhouse with no running water, so don’t forget to bring your Kansas Road Trip Travel Essentials.

Coronado Heights - inside view
An inside view of Coronado Heights

History of Coronado Heights

The Coronado Heights Castle and picnic area was built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to commemorate Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s quest for gold. (Source) Legend has it that in 1541, he climbed to the top of the hill where the castle now stands and looked around.  Realizing there was no gold to be found, he returned to Mexico. We do not know if Coronado actually stood on top of the hill where the castle now stands. However, in 1915 Johan August Udden, a professor of natural science at Bethany College in Lindsborg and amateur archeologist, discovered a small piece of Spanish chain mail at a Quiviran Indian village excavation site a few miles southwest of Lindsborg. (Source) (The chain mail is now on display at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, KS.) So we do know that the Spanish explorers did make it to Kansas and they did interact with the Quiviran Indians.

For more information and current updates about Coronado Heights, check the Smoky Valley Historical Association Facebook page.

Other Places to Explore Near Coronado Heights

Since we spent so much time enjoying our time at Coronado Heights, we ran out of time to check out the nearby Hoglund Dugout. It is a 6 foot x 12 foot stone lined dugout that was the first home of Gustaf and Maria Hoglund. The home was built in the summer of 1868 and they used their covered wagon canopy as a roof.

I plan on taking my kids to see this little known treasure the next time we’re up that way. I can’t imagine living in a home that small! According to the Lindsborg Convention & Visitors Bureau, to get to the Hoglund Dugout, “Drive 2.1 miles south on 12th Avenue from the entrance of Coronado Heights. Look for an opening in the tree line and a low silver iron rail fence on the east side of the road. Walk east approximately 50 feet to the dugout. There are no directional signs. Open daily, no admission fee.”

If you still haven’t had enough fun at this point, you can also stop in the Swedish town of Lindsborg on the way home to shop, visit the city park and so much more.

Have fun and get out and explore Kansas on the cheap!

Related:

Sunflower Fields in Bloom
You-Pick Places near Wichita
Barn Sales, Craft Fairs and Flea Markets in Kansas

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