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, a short history of Coronado Heights, and get a few helpful tips to make your visit fun and successful.
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When to Go
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 There
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other Things 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!