Wilson State Park Visitors Guide

Where is Wilson State Park

Located on the south shore of Wilson Lake, Wilson State Park resides entirely within the state of Kansas. The state park is most well-known for the access it provides to Wilson Lake. However, the state park also contains hiking trails, swimming beaches, and camping facilities. The state park is divided into two separate areas by a reservoir. The closest cities to Wilson State Park are Wilson and Russel, Kansas. The state park is located 153 miles and a two hour and forty-five-minute drive south of Grand Island, Nebraska, 389 miles and a five-hour drive east of Denver, Colorado, and 225 miles and a three-hour drive west of Kansas City. Wilson US State Park is also located near several other outdoor recreation areas. These recreation areas include Cheyenne Bottoms Refuge, Ottawa Fishing Lake, and Waconda Lake.

How Large is Wilson State Park

Wilson State Park covers over 900 acres. The park’s geography mainly consists of shoreline and rolling hills and meadows. Wilson Lake, the lake Wilson State Park provides southern access to, covers a total area of over 9,000 acres. Wilson State Park is divided into two separate areas by a reservoir on Wilson Lake. The two areas are the Hell Creek area and the Otoe area. The Hell Creek lies to the west and is much larger than the eastern Otoe area. Park facilities include a full-service marina, hiking trails, several beaches that are maintained and managed for recreation and swimming, and a campground. The park also contains several boat ramps that provide boaters with access to Wilson Lake.

Wilson park walking path through a field

Wilson State Park Weather

The weather at Wilson State Park varies frequently throughout the year. In the summer, temperatures in the park average between 60- and 95-degrees Fahrenheit. In winter, these temperatures cool considerably and average between 15- and 40-degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest temperatures of the year arrive at the park in June, July, and August, and the coldest temperatures find the park in December and January. On average, Wilson State Park receives around 50 days of rain per year. These 50 days of rain accumulate to a yearly average of around 22 inches. Wilson State Park also experiences snowfall throughout the winter. This snowfall in the park normally occurs throughout December, January, and February and averages around 15 inches per year.

When did Wilson State Park Become a State Park

Wilson State Park first became a state park in 1966. The park was established to protect the surrounding area and provide public access to Wilson Lake. When the park was first established the state park only possessed the Hell Creek area. In 1984, the state received more land for the state park and designated the land the Otoe area of Wilson State Park. The park is currently managed, maintained, and funded by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism. Ever since its creation in 1966, Wilson State Park has provided visitors with access to Wilson Lake and the great outdoors of Kansas.

Kansas field in the state park

Things to do in Wilson State Park

Visitors planning a trip to Wilson State Park will want to know all of the ins and outs of the activities and experiences present within the park. Our State Park Visitors Guide points out the park’s most popular and memorable adventures.

Participate in an Interpretive Program

Visitors arriving at Wilson State Park who are looking to learn the most about the state park should participate in one of the park’s interpretive programs. These programs normally discuss topics related to the park’s history, geology, geography, or ecology, and are led by knowledgeable park staff who can answer additional questions. A schedule for these programs is normally listed on the park’s website. However, the programs are offered on a rotating schedule when there is appropriate staff to host them.

Hike the Cedar Trail

The Cedar Trail at Wilson State Park can be experienced by hikers of all levels. The trail is paved and also is handicap accessible. The trail takes visitors a leisurely walk through the park’s interior. The trail is about one mile long and rated at the easiest difficulty.

Hike the Dakota Trail

Visitors who have completed the Cedar Trail and who are looking for a more challenging trail at Wilson State Park should embark down the Dakota Trail. This trail offers some of the best views in the park and takes visitors around Wilson Lake and over a series of rolling hills. The trail is two miles long and rated at a difficulty of moderate. The trail features several sections of challenging terrain.

Bike the Switchgrass Bike Trail

Visitors who prefer biking to hiking or who are looking to switch things up after hiking the Cedar Trail and the Dakota Trail should pedal down the Switchgrass Bike Trail. The trail is 24.5 miles long and takes visitors around the lake’s shoreline and throughout other areas in the park.

fishing at the lake at Wilson State Park

Fishing at Wilson State Park

Anglers visiting Wilson State Park can fish for a variety of species in Wilson Lake and Wilson Reservoir. The lake contains populations of striped bass, white bass, black bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, and walleye. Visitors looking to fish within the park should arrive at Wilson State Park with a valid Kansas state fishing license. All Kansas fishing regulations also apply to anglers fishing within the state park. An updated list of species-specific size and catch limits are available for viewing on the park’s website.

Wildlife Viewing

Wilson State Park hosts a variety of wildlife species. Species commonly spotted by visitors in the park include white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, pheasants, rabbits, quails, doves, and a variety of songbirds. Several of the park’s interpretive programs discuss topic related to the park’s wildlife that wildlife enthusiasts visiting the park may be interested in.

Camping at Wilson State Park

The campground at Wilson State Park contains around 80 camping sites and several reservable cabins. Visitors looking to camp within the park can make reservations online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to make reservations during the summer season or on peak weekends should make their reservation months in advance.

When to Visit Wilson State Park

Wilson State Park is open year-round and can be visited by visitors throughout the year. The summer at Wilson State Park brings warm temperatures that are optimal for hiking, camping, and other water themed recreation activities. Wildlife in the park is most active during the spring and fall. However, several fishing and hunting seasons occur throughout the year in the park. Visitors can also enjoy the park during winter.

Must Have Items to Bring to Wilson State Park

Every trip outdoors requires a bit of packing and planning. A trip to Wilson State Park is no exception. The following items should be considered by every visitor traveling to Wilson State Park. 

drinking water on a hike at Wilson State Park

Water and High Energy Snacks

Water and energy replenishing snacks are essential items List of Parks advises to bring on every outdoor recreation trip. Hikers and other visitors who plan to exert extended energy in Wilson State Park should bring additional supplies of water and snacks. Beef jerky, trail mix, and protein bars are some of the best snacks hikers can bring to replenish their energy levels.

Sunscreen and Sunglasses

In the summer, visitors to Wilson State Park should be prepared for the Kansas sun. Sunscreen and a pair of sunglasses will provide visitors with necessary protection. Visitors may also find it necessary to bring a hat along with them to Wilson State Park. 

Sturdy Hiking Boots

The various trails at Wilson State Park feature several different geographic features and levels of terrain. The best way to be prepared for all the trails the park has to offer is to arrive at Wilson State Park wearing a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Visitors looking to pedal down the Switchgrass Bike Trail should also bring their bike and all other necessary equipment.

Layers of Clothing

Temperatures in Wilson State Park can drop considerably very quickly. Campers and individuals looking to visit the park throughout the year should bring additional layers of clothing with them to the park. These layers will help visitors remain comfortable in all temperatures throughout their stay.

reading your map before a camping hike

Field Guides and Park Maps

Wildlife enthusiasts visiting Wilson State Park may want to purchase and bring along a Kansas specific wildlife field guide to make identification easier. The entrance station and park office can also supply hikers with trail maps and species checklists, as well as answer any additional questions about the park’s wildlife.

Where to Stay near Wilson State Park

Visitors looking to stay within Wilson State Park should first decide if they want to occupy one of the park’s campsites or cabins. After deciding, visitors can make a reservation for one of the park’s campsites or cabins. These reservations can be made on the park’s website and through the park’s reservation portal. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel or other lodging establishment in the area should first search for options in Wilson or Russel. Visitors looking for additional options or wanting to stay in a larger town should make the drive to Grand Island or Kansas City.

Food Near Wilson State Park

The closest food to Wilson State Park can be found in Wilson or Russel. However, visitors looking for additional options or a larger culinary scene may want to explore Grand Island or Kansas City. Grand Island is about 153 miles and a two hour and forty-five-minute drive north of Wilson State Park. Kansas City is about 225 miles and a three-hour drive east of the park. Each of these cities contain countless restaurants and bars.

Airport worker giving instructions

Airports Near Wilson State Park

The closest international airport to Wilson State Park is located in Kansas City. The Kansas City International Airport is 237 miles and about a three-and-a-half-hour drive east of the park. Other airports near Wilson State Park include the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport and the Dodge City Regional Airport. Of these three options, the Kansas City International Airport provides the most access to the largest variety of connecting flights.

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