As the many etched names attest, Mushroom Rock was an object of interest long before it became part of a state park. Native tribes met there frequently, and explorers ranging from John Frémont to Kit Carson probably passed by on their travels.
On the heels of the explorers came the groups of covered wagons. The Smoky Hills Trail to Colorado, a route used by prospectors and stagecoach drivers, passed by not far to the south. The curious often wandered from their camps to see the geological marvel and carve their names into the rocks.
The Kansas Pacific Railroad gave Mushroom Rock, then called Pulpit Rock, broader notice. As survey work progressed, many surveyors grew interested in the unusual formation, drawing it and writing about it in magazines. Scientists examined its structure and submitted reports.
For many years, however, Mushroom Rock was hard to access. The only trail was rough and led across private land. In 1963, Ellsworth County constructed a road to the unusual rock. The county historical society also purchased five acres straddling the new road to showcase the geological phenomenon. This land was donated to the state and dedicated as a park on April 25, 1965.
Although located in the smallest state park in Kansas, Mushroom Rock gets its fair share of visitors. In recent years, it has been voted one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography.
- Take Kansas Highway 140 east out of Ellsworth for about 9 1/2 miles.
- Turn right onto 25th Road and continue for a mile.
- Turn left onto Avenue K and continue for about half of a mile to reach the parking lot.
Located in the Smoky Hills region, the landscape in and around Mushroom Rock State Park is just what you would expect—mostly prairie. A nearby creek, however, has permitted a few trees to grow, as well as some poison ivy.
Reptiles love sunning themselves on the rocks. Watch out for snakes, but also keep your eyes open for the more friendly collared lizards.
The highlight of the park, of course, is the geology. The rocks are primarily sandstone held together by a sort of lime-based “glue.” Each of the formations is unique, some resembling mushrooms and another a shoe. The interesting shapes were probably caused by erosion. In the case of the mushrooms, the bottoms are believed to be softer than the tops, thus eroding faster and creating the top-heavy hallmark shape. Over time, soil has built up around some of the boulders, leaving only parts visible.
Hunting is not allowed at Mushroom Rock State Park.
Fishing is not allowed at Mushroom Rock State Park.
Mushroom Rock State Park Trails: Short paths on either side of the road lead you to the unique rock formations. Feel free to do a little climbing.
Mushroom Rock State Park is for day use only. Take some time to enjoy the scenery. Bring your camera and a picnic lunch.
This tiny park is managed by nearby Kanopolis State Park. In fact, Mushroom Rock is one of the stops on the Kanopolis Lake Legacy Tour, a self-guided auto tour of the region. For more information, see our guide entry on Kanopolis State Park.