Mushroom Rock is a prominent rock feature located in Montgomery County, Kansas, United States. The site was designated as a state park in 1969 and has been operated by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) ever since. Located on Highway 261 about 5 miles west of Norton, Kansas, the 1,063-acre (430ha) park features an easy to moderate trail system with scenic overlooks.
A visitor center open year round, offers interpretive displays, books, T-shirts, hats, and other items for sale. Entrance fees are only charged from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. The park receives nearly 640,000 visitors annually. On Presidents’ day in February (see Notes), attendance more than doubled. In 2010, the Friends of Mushroom Rock organized a “mini-relay” race which they hoped would raise awareness of the park and increase visitation. The first annual “Rock Chalk Dash”, sponsored by Sealy Mattress Company, raised over $12,000 for the Friends of Mushroom Rock. This money will be matched dollar for dollar by Sealy Mattress Company, who also provided half of the funds needed to establish the park.
Fairly simple in design, the main trail loop at Mushroom Rock consists of two parts: a blue .75-mile (1.21km) route that stays close to the south side of Highway 261 and a yellow 0.5-mile (0.80km) route that runs along the top of the hill. The routes join near the middle of the park. It’s not uncommon to see runners using these trails during races held there. The park received attention between 2008 and 2011 when it served as one of the filming locations for Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.
The park was closed for several months in 2009 because of budget cuts but reopened again in June of that year. Budget cuts were once again forcing closures in October 2011, though this time due to wildfires in northeast Kansas. After the 2012 season, the park remained open but unstaffed. As of March 2013, the KDWP had announced that due to budget constraints, they would not be renewing their lease after it expired in July 2014. However, after receiving donations from local businesses, the park was able to put up signs announcing that they had secured funding to keep the park open. They opened a new campground facility in 2015.
Campsites range from semi modern to fully primitive. Primitive sites do not have running water or trash facilities. Water and trash cans are available at the fairly centralised modern campground. Access to all areas of the park including both parking lots, the beach, the nature center, etc., is via either the Yellow Trail or the Blue Trail. Both start at the same point, run parallel to each other, then meet back at the Nature Center. The distance between the parking lot and the summit of the hilltop is less than 3 miles (4.8km). The park provides access to hang gliders, kites, and model airplanes as well as providing scenery for photographers visiting the area. View east towards the Pecan Lake dam. The land here is very flat. Hikers can reach a ridge overlooking the lake. Another ridge farther north leads to views of the Arkansas River Valley. Picnic shelter built in 1970’s. Modern restroom building constructed in 2000. Old bathhouse dating from pre-World War II construction.
- water sports
- mountain biking
- general exploration
Birds of many different species live in or stop during migration season around the park. Common birds such as:
- purple martins
- red-winged blackbirds
- turkey vultures
- wild turkeys
- Fox squirrels
- white-tail deer
- striped skunks
Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles and amphibians are equally diverse. It includes:
Lizards and snakes shed their skins multiple times a year, so grooming is necessary to rid oneself of these unwelcome guests.