Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Hays

As we explored the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail, we noticed several names in common in each of the cities…names like Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody. In Hays, the third of four cities we visited, those names popped up again. It isn’t surprising, since lawmen and others commonly moved from cowtown to cowtown in the mid- to late 1800s. Four cities make up the trail: Hays, Dodge City, Wichita, and Abilene. The old Gunsmoke television and radio series mentioned these cities often. As we visited each of the cities, we focused on Old West attractions. Here is our experience on the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Hays.

This is Part 3 of a 4-Part Series on the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail.

Take a Self-Guided Tour at the Historic Fort Hays Site

Silhouette figures of soldiers and Skip standing with them

With four original buildings still standing, plus a visitor center, we thought our visit to Historic Fort Hays would be a quick one. We ended up spending several hours on the self-guided tour. Besides the four buildings, several building foundations still remain. With informational signage throughout the grounds and many exhibits in the buildings, we came away with a good understanding of a soldier’s life at the fort. And in the case of one officer’s wife, apparitions following her death.
Read “Historic Fort Hays: Tracing the Footsteps of Frontier Defenders

See the Bison Herd

Five bison lying down and one standing in a field.

Following your visit to Historic Fort Hays, cross the highway to Frontier Park to see the bison herd. The herd represents the millions of bison that once wandered the area. Bison were critical to Native Americans, who depended on them for food, clothing, shelter, and tools. However, during the time of settler migration to the west, bison were subjected to extensive slaughter. Those millions of bison dwindled to only about one hundred.

Depending on when you visit, the bison may be close to the fenced area at the park or could be further out. We suggest you bring binoculars or a long-lens camera in case they’re grazing farther from the fence line.

One bison we were hoping to see but didn’t during our visit is the herd’s rare white bison. So, keep your eyes open for that one.

Take the Historic Walking Tour

Stop at the Hays Convention & Visitors Bureau office at 2700 Vine Street to pick up a brochure for the self-guide walking tour. Many of the 28 historic sites are on Old North Main Street, which today is 10th Street. Bronze plaques explain the significance of each of the locations.

Truth be told, it was extremely warm the afternoon of our early September visit, and we already spent several hours exploring Historic Fort Hays. So, we mostly did a drive-by tour. We suggest planning a separate day, preferably morning if you visit in the summer, to get the most benefit from the historic walking tour.

Visit Boot Hill

Stone marker that says "Hays City Boot Hill" and a statue of a man holding a hat atop another stone stucture.

Dodge City isn’t the only Boot Hill Cemetery location. In fact, Hays’ Boot Hill Cemetery remains a cemetery to this day. More than eighty bodies were buried there between 1867 and 1874. About half of them still remain. (The others were moved to Mt. Allen Cemetery.)

Limestone Sculpture Tour

Local artist Pete Felten is well known throughout Kansas for his sculptures carved from limestone. Twenty-two of his sculptures are spread throughout Hays, including several that represent the Old West. Here are photos of two that we saw.

Click here and scroll down to see a list of his artwork locations in Ellis County.

Look for Murals

For more art, check out the murals throughout Hays. Here are some that we found.

Where to Eat

Hickok’s Steakhouse

How can we NOT eat at a restaurant named Hickok’s Steakhouse when we’re on the Gunsmoke Trail? We both ordered the steak and shrimp with a salad and loaded baked potato. Delicious!

Please with a steak, baked potato, and shrimp

Gella’s Diner + Lb. Brewing Co.

We stopped for a mid-afternoon break at Gella’s Diner + Lb. Brewing Company, where we shared a flight of craft beers. We also split an order of Grebble, a yummy fried bread served with maple syrup and sunflower seed pesto for dipping. We both preferred the maple syrup.


If You Visit the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Hays…

Click here for more information on the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Hays,

After Hays, we headed back east to Abilene, our last of four cities on the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail. See Part 4 of our 4-part Gunsmoke Trail series to see what we explored in Abilene.

Other articles in this issue of Midwest Wanderer Explores…

Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Wichita
Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Dodge City
Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Abilene
Wild West Wichita Comes Alive at Old Cowtown Museum
The Keeper of the Plains and Mid-America All-Indian Center
Time Travel at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum
Boot Hill Museum: Discover the Wild West Legacy
Home of Stone: The Mueller-Schmidt House—A Living Heritage
Boot Hill Distillery: Soil to Sip in a Historical Location
Historic Fort Hays: Tracing the Footsteps of Frontier Defenders
Cowtown to Carousels: Explore the Dickinson County Heritage Center

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