In early 2003, the State of Kansas designated the 63-mile stretch of Highway K-7 between Leavenworth and White Cloud as the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway. The area was once covered with glaciers, leaving behind a scenic landscape of rolling, wooded hills, rock-strewn soil, and valleys with clear, running streams.
Beginning at the intersection of K-7 and K-92 in Leavenworth, the byway traverses Leavenworth, Atchison, and Doniphan Counties along the same path Lewis and Clark traveled over two hundred years ago. Roughly paralleling the Missouri River, the byway has also been designated by the National Park Service as the official route of the Lewis and Clark Trail.
The Glacial Hills Scenic Byway will take you through rolling hills, rich farmland, and across Missouri River bluffs between Leavenworth and the Kansas/Nebraska border. Representing the earliest days of pioneer settlement along the Missouri River, you will pass through four communities, which are rich in history and provide several attractions.
Architectural heritage abounds in Leavenworth, Atchison, Troy, and White Cloud, showcasing many historic structures. Driving tours are available in Leavenworth and Fort Leavenworth, a walking tour in White Cloud, and a historic barn tour in Troy.
Along the way, you will discover impressive views of the Missouri River, historic barns, abundant railroad history, and numerous museums and sites associated with Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill Cody, Amelia Earhart, and Abraham Lincoln’s 1859 campaign tour through Kansas Territory.
The entrance to Leavenworth and the daunting walls of the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary is at the southern end of the byway. The first settlement in Kansas Territory in 1827, you can tour historic Fort Leavenworth, the oldest active Army post west of the Mississippi River.
While in Leavenworth, you can also take a walking or driving tour of the many historical places in the community. The Historic Wayside Tour features 13 historical sites along the downtown area’s riverfront and six additional sites that can be reached by car. Maps are available at the Welcome Center North at the corner of Cheyenne & 4th Street, the Welcome Center South in Ray Miller Park, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 518 Shawnee.
The city of Leavenworth was ranked the number one historical city in the state in June 2001, in the ePodunk Historic Small Towns Index.
Frontier Army Museum – Reynolds Avenue, Fort Leavenworth. For tour information, call (913) 682-4113, Museum (913) 684-3191, Gift Shop (913) 651-7440. Open Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Sunday and Holidays, Noon to 4:00 p.m.; Closed Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, and Easter. Free Admission, Donations Accepted.
Carroll Mansion – 1128 5th Avenue, Leavenworth. The mansion is open May through August, Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Sunday, 1 – 4:30 p.m.; September through April, daily 1 – 4:30 p.m. Closed in January and major holidays. Admission is charged. Operated by the Leavenworth Historical Society, (913)682-7759
First City Museum, 209 Delaware, Leavenworth. The museum is open Thursdays & Fridays from Noon – 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. For special visits or tours, please call (913) 682-1866 or 800-844-4114.
Historic Wayside Tour – Take a walk back in time to where the West began. Leavenworth, the “First City of Kansas,” invites you to step back in time and explore the rich history of Leavenworth by visiting our Historic Wayside Tour. Waysides are interactive displays throughout Leavenworth that feature unique local artwork depicting images of significant historical people, structures, or events associated with the site. Digital technology allows you to hear a recorded narrative with a push of a button. There are 13 waysides located in the riverfront downtown area that can be experienced as a walking tour, as well as six waysides that can be reached by car. In addition, there are waysides within the welcome centers at the north and south ends of town.
The National Fred Harvey Museum, at 624 Olive Street. Special tour arrangements can be made by contacting the museum at (913) 682-1866.
After leaving Leavenworth, you will travel toward Atchison, where the route has been designated as the Amelia Earhart Memorial Highway. The world-famous aviatrix’s birthplace in Atchison is now a museum.
Atchison is noted for its grand Victorian homes along brick-paved streets and its important role in the early history of Kansas. The Chamber of Commerce operates a Tourist Trolley May through October, which features several specialty tours, like the Haunted Homes Tour and the Trolley Tour of Lights at Christmas.
Atchison is home to five museums, plentiful attractions, and beautiful views of the Missouri River basin. The town also boasts 18 homes on the National Register of Historic Places.
Atchison also offers Warnock Lake, located south off 274 Rd. and Price Blvd, and the Atchison State Fishing Lake and Wildlife Area three miles north on Highway 7 and two miles west.
Atchison County Visitors Center and Museum. Located in the restored Santa Fe Depot, 200 S. 10th St. Admission is by donation. Summer hours are: Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m.; Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 12:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. Winter hours are: Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. (913)367-6238.
Atchison Rail Museum. Located adjacent to the restored Santa Fe Depot, 200 S. 10th St, (913) 367-6454.
Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum. Located at 223 N Terrace St. Admission: $2.00. Summer hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Saturday, 10a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (913) 367-4217.
Cray Historical Home Museum. Located at 805 N. 5th St. Museum hours fluctuate depending upon when you visit, (913) 367-3046.
Wildlife abounds along the Missouri River as you travel northwest through the rolling hills to Doniphan County and Troy, Kansas.
Troy was established in 1855 and houses several historic buildings. A self-guided barn tour is available to view the Byre and Bluff barns. Brochures are available at the Convention and Visitors Bureau. While in Troy, visit the famous “Tall Oak” Monument on the south lawn of the historic courthouse and the Fred Baker House, where Lincoln stayed before giving his famous Cooper Union Address.
A Ghost Town Tour is also available, sponsored by the Native American Heritage Museum in conjunction with the Kansas State Historical Society. There are 50 ghost towns in Doniphan County.
Ghost Town Tour. A small fee is charged, and reservations are required. Call 785-365-2604
Native American Heritage Museum. Located at 1737 Elgin Road, Highland, Kansas, one mile north of U.S. 36, two miles east of Highland, Kansas. Fee required. 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Wednesday – Saturday, 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Sunday.
Continuing your travels northwest, you can visit the Iowa, Sac & Fox Mission State Historic Site, just three miles outside Highland. It was established in 1837 to serve, and train Indians relocated to Kansas from their ancestral homes.
Continuing your journey, you will reach the small community of White Cloud.
Along the Missouri River near White Cloud are the unusual towering Bluffs of Loess (pronounced like “luss”), which extend to southwest Iowa and southeast Nebraska. The bluffs are characterized by sharp-edged ridge crests and slopes, sometimes very steep. An overlook in White Cloud affords views of four states: Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa.
This almost “ghostly” small town, which now only has about 200 residents, once boasted a population of over 2,000. Though it hardly seems possible, this sleepy little village hosts one of the largest flea markets in the country twice a year – on the weekend that includes the 1st Sunday in May and the weekend that includes the 1st Sunday in September. It was listed by McCall’s Magazine as “one of the best flea markets from coast to coast.”
At the northern terminus of the byway, an iron pillar on a bluff high above the road marks the 40th Parallel. Set in 1855, the marker denotes the Kansas/Nebraska state line and was used in surveying the two states and portions of Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota.
For more information on the Glacial Hills Byway, see Kansas Tourism website here
Byways & Historic Trails – Great Drives in America