Why Should You Camp at Public Use Areas?

Looking to plan your next camping trip? If so, considering a public use area may be the right call. Public use areas are designated sections of land that are open to the general public. And just an hour away from the greater Kansas City area lies a public use area that is truly worth the trip, Woodridge Public Use Area.

Sitting near Clinton Lake, Woodridge Public Use Area is one of those places that I am constantly suggesting to people when they ask me where to camp. The location offers trails, multiple camp sites and basic amenities. Better yet, it is free to use.


To get to the campground, you will have to drive up a gravel road that does have a steep incline. Be warned, during inclement weather the gravel road can be difficult to navigate. Once you get to the campground, you’ll be greeted by a public restroom and plenty of campsite equipped with fire pits. If you are looking for more isolation, consider hiking down one of the many trails. There are primitive campsites located throughout.


Speaking of trails, that is the main highlight of Woodridge Public Use Area. The George Latham Trail is a 3.9-mile loop that circles the park. The trail features wooded areas, a couple of meadows and also goes alongside the shore of Clinton Lake. The trail is rated as easy, and is great for hiking as well as bird watching. Even if you are not planning to camp, I would suggest making the visit just to experience this well-kept, and interesting trail.

It can be easy to think that you need to drive hours away in order to decompress from city life. But with camping locations such as Woodridge Public Use Area, escaping the hustle and bustle of your daily routine is less than an hour away. Whether you are looking for a multi-day excursion or an overnight camping trip, this campground at Clinton Lake is one to consider.

Exploring Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park

Finding adventure in Kansas is not a difficult task, especially when you consider the 28 State Parks that dot the map. In 2018, a new State Park was opened in western Kansas, but the contents in the park are anything but new. Because Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park contains a Niobrara Chalk formation that was established millions of years ago.

In late July, some friends and I decided to visit this treasure to see a landscape that you may not expect in Kansas. And after a roughly six hour drive with a stop in Hays, KS, we arrived. Because of the length of the road trip, we opted to do a two-night camp at nearby Lake Scott State Park. This park offers a range of amenities, but we decided to keep it simple with a primitive camping site adjacent to the lake.

Not to detract from the beauty of Little Jerusalem, but Lake Scott also offers some awesome views. We were also pleasantly surprised to find a complex systems of trails that provided decent elevation above the camping area. So, shortly after setting up camp we gathered some water, and started to explore the trails that surrounded the lake.

While we hiked roughly a few miles, there were trails on all sides of the lake. Had we chosen to camp on a cooler weekend, we may have been able to explore more. But be advised, on a hot day, shade is hard to come by in this region of Kansas. So plan accordingly with plenty of water and snacks to help with the heat.

When hiking these trails, you may be surprised by some of the terrain. We found the trails to be well-maintained, but there are certainly some steep and rocky areas. So be sure to hike with care, there were a few times where I found myself having to focus on balance more than I expected.

As the sun set, the campground we were at was relatively quiet. There were some groups who were partying but also a fair amount of families. From what we could tell, Lake Scott is a favored fishing location for locals as well. I wish I would have brought along my pole and tackle box!

On our second day at camp, it was time to enter Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, which is roughly 20 minutes from Lake Scott. And to say we were impressed would be an understatement. The formation itself was priorly a part of McGuire Ranch for five generations. And it is astonishing how well-preserved this location is. In order to continue this, hikers are required to follow strict rules, that way the park can remain in pristine condition for more to enjoy.

The rock formations tower nearly 100 feet above the plains. This, combined with the wide-open skies make for a sublime feeling. And needless to say, it made the cross-state drive worth it. With temperatures reaching into the mid-90’s we spent about three hours in the park itself. Various wildlife can be spotted, as can plant life unique to the area. There is also plenty of informative signage throughout the park.

On our final day of camp, we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise with some welcomed cloud cover. And on the return home, I believe we all felt a deeper connection to the state of Kansas.

So, should you make the trip to Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park? If you are looking for a new side to Kansas, I think so. We are lucky to have public access to a place like this, and once you visit, that is something you are sure to feel as well.