One of the many advantages of visiting national historic sites is the opportunity to actually see the places and touch the structures that have stood the test of time. One of these places is Fort Larned National Historic Site.
Fort Larned, located west of Larned in Kansas, is a complete and authentic army post. Its buildings sheltered troops known as the Guardians of the Santa Fe Trail. Originally, troops were stationed at Camp Alert on the Pawnee River. They were tasked with providing protection and escort service along the Santa Fe Trail. In 1860, the camp was moved further west and renamed Fort Larned after Colonel Benjamin F. Larned.
A visit to Fort Larned provides a glimpse of what daily life was like on the frontier for soldiers of the Indian Wars era. Visitors to the national historic site can view the nation’s best-preserved and best-restored fort from the period. Nine original buildings have been restored to their historic appearance, along with one reconstructed building.
Coronovirus Update: Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local public health authorities, the National Park System is increasing access and services in a phased approach across its units. Before visiting a park, please check the park website to determine its operating status. Updates about the overall NPS response to COVID-19, including safety information, are posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.
Fort Larned National Historic Site — Mailing Address: 1767 KS Hwy 156, Larned, KS, 67550 Phone: 620-285-6911, Website: https://www.nps.gov/fols/index.htm
Hours and Fees
The Visitor Center itself is closed due to COVID-19. However, all the non-climate controlled historic buildings, park grounds and the History and Nature Trail are open daily seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Central Time. The parking lot gate is closed and locked for the night at 5 p.m. The Fort is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It may also be closed or have a delayed opening if the area experiences heavy snowfall or icy conditions. Be sure to check the website or call first.
There are no entrance fees to visit Fort Larned.
Events and Activities
Fort Larned offers visitors a variety of activities and events to enjoy; some may be postponed due to COVID-related restrictions. The History & Nature Trail is a one-mile loop. Half of the trail is on a mowed path and half on a gravel road through the Fort. There are also Living History events. These events feature staff and volunteers in period clothing. Ranger guided tours (available as staffing allows) provide perspective on life at Fort Larned during the Indian Wars period.
Another location worth seeing is the Santa Fe Trail ruts site—real ruts left by countless wagons on this legendary trail. But since it requires a five-and-a-half-mile one way trip on gravel roads, you should check road conditions with a park ranger before setting out on your journey.
Fort Larned is also home to a wide range of wildlife, with more to view nearby at the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Refuge and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. There are also several attractions close to Fort Larned, including the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, the Santa Fe Trail Center and Pawnee Rock State Historic Park.
Fort Larned’s parking lot is about a quarter-mile from the park entrance, with sections for cars, buses, and RVs. Handicap parking is located by the walkway leading to the footbridge crossing the river. More information is available on the site’s Accessibility page.
Campgrounds and Picnic Area
Fort Larned itself has no campgrounds, onsite lodging or restaurant facilities. But there are campgrounds in the vicinity, including four in Larned—Santa Fe Trail RV Park, RodeHome RV Park, West Wind Villas and Camp Pawnee—and others in neighboring cities.
There is a picnic area located at the entrance to Fort Larned. It’s open during park hours with several shelters, fresh water, shade trees, and restrooms.
Central Kansas has a four-season climate: cold and dry winters, the potential for severe weather in spring, high temperatures in summer and milder weather in fall, with changing to snow and ice later in the season. This page breaks down what to expect in terms of temperature and precipitation during each season.
Bringing Fluffy or Fido? The good news is that pets are allowed. They must be restrained and accompanied at all times while visiting Fort Larned. While pets are not allowed in any of the park’s buildings—service dogs on duty are exempt—you can take them on the park grounds and the nature trail. You must pick up after them. Also, park regulations prohibit pets from being left unattended, including in closed vehicles, since high temperatures in closed vehicles can be harmful or deadly to pets.
Rules and Regulations
The Laws & Policies page lists specifics regarding special use permits, regulations governing the historic site, federal firearms laws affecting national parks. Fort Larned National Historic Site prohibits the launching of unmanned aircraft (aka “drones”) without written approval by the superintendent.
Safety is paramount when visiting any national park. Please follow all instructions when viewing historic weapons firing demonstrations. Since thunderstorms can occur during the spring, summer and fall, be sure to take cover in those situations. In the event of a violent storm or tornado, Fort Larned staff will direct visitors to planned safe zones.
For more information about Fort Larned, request a park brochure. The website also has multimedia presentations and a virtual tour. Once you’re at Fort Larned, you can use your cell phone for the OnCell mobile tour of the fort. You can also visit the Fort Larned National Historic Site.