Milford Lake is the biggest lake in the state and you can see why when you look at it on a map. There are many ways to get there since it is so big, so I will just share how to get there from I-70 coming from both directions. If you are coming east, you can take Milford Lake Road north to East K-244, and the alternate route (Alt K-244) will take you to North K-57 faster. Or if you are traveling west, simply take North US-77 to North K-57 and get to the same place. There you can either stay south at the Rolling Hills Park or ride the dam up north to Milford State Park.
Before I continue, let me tell you more background information about the lake. Milford lake is known for fishing and boating. Many state competitions involving these activities are held specifically at this lake for its size. This is somewhere you should consider if you are into fishing and boating. There are many places for you to do these things here which is why I recommend this lake in particular to you.
Last time I visited Milford, our family decided that East Rolling Hills Park is where we would swim. There is a nice beach located in this area after a few right turns once you are on the road directed by signs on K-57. There were a few playgrounds and restrooms near the beach that came in handy and there were plenty of trees on the west side providing a lot of shade for us in the evening. There is an outlet, fish hatchery, and nature center on the east side of the highway as well on the south side. Also to the east of the lake, you can even go golfing at the Rolling Meadows Golfing Course.
Taking a trip up north to Milford State Park, there are more swimming beaches, picnic benches in shade, more fishing spots, and more with plenty of restrooms and showers provided nearby. There is an overlook of the lake just right after the dam where you can go free of charge with a playground aka North Overlook Park. We visited here a time or two for a nice rest, a fun time on the playground, and a time for good pictures to keep for memories. There is a lot of housing and lodging north of the lake and east of the state park that are right next to the lake and have a decent view of everything in the comfort of their own homes.
Kanopolis Lake is located west of Salina and Lindsborg, and east of Ellsworth and the town of Kanopolis. You can get here via K-141. Take K-140 or K-4 to get to this highway.
Up north you can find more campgrounds and hiking grounds to take. For the people wanting to ride a boat, a way to do it is going to the Buzzard Bay Boat Ramp. My youth group took me here once and it was pretty interesting. We went hiking, and then made a campfire to cook hotdogs and smores. There is one public swimming beach along Beach Road. The best way to get here is by taking Vendago Road west. It splits into Horsethief Road and Beach Road and you can navigate from there depending on your desired destination.
Down south include more campgrounds, but most importantly, in my opinion, a better beach for swimming. There are showers and restrooms nearby. There are also some included up north for the activities up there. The way to get there is by taking Langley Point Road.
On the other side of the highway, the same road is called Riverside Drive. This is how you get to the outlet which requires another left turn. This is where the Smoky Hill River comes back from the lake and meets Sand Creek. Last time I went here, I saw people swimming, so I assume you can swim as well. There are restrooms in the same area. Or if you don’t like the water, it is a good place to take pictures.
The Kansas Turnpike Association (KTA) is responsible for keeping the toll road in good conditions. It travels west from Kansas City to Topeka then down through Emporia to Wichita, and then finally takes a dive south in Oklahoma. You can take this route via West I-70, West I-470, South I-335, and South I-35. It is approximately 225 miles long in total. You can also look at it from a reverse angle where the directions are north and east instead, taking you to Missouri.
Tolls may not be fun to pay for, but there are some benefits to it. First of all, there are places you can stop on the toll road instead of getting off to go through town traffic and then paying to get back on again. Additionally, there is an extra lane added to the two normal lanes so the road isn’t so jammed with traffic. Since it is after all a toll road. you can trust that it is a good, steady road to travel on. There are always improvements being made to the road. Less traffic will merge on the road since there are less exits than usual. Getting a KTA sticker costs money, but it allows you to keep driving without stopping because they have added cameras to capture a look at your license plate so they can bill you later. If you prefer to drive more conveniently, you can consider taking the toll or even getting a sticker at the front of your car if you wish.
As mentioned previously, there are service areas that provide food, restrooms, gas, shops, information spots, etc. You don’t have to pay to get off or on with these along the way. Here are where these locations are based off of mile markers you can find off to the side of the road or even between North & South / West & East Interstate on which you are traveling.
Kansas Welcome Center Service Area (Mile Marker 26) Get to know some more about the state of Kansas, visit the EZ GO store, stop by Phillips 66 for gas, or grab a bite at McDonald’s while you are taking a break from driving.
Towanda Service Area (Mile Marker 65) If you care to stop by, there are a couple of ChargePoint charging stations you can use or take Dunkin’ or Hardee’s to go.
Matfield Green Service Area (Mile Marker 97) Go ahead and take a look at the Al Larsen Memorial or stop at another Phillips 66 to get some gas or a snack for your travels. Another Dunkin’ to go? If it’s open why not have another one?
Emporia Service Area (Mile Marker 132) By this point you are not far from the halfway point of the turnpike. You are either approaching Emporia or have just left. If you wish, you can grab a bite to eat at McDonald’s, get gas at Valero, or stop at the Fast N Friendly store.
Topeka Service Area (Mile Marker 188) You have many options in this service area: Hardee’s, Pizza Hut Express, Dunkin’, Taco Bell, Phillip’s 66, and Kansas Originals Market. Need a charging station? There’s a couple east of the building.
Lawrence Service Area (Mile Marker 209) If you want to visit the EZ GO store, you can find one in this service area. Additionally, there is yet another McDonald’s and yet another Phillip’s 66. Once again, you have charging stations to use located east of the building.
There are two main toll plazas at each end of the turnpike for the people coming from or going to Oklahoma / Missouri. They are known as the Eastern Terminal Toll Plaza and the South Terminal Toll Plaza. These are located around mile markers 16 and 216. Pretty cool how they are almost exactly 200 miles apart from each other.
If you are traveling out west to Colorado or east to Missouri through Kansas via I-70, there are some towns you can stop at along the way to your destination. More specifically, I shall give some suggestions that have enough variety.for you. I will list the exit numbers, the town, and some reasoning. It is up to you which place is more convenient according to the pace of your travel. From Kansas City to Topeka is the Kansas Turnpike that I will talk about in the future.
Topeka (KS Capital City) (Exits 355-366) It is expected to be a big city and it is. The west part of I-470 is not a toll road unlike the east part once it meets up with I-335. I feel there are many more options in this part of the city that are much closer to the road. If you want to keep traveling through, you can take your pick which way to go. You can see more downtown on I-70 and I-470 bypasses most of it. If you don’t mind the toll you can get on ahead of time taking I-470 east.
Junction City (Exits 295-300) From Topeka to Junction City there really aren’t a lot of places to go that are right close by. You can find some but they might not have what you are looking for. Junction City has plenty of good options. If you so happened to check out K-State University before heading here, just take K-18 to make your way to Junction City and the interstate. Fort Riley is east of the town right between the K-18 exit and the main town. We normally take exits 296 & 298 for food whenever we travel in that direction. Check out Milford Lake!
Abilene (Exit 275) Exit 272 has a Love’s Travel Shop you can stop at to get gas and a few snacks. The main road is at Exit 275 where it meets up with K-15 and is most likely where you want to stop if you stop at all here. Most options are south, but there are a couple north from it. You can learn more about Eisenhower if you go to the south part of town taking K-15 if you wish.
Salina (Exits 250-253) It seems like a small town at first, but there are many more options by taking I-135 south at Exit 250. There you find a much bigger looking city, so you should be able to find the maximum amount of options this way. However, if you wish to stay near the interstate, take Exit 252 to K-143. Going south into town takes some time but connects to downtown. Up north is the quickest solution for rushed travelers. The travel store might be a convenient short stop on the north side of the road. Check out the Rolling Hills Zoo!
Russell (Exits 184 & 189) There are more smaller towns along the way, but don’t have too many places that are familiar to most people. However, if this is something that interests you, there is Wilson (Wilson Lake), Dorrance, and Bunker Hill for example. The town of Russell is a bit bigger and will have more options than the ones along the way. Just take north US-281 at Exit 184 or the main exit or take Business US-40 at Exit 189.
Hays (Exits 157 & 159) This is considered a major city in this part of the state. Be more than happy to take Exit 159 to get on US-183 and travel either direction north or south. Going south gives you more options, but there are also a number of places on the north side. Or if you care to take Exit 157 for Bypass US-183, you can go by Fort Hays State University and the west part of town. This is what I like to do occasionally when I’m travelling west.
WaKeeney (Exits 127 & 128) Traveling west from Hays, you could stop at Ellis at Exit 145, but WaKeeney in my opinion is a better choice if you have already stopped in Hays. South of the interstate on US-283 is a travelstore connected to a McDonald’s with a drive-thru. This is probably the best place to stop in WaKeeney. It is pretty easy to spot right to the side of both roads and we usually stop here most of the time when we travel.
Oakley (Exit 70 & 76) What exit you take can depend on your direction of travel. Both exits are good because they both have good rest stops and gas stations to get gas and a short snack. You can take Exit 70 for US-83 and Exit 76 for US-40. Exit 76 has a big gas station with multiple places to go. However, Exit 70 takes you to Buffalo Bill Cultural Center and also has a Cenex with a restaurant next door. You could even take both roads instead of the interstate if you were really curious about the town of Oakley.
Colby (Exits 53 & 54) The main exit would be Exit 53 since it connects with K-25. It is one of the main roads of the town. Just travel up north and find something there. Whenever we would travel west, we would stop here before heading to Colorado to get to somewhere like Denver. We just always found something there like the McDonald’s close by the interstate.
Goodland (Exits 17 & 19) West of Colby, US-24 joins the ride, you pass by Brewster followed by the time zone change. An hour behind is Goodland. Exit 19 leads to Bypass US-24 which comes back with K-27 at Exit 17. This is the main exit to get something to go in my opinion. This is really the last big stop before the state line. Kanorado at Exit 1 is the last town in Kansas and it is a pretty small one. Then you shall make your entrance into Colorful Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Burlington is the first available stop in Colorado 13 miles west from the state line. We also like to stop here sometimes.
Rest Areas There are many located along the interstate if you want to use the restroom or just stop driving for a bit. This is not including the toll road. Here is roughly where they are at based on mile markers: 336, 309, 265, 224, 187, 132, 96, 48, 9. These are what I can find and remember. If you are coming east from Colorado the rest area at around mile 9 is a welcome center for anyone new coming through the state.
If you are traveling through Kansas via I-35 or 135, there are some towns you can stop at along the way to your destination. More specifically, I shall give some suggestions that have enough variety.for you. I will list the exit numbers, the town, and some reasoning. It is up to you which place is more convenient according to the pace of your travel. I-135 is a non-toll road. Almost all of I-35 in Kansas is toll road except from Kansas City to Emporia. The Kansas Turnpike is something that I will talk about in the future.
There are a few cities between Emporia and Kansas City on I-35: Lebo, WIlliamsburg, Ottawa, Wellsville, Edgerton, Gardner, and then you enter the Kansas City suberbs. If I were to stop anywhere on the way to Kansas City or Emporia, I would probably choose Ottawa since it is bigger and has more ways to get there. Therefore, you should find somewhere to stop if you choose to stop here along the way to either major town.
I-135 runs from Salina to Wichita. It is very helpful when traveling north from places such as Wichita or Oklahoma when getting to Nebraska for example. Past Salina, US-81 is a two-laned road all the way to York, Nebraska where it meets I-80. Looking on the flip side of things, it is useful for people in places such as Nebraska and Kansas to connect directly with I-35 to get to Oklahoma and even Texas. In summary, I-35 travels from Texas and Oklahoma and then makes a slant starting from Wichita towards Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota. I-135 and US-81 from Wichita through Salina to I-80 in Nebraska create a fast and convenient route through central Kansas and Nebraska and help travelers trying to stay in the center part of the northern states have an easier time getting there. Now where to stop on I-135? Here are some suggestions that I have for you:
Wichita (Exits 1-11) As you can tell there are many places to get off in Wichita. You can check out Wichita State or take a plane from Wichita to either Dallas or Chicago and go just about anywhere from there. It is known as the air capital of the world. If you are just passing through, Kellogg (US-54 & US-400) has more potential as well as K-96.
Park City (Exits 13-16) If you don’t like to feel so crowded in Wichita, you can stop just north of it in Park City. We tend to stop here a time or two on the way back to Salina. There are a lot of places to stop even here if you want. Exit 14 is probably a good exit.
Newton (Exits 30-34) The main exit is most like Exit 31. It actually has more than one road you can turn on and has a few places off to the sides of the road. The north part of town is at Exit 34 where it connects to K-15. Exit 30 connects with K-15 & US-50 to get to the south part of town.
Hesston (Exit 40) Not the biggest town, but if you continue, you will have to go about another 20 miles for another good stop. Probably a good place to stop between Newton and McPherson. Exit 40 is the only way from interstate into town. We don’t stop here too often, but it is somewhere we can go just in case we need it.
McPherson (Exits 58 & 60) Exit 60 is the main exit where it connects to US-56 and Business US-81. Business US-81 going south goes through downtown, joins with K-61 from Hutchinson, and intersects with I-135 at Exit 58. Going west from the interstate, there are many places off US-56 you can stop for food, gas, or a restroom break. Continuing west you can find the downtown if it interests you.
Salina (Exits 88-95) This is where you really get to see the length of Salina going from north to south. You can’t see too much from I-70 since it just gets by the north part of the town. Exit 88 is the outskirts of town and then Exits 89 and 90 get you to the south part of town. Those two exits long with Exit 92 is where I recommend you stop if you stop here at all. After that, it is just a few miles north to I-70. From there, you can go west, east, or north on US-81 to Concordia and beyond.
Rest Areas There are only a few on I-135 & I-35 that are not on a toll road. Based on mile markers, there are two around 24 and 68 on I-135 and one around 175 on I-35. All other rest areas on I-35 in this state are on the Kansas Turnpike.