Hidden Historic Gems | Cliff Drive

After moving from Des Moines to Kansas City, I jumped full force into exploring my new city. I hit the classics, like the Nelson-Atkins, Boulevard and ALL the BBQ, but I also looked a little deeper to find attractions that even lifelong Kansas Citians may not have visited. One of my favorite hidden historic gems? Cliff Drive.


As a State Scenic Byway in Northeast Kansas City, Cliff Drive’s winding, paved path overlooks the Missouri River and Kansas City Industrial parks. You can access Cliff Drive at Chestnut Trafficway & Cliff Drive. A few tips for visiting: The eastbound lane of Cliff Drive from The Paseo to Indian Mound is open to vehicles; the westbound lane is a dedicated bike and pedestrian lane. There is a bollard system separating the lanes. The drive closes at dusk each weekday evening and reopens the following morning. The drive is closed each weekend for Car Free Weekends.


Unlike popular scenic byways (Pacific Coast Highway or Route 66), the 4.5-mile Cliff Drive is the shortest scenic byway and the only urban scenic byway in the United States. Despite being just ten minutes from Downtown, Cliff Drive feels like an escape from the city.


The area was first settled by a famous pioneering family, The Scaritts. The family built a log cabin high on the cliffside and used the natural springs in the area to cool their milk and butter. When Kansas City bought the land from the Scarritt estate in 1899, the natural spring was transformed into a fountain, and later, a waterfall.

Today the area is far from a pioneers’ homestead. The large park offers something for everyone—a paved path throughout the forests for walkers, runners and bikers. Limestone bluffs for adventurous climbers. Benches for the view seekers. Trails for the hikers and mountain bikers. Courses for the disk golfers. Personally, Cliff Drive’s showstopper is the Concourse. It’s something out of a fairytale, or the Jungle Book, maybe? Either way, it gets all the heart eyes.


Plus, this spot will only get better as fall sets in and the leaves begin to change– the perfect time to take in the beauty of Cliff Drive.