US Highway 36 Kansas Treasure Hunt

sellers and shoppers at the US 36 Treasure Hunt

Adina Tovy / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

Calling all flea market fans and professional pickers! What if we told you there was a treasure hunt of epic proportions held each year in Kansas? It's true—dubbed the U.S. Highway 36 Treasure Hunt, this unique highway yard sale takes place each September, spanning the entire state of Kansas and earning itself another nickname, the "Kansas Treasure Hunt." Started in 2006, the border-to-border event features flea markets, food trucks, and community activities during a long weekend each fall.

U.S. Highway 36 Treasure Hunt Route

The 400-mile route spans U.S. Highway 36 in northern Kansas from the Missouri border in Doniphan county to the Colorado border in Cheyenne County. Over 28 towns participate, and each boasts its own attractions, from antique and flea markets to yard sales, local celebrations, food booths, and more. Lodging is also available along the route, so participants can choose from a selection of places to stay and enjoy the weekend.

Dates and Times

The Kansas Treasure Hunt is held annually each fall on the third weekend in September. Activities officially run from Friday through Sunday of that weekend, but some vendors, shops, and citizens choose to set up as early as Wednesday to capitalize on out-of-state visitors that may be looking to spend more time browsing the goods. Specific hours of operation can vary depending on the type and location of the event in question but generally, shopping begins around 8 a.m. and concludes around sunset.

What to Buy

It's no coincidence that this aptly-named event is called the Kansas Treasure Hunt—it's nearly impossible to name every single goodie you may be able to find there. Generally, you can expect to score everything from books, crafts, and clothing, to higher-end finds like fine antiques, estate jewelry, artwork, and more. Some vendors specialize in just one type of good (like children's clothing or wooden furniture) while others' offerings will run the gamut and be a literal treasure trove of finds.

Treasure Hunt Shopping Tips

To make the most of your trip down U.S. Highway 36, keep an eye on all the roadside signs. Not only are they good indicators as to when major landmarks or shops are coming up, but they'll also clue you into clustered neighborhood sales, parking lots, and more. Additionally, beginning about two weeks before the event, you can find maps for sale at local gas stations (and online through Google Maps) that denote participating towns and areas, which will make it easier for you to plan out your journey and ensure you won't miss a good deal.

Carry around plenty of cash (there's no guarantee that credit cards are accepted) and come armed with any important measurements you may need, One more thing to consider: If you're hitting up this storied route from out of town (or more importantly, out of state), there won't be much room for endless treasures in your car. If you're hoping to snag multiple pieces of furniture, you may want to look into renting a truck to haul everything home.

Become a Seller

If you live locally and are thinking about selling goods at the Kansas Treasure Hunt, keep a few things in mind. First, to make it official, you'll need to fill out the online contact form that appears on the website about a month or two before the main event. The county coordinator in your part of the state will then respond and provide you with instructions on how to register your sale (most counties will charge a small fee for inclusion on the route map).

From there, prep for the weekend to ensure you're ready for whatever (and whoever!) comes your way. Print or write out plenty of signs so travelers know where to find you, and have a general idea as to where parking is available in your area in case they ask. Vendors are also encouraged to have plenty of small bills on-hand (like $1s and $5s), as buyers often arrive with large denominations (particularly at the start of the sale on Friday).

If you can, it's a good idea to provide boxes or paper bags for shoppers—and, if you sell fragile items, keep plenty of shredded paper, newspaper, or bubble wrap on-hand for packing. Also set aside a measuring tape so you can size-up pieces on the fly or mark the measurements of pieces ahead of time—buyers will surely ask! Finally, prepare for inclement weather with a few tarps in case conditions get wet or windy.

For more information about the U.S. Highway 36 Treasure Hunt, visit their Facebook page, or email them at ushwy36@gmail.com.