Spontaneous activity shifts at constant experimental conditions represent a widespread regulatory mechanism in ion channels. The molecular origins of these modal gating shifts are poorly understood. In the K+ channel KcsA, a multitude of fast activity shifts that emulate the native modal gating behaviour can be triggered by point-mutations in the hydrogen bonding network that controls the selectivity filter. Using solid-state NMR and molecular dynamics simulations in a variety of KcsA mutants, here we show that modal gating shifts in K+ channels are associated with important changes in the channel dynamics that strongly perturb the selectivity filter equilibrium conformation. Furthermore, our study reveals a drastically different motional and conformational selectivity filter landscape in a mutant that mimics voltage-gated K+ channels, which provides a foundation for an improved understanding of eukaryotic K+ channels. Altogether, our results provide a high-resolution perspective on some of the complex functional behaviour of K+ channels.