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Scales and Tales

A Black Hills fall vacation may be just what you need

As the sun slowly sets on summer, it is easy to think of the long, cold winter ahead. However, there is still plenty of time to take in the lovely season that is autumn for a quick Black Hills fall vacation.

The Black Hills has great weather most of the time in the fall, with comfortable sunny days and cool star filled nights. This environment provides the perfect environment for getting outside and taking advantage of some of the great outdoor attractions that the Black Hills has to offer.

Reptile Gardens

This well-known Black Hills attraction is a unique reptile and botanical paradise. Stroll through the orchid filled tropical jungle under the giant Sky Dome. Watch for parrots and free roaming lizards. Enjoy the beautifully diverse botanical gardens which have over 40,000 flowers planted every summer on the lush 30 acre grounds. Meet prairie dogs, gentle giant tortoises, a huge saltwater crocodile, and see some of the deadliest snakes in the world. Reptile Gardens was listed in the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records as having the largest reptile zoo in the world. If you visited Reptile Gardens earlier in the season, don't forget to bring your season pass! Reptile Gardens is open until the end of November.

Harney Peak

At 7,242 feet, Harney Peak is not only the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains. There are several different trails to the summit, and you may choose which you prefer based on length and difficulty. Once you reach the top, the view of the Black Hills is dazzling. A stone fire tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938 and 1939 at the upper most elevation. It was used as a fire lookout until 1967. The rockwork on this structure is a work of art in itself. Not only does the tower have a multi-tiered balcony, there is also a sweeping stone staircase that leads visitors right to its doorway.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong, Custer is a wildlife reserve in the southern Black Hills that covers over 71,000 acres of rolling prairie and ponderosa pine forest. The park is home to a herd of 1500 free roaming bison. Also inhabiting the park are antelope, mule deer, big horn sheep, elk, mountain lions, mountain goats and a curious bunch of feral burros. The park offers several scenic drives as well as many opportunities for a hike or picnic.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

If you are planning a Black Hills fall vacation, be sure to stop by the four famous granite presidents. Enjoy an outdoor stroll to the observation deck, and walk the Presidential Trail for a unique view of this iconic sculpture.

The autumn months are a fantastic time to enjoy many outdoor Black Hills attractions, and something can be found for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to double check hours of operation, as many attractions that are open in the summer do change in the fall.

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Native to South Dakota

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About Us

Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing or go on a 3D safari. Our very own old west ghost town as numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

Don't miss your chance to Pet a Python!  Our snake handlers ar here to talk about any questions or myths you've heard about snakes. Don't forget your camera! Our pythons are very photogenic and love to photos with you!