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.



Things To Do

Main Exhibits




Animal Facts



Native to South Dakota


Botanical Gardens


About Us

Dog Policy

We love all animals, wild and domesticated. Unfortunately due to a high number of recent incidents with dogs, our insurance company has advised us that we can no longer allow dogs, or other personal pets, on the Reptile Gardens grounds. ADA approved service dogs are, of course, allowed although there are three areas where they are not allowed for their safety and the safety of our animals. We do offer a shaded grassy area adjacent to our parking lot for walking your dog. We only ask that your pet be leashed and attended to at all times. You are welcome to come and go from the park as often as you like to tend to your dog. For more information, visit our FAQ Page


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