Road Trip: Rolling Hills Zoo

The Perfect Size –

The Rolling Hills Zoo is just a short 15–20 minute drive west from Salina, Kansas. Where it’s nestled in the Smoky Hills. A region named so, according to the Kansas Geological Society, because of the “early morning haze that gathers in the valleys.”

Rolling Hills Zoo

It was fitting then, that this past weekend Damon and I arrived at the zoo on a brisk, early morning. Being as it was a Sunday, there were only a few other couples and young families scattered across the zoo. And of course, seeing all the cute kids in strollers was about as much fun as seeing the zoo animals!

RHZ Bench RHZ WayfindingRHZ Tunnel

Damon and I have both been to the Rolling Hills Zoo before. And what I really love about this zoo, in particular, is the walking path. It’s nice and spacious, and has twists and turns. I never feel lost in the space, or overwhelmed by foot traffic.

RHZ Midwest RHZ Seating RHZ Kids Country

I’ve been to my fair share of zoos, from small to large and all across Kansas. The Rolling Hills Zoo isn’t cramped or awkwardly arranged like a lot of smaller zoos. Nor is it huge and full of visitors. It’s the perfect in-between! I think a big part of that can be placed on the fact that it’s located in the Midwest countryside. And because of that, the zoo is designed accordingly…like a “prairie” zoo. Wide open spaces, natural trails, and breathing room being the distinguishing features.

Favorite Animals at the Rolling Hills Zoo –

Honestly, all the visible zoo animals were fun to see. And they were all pretty cute at the beginning, because it was still early enough that most of them were just lying down in a sleepy daze. According to the zoo pamphlet, there are 37 zoo animal areas. But as always, I had my favorites!

Koi Fish –

Who doesn’t love koi fish? They’re so colorful and beautiful! It always amazes me how large they can become in size. I guess it shouldn’t though, because they must get fed tons of those food pellets every day! But, they do have to fight each other (and those pesky geese) to get their fair share of food.

RHZ Koi Fish RHZ Goose + Koi Fish

Tigers –

The next to cross our path were the two tigers. They were both prowling about their habitats, and they looked absolutely stunning. Their fur and patterns were vibrant, and their presence was strong. As we left the area, the larger of the two tigers decided to settle down into his watering hole to cool off.

RHZ Tiger

Reptiles –

I’ll admit, normally I’m not that interested in the reptile area. In a lot of zoos, the area they’re housed in feels stuffy, dark, and smells a little bit. But that wasn’t the case with the Rolling Hills Zoo. It felt nice and cool, was dimly lit, and had a nice variety of reptiles to view. And just outside were two huge tortoises! One lounging in a mud bath, and the other chomping on grass for breakfast.

RHZ IguanaRHZ SnakeRHZ LizardRHZ Tortoise

Black Swans –

I’ve heard of black swans, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any before. Their appearance is very striking, because they have red bills that pop against their black feathers. There were two, and they had a nice sized pond habitat to themselves. One of the swans was paddling it’s way along the edge of the pond following us as we walked around the area. (Too cute!) It actually made me feel like I was the zoo animal being watched.

RHZ Black Swan

Not Just About the Animals –

Now, I don’t know about everyone else, but I know seeing the animals is only part of the reason I go to the zoo. There are three other reasons why I love going to zoos:

1. Being Outside –

In general, most activities are done inside. Shopping, eating, living, sleeping, etc. So, why not jump on the chance to do something fun outside! A little bit of sunshine and fresh air can do wonders both mentally and physically.

RHZ OstrichesRHZ FlamingoRHZ Geese

2. The Exercise –

Some people might scoff at this, but I think walking is one of those most important exercises a person can do. You don’t even have to walk fast and crazy (with your arms pumping like those Olympic speed walkers) to get a good dose of aerobic exercise. Just a normal walking pace gets the heart rate elevated and the lungs expanded. And what’s really nice is that walking, God willing, is something most people (young and old) can do throughout their lifetime.

RHZ Camel RHZ Coati RHZ Goose

3. Taking It All in –

There’s so much to see if you take the time to notice! Art installations and wayfinding signs. Textures and details. Trees and flowers. Structures and habitats. Playgrounds and interactive areas. The list goes on and on. But one of my most favorite sites to see at zoos, are all the non-zoo animals who have decided to make the zoo their home. Talk about geese and bird galore!

RHZ Buffalo SculptureRHZ BambooRHZ TulipsRHZ Pink Bud Tree

If you couldn’t tell, Damon and I had a great Sunday morning at the Rolling Hills Zoo! It took us about two hours to leisurely walk around and see all the zoo animals. There’s also a tram, restaurant, picnic area, playground, museum and gift shop. Which makes it fun and accessible for all ages!

RHZ Cute SignRHZ Tram RideRHZ Exit SignRHZ Souvenir Penny

So, if you’re in central Kansas and looking for something fun to do, I would highly recommend visiting the Rolling Hills Zoo!


Rolling Hills Zoo
Kansas Geological Society



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