Needles Highway

Needles Highway is a scenic winding road in South Dakota

Located right in the Black Hills in Custer State Park in South Dakota, USA, Needles Highway (South Dakota Highway 87) is a spectacular drive, part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, with stunning views.

How long is the Needles Highway?

The paved scenic byway is very twisty and winding, with some narrow parts that primarily attract tourists. It’s a 22.53km (14 mile) stretch that includes sharp turns, narrow tunnels, granite spires and world class views through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen, and rugged granite mountains. You’ll probably never see third gear on this tight two-lane road.

How many tunnels are on the Needles Highway?

Along the way you’ll have to deal with 3 narrow tunnels. The most famous tunnel is Needles Eye Tunnel, just 8’ 4” wide. The tunnel is pretty amazing to see and a great place for a photo-op. You can get information about the tunnel sizes at the visitor centre. The tunnel is 8' 4" wide by 12' 0" high. You need to be confident and aware of your vehicle size before passing through this tunnel. It’s a cool experience though navigating through them and as long you don’t suffer from serious claustrophobia, you will be completely fine! It is recommended that beginner riders avoid this road. Other tunnels include Hood Tunnel and Iron Creek Tunnel.

When’s the best time to go to Needles Highway?

Plan your visit from spring through fall. The Black Hills have been a famous tourist destination for nearly a century. Owing to the narrow roadway, sharp turns, and low tunnels, the road has very little traffic. The vehicles that do travel this road are almost exclusively sightseers. It’s a spectacular drive. If you're looking to take in the beauty of the Black Hills, this should be on the top of your list.

Is the Needles Highway open?

Due the snow, the Needles Highway is closed in winter. It is typically open for driving from early April through mid-October, but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow.

How far is Needles Highway from Mount Rushmore?

Deemed impossible to construct by its critics, along the way you’ll want to make time to snap a few photos. This is a remarkable road trip. Remember to bring your camera. It’s highly recommend it if you are in the area, especially in the fall time. It's located only 30 miles from Rapid City and 35 minutes from Mount Rushmore. It's one of the best things to do near Mount Rushmore.

How did Needles Highway get its name?

RVs and vehicles with large trailers may want to avoid Needles. Since the road is so narrow with many tight hairpin turns and a few extremely narrow tunnels, you can't really enjoy the scenery when driving. The road's name comes from the needle-like granite formations, which seem to pierce the horizon along the highway. The roadway was carefully planned by former South Dakota Governor Peter Norbeck, who marked the entire course on foot and by horseback. Construction was completed in 1922.

Does it cost to drive Needles Highway?

Located on the boundary of Custer and Pennington counties there is an entrance fee for Custer State Park and Needles Highway.

How long does it take to drive the Needles Highway?

The key to enjoying this drive is to go early in the morning. Take it easy. The drive is about 45 to 60 minutes. Pull-offs for photos and general marveling are frequent. When making plans, please allow ample time to travel at a safe speed. You won't want to be in a rush when you drive the Needles Highway. With so much scenery to absorb, don't be surprised if you find yourself driving 20 miles per hour. Stops recommended include Sylvan Lake and the Needle’s Eye. Shaggy white mountain goats, deer and chipmunks are among the commonly-seen wildlife along the way.


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