Needles Highway is a scenic curvy road in South Dakota

Located right in the Black Hills in Custer State Park in the US state of South Dakota, Needles Highway (South Dakota Highway 87) is a spectacular drive with stunning views.

Needles Highway

How long is the Needles Highway?

The paved scenic byway, part of the Peter Norbeck 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 encounter three narrow tunnels. The most famous is the Needles Eye Tunnel, measuring just 8’ 4” wide by 12' 0" high. The tunnel is quite impressive to see and makes for a great photo opportunity. You can obtain information about the tunnel sizes at the visitor center. Before passing through this tunnel, you need to be confident and aware of your vehicle's size. Navigating through them can be a cool experience, but as long as you don’t suffer from serious claustrophobia, you will be completely fine! It is recommended that beginner riders avoid this road. Other tunnels along the route are 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 to 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 recommended 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?

Straddling Custer and Pennington counties, on the eastern part of South Dakota, 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.