Needles Eye in South Dakota is a nerve-racking tunnel if you have a big vehicle

Needles Eye is a tunnel blasted through sheer granite walls located in Custer County, in the U.S. state of South Dakota. You can get information about the tunnel sizes at the visitor center. Owing to the narrow roadway, sharp turns, and low tunnels, the road has very little traffic.

Needles Eye

What’s Needles Eye in South Dakota famous for?

Needles Eye is one of the most memorable granite needles along the drive, with its signature ‘eye’ formed by countless years of rain, ice, and wind. This tunnel is a one-lane section of road that passes right through granite. It is one of three tunnels found on Needles Highway and is certainly one of the more popular pullouts. The tunnel is 8 feet 4 inches wide by 12 feet high. RVs and vehicles with large trailers may want to avoid the drive. It’s said to be the narrowest tunnel in South Dakota. Only one car at a time can go through, but huge charter buses squeeze through daily too. 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 as you don’t suffer from serious claustrophobia, you will be completely fine.

How long does it take to drive Needles Eye in South Dakota?

Set in Custer State Park, the tunnel is traversed by the scenic South Dakota Highway 87 (also known as Needles Highway). As part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, the road stretches 23 km (14 miles) through granite structures and pine-covered mountains. The narrow, windy road is totally paved and primarily attracts tourists. It has been a famous tourist destination for nearly a century. Plan on spending at least 45 minutes and up to just over an hour to travel the 14 miles of Needles Highway. Given the breathtaking scenery, don't be surprised if you find yourself driving 20 miles per hour. The vehicles that do travel this road are almost exclusively sightseers. 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. There is an entrance fee for Custer State Park and Needles Highway.

Is Needles Highway open in the winter?

Due to the snow, this road is usually closed in winters. It’s open from early April through mid-October, depending on snow conditions. If you want to be sure the road is open during your visit, visit the South Dakota DOT.

When was Needles Highway built?

Nestled in South Dakota's Black Hills, the road's name comes from the needle-like granite formations that 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 of the road was completed in 1922.