Needle’s Eye is a tunnel blasted through sheer granite walls traversed by South Dakota Highway 87 (also known as Needles Highway). As part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, the Needles Highway stretches 14 miles through granite structures and pine covered mountains. With so much scenery to absorb, don't be surprised if you find yourself driving 20 miles per hour.
The surface of the road is asphalted. The narrow, windy road and tunnels primarily attract tourists. The Needle’s 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. RVs and vehicles with large trailers may want to avoid Needles Highway.
Due the snow, the Needles Highway is closed in winter. It is typically open for driving from ealy April through mid-October, but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. To reach this highway, from Custer, South Dakota, take US-16 Alt 8 miles east to SD-87. Take SD-87 North along Needles Highway. Plan on spending at least 45 minutes and up to just over an hour to travel the 14 miles of Needles Highway. If you want to be sure it's open during your visit, visit the South Dakota DOT and look for information on US-87. There is a $15/vehicle or $6/person entrance fee for Custer State Park and Needles Highway.
The Black Hills have been a famous tourist destination for nearly a century. The drive is definitely worth it. A drive not to be missed! The vistas are amazing and the rock structures are otherworldly. There are many excellent photo opportunities. Don't forget your camera with lots of film/memory, fully charged batteries and an empty memory card! 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.
The route demands 100% concentration. Take a tip from the tortoise: slow and steady wins the race. 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. There are sheer drops virtually along the entire route and enough hairpins to make a whirling dervish dizzy. 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.