The Impossible Highway
Deemed “impossible” to construct by its critics, Needles Highway (SD Hwy 87)—a National Scenic Byway—was completed in 1922. The road lies within the 71,000 acre Custer State Park, just 30 miles south of Rapid City, and is an impressive 14 mile stretch that includes sharp turns, narrow tunnels, granite spires and world class views.
Needles Highway is one of three scenic routes along Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway.
Needles Eye Tunnel, just 8’ 4” wide, is one of three tunnels found on Needles Highway and is certainly the most famous. It’s name comes from the remarkable granite spire located near the tunnel entrance. Looking similar to the eye of a sewing needle, the sleek opening was created by rain – and wind - freezing and thawing over time.
Other tunnels include Hood Tunnel and Iron Creek Tunnel.
Cruising on Needles Highway isn’t about getting to the next destination, it’s about taking in the scenery. This slow-speed byway will take around an hour to drive and you’ll want to make time to snap a few photos. Spectacular sites to see along the way include Legion Lake, Center Lake, the Cathedral Spires and Sylvan Lake.
Make a day of it and plan other stops at iconic Black Hills landmarks. Start your Needles Highway cruise near Legion Lake and drive southwest. Once you reach Highway 16, you can either take a left on SD 385 to Crazy Horse Memorial or right on SD 244 to Mount Rushmore.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Needles Highway is open April through October. Due to the narrowness of the road, the byway is closed during winter months.
Be sure to check out other exploration opportunities in the Needles area. For the extreme adventurist, unpack the ropes and climb Cathedral Spires – boasting some of the best rock climbing in the United States. You can also hike the Cathedral Spires trail leading you to the base view of the piercing granite formations.