Day 4 – Driving Scenic Needles Highway, South Dakota

needles highway scenic drive south dakota

Needles Highway in South Dakota

Although planned for the next day, I had a few extra hours of daylight left and felt that taking the Needles Highway Scenic Drive in South Dakota would fit in perfectly before the laser show started at Crazy Horse Monument. I was pleased with my decision as it was near sunset and the golden colors of fall were even more vibrant with the setting sun.

needles highway scenic drive south dakota

rock tunnels along the Needles Highway

The road was narrow and windy with several rock craved out tunnels. Ironically I had already been on part of this road that morning when I had gotten lost on my way to the bison round up. Thanks Samantha the GPS for helping me out there!

needles highway scenic drive south dakota

Looks like the eye of a sewing needle, right?

I stopped at the eye of the needle, a rock formation that looked like the eye of a sewing needle. The parking spots were full, so I pulled through one of the rock tunnels and made my own parking spot. I then walked back through the tunnel to the optimal photo taking spot.

needles highway scenic drive south dakota

Rock tunnels on the Needles Highway in South Dakota

As I stood there with my fellow photographers I noticed an RV making it’s way up the road and slowly stopped in front of the rock tunnel. Comments began to be made “he’s not going to try that”, “he’ll get stuck”, “he’s crazy to think he’ll fit through there”… yeah well he did try that and we all stood there waiting for him to get wedged between the rocks.

needles highway scenic drive south dakota

eeek! Will he fit?

I suddenly realized that my truck was on the other side of the tunnel WITH MY DOG IN IT…. I now found myself hoping for the guy to make it otherwise I would be scaling steep rock walls IN FLIP FLOPS to get to my dog. After a few tears to his camper shell the guy made it through.  Nothing a little duct tape won’t fix, right??? Little did he know there was another tunnel to get through before he reached the other side. And little did I know at the time that he had already passed through one tunnel prior to getting there.

needles highway scenic drive south dakota

Sunset on the Needles Highway

needles highway scenic drive south dakota

Sylvan Lake near the Needles Highway

The Needles Highway is a beautiful scenic drive and I highly recommend it if you are in the area, especially in the fall time. The tall spires flanked the road along with the saturated fall colors adorning the trees made this an enjoyable trip filled with stunning photo opportunities. Another gem of the drive is Sylvan Lake. There is a shoreline trail that allows leashed dogs.

needles highway scenic drive south dakota

Sunset on the Needles Highway

If you would like to drive the Needles Highway Scenic Drive it is found on Highway 87. You can get to 87 from Highway 16 near Hill City or 16A in Custer State Park depending on where you are. Although my directions are a little vague the highway is well marked and should be easy to find! I will however include a link to a map of the highway for anyone interested.  Note that the narrowest tunnel is 8 foot 4 inches or about 2.56 meters, near the Needle’s Eye.  There are 3 tunnels total on the Needles Highway, with none of them having bypass options.

needles highway scenic drive south dakota

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14 Responses to Day 4 – Driving Scenic Needles Highway, South Dakota

  1. Wow this place is beautiful – I grew up in Colorado and it reminds me of home! Thank you for sharing I have never heard about this drive – gorgeous photos! thank you for sharing!

  2. Mandie says:

    Ahh, I remember going on a family road trip down this drive when I was a kid! I loved it then – might be time to revisit it now as an adult with a better camera 🙂

  3. Wow, I can imagine your excitement tacoed in terror watching that Rv and then remembering your beloved pet awaited you on the other side… Man, that RV driver was pretty b@lls to the wall! Yeah, Duct tape, that should do it… LOL! Enjoyed this post thoroughly, thank you~

  4. Amazing rock formations! I’m so glad Boomer was stranded on the other side of the tunnel by an overly optimistic RV driver!

  5. Those rock formations are beautiful. I really need to explore more of the US, would love to see South Dakota and spend some time in the national parks out that way. Love your pics, especially the sunset one!

  6. Wow, I love the different shapes of those rocks! The one in the 3rd picture is definitely needle like. Glad you didn’t have to scale any rocks!

  7. Jess says:

    Those rock tunnels are crazy! Beautiful views, but definitely not a spot to drive with an RV.

    • Yeah. One day I would love to head out on the road in an RV. I plan on getting a small van-like one if I did as I wouldn’t want it’s size to prevent me from going to places I want to see.

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