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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.