Two Great Drives in Custer State Park

 

NEEDLES HIGHWAY

Distance: 14 miles
Expected travel time: 45-60 minutes
Tunnels: Tunnel 5 (Near Needle’s Eye), 8′ 4″ wide by 12′ 0″ high;
Tunnel 6, 9′ 0″ wide by 12′ 3″ high. View map

The Needles Highway is a spectacular drive through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen and rugged granite mountains.

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.

Visitors traveling the highway pass Sylvan Lake and a unique rock formation called the Needle’s Eye, so named for the opening created by wind, rain, freezing and thawing.

IRON MOUNTAIN ROAD

Distance: 17 miles
Expected travel time: 
45-60 minutes
Tunnels: Tunnel 1, 14′ 0″ wide by 12′ 9″ high (has bypass);
Tunnel 2, 13′ 2″ wide by 12′ 2″ high (has bypass); Tunnel 3, 13′ 4″ wide by 12′ 4″ high. View map

The Iron Mountain Road is a work of art in itself. The highway connects Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The highway passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Black Hills and including three tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore in the distance. The road is famous for the “Pigtail Bridges” that allows travelers to drop or gain altitude quickly.

The highway was constructed in the 1930s under the direction of Governor Peter Norbeck, who is also known as the “Father of Custer State Park.” Norbeck said of the Iron Mountain Road, “this is not meant to be a super highway, to do the scenery justice you should drive no more than 20 mph and to do it full justice you should simply get out and walk.” Experience the road that engineers once said couldn’t be built; you’ll be happy you did.

 

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Source: Road Trekin Adventures / Baret News Service

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