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Aerial shot of the Needles Highway

Needles Highway

The Needles Highway is a spectacular drive through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen, and rugged granite mountains. Part of Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway.

Wind Your Way to the Needles Eye

The Needles Highway is more than a 14-mile road—it’s 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 needlelike granite formations that 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.

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The Route

Although driving the road both north- and southbound offers a "ludicrously scenic" byway, we might recommend starting at the southern entrance to Needles Highway: at Legion Lake Lodge, a heartwarmingly small, cabin-only family lodge that begs a dedicated stay in and of itself. Then, grab your travel snacks and travel north on Hwy 87. This approach saves the scenic tunnels for the last half of the 45-minute to one-hour experience, with a grand finale at Sylvan Lake.

Where to Stay
Map the depicts where needles highway is in relation to the park

Take It Easy

Winding drives throughout the park are most enjoyable at a slower pace. When making plans, please allow ample time to travel at a safe speed—generally 25 miles per hour or slower. Expect travel time of about 45 to 60 minutes to enjoy Needles Highway. The road is 14 miles one way.

Needles Highway is closed to road traffic during the winter months, when you can enjoy it on foot, instead.

Find Nearby Lodging
A narrow road tunnel that carves through huge granite boulders

What is the Narrowest Tunnel on Needles Highway

Drivers should be aware of all tunnel sizes in Custer State Park, and Needles Highway features the narrowest one of them all.

Needles Highway | SD 87 N

–Needles Eye Tunnel: 8'0" Wide / 9'9" High

–Iron Creek Tunnel: 8'9" Wide / 10'10" High

Tunnel Map

Book a Guided Tour

Not up for driving the windy roads? Book a private open-air Jeep to take you up Needles Highway and back.

Tour Needles Highway

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