I have taken a bunch of trips in my life. There are plenty of memorable road trips for me. Among them is Glacier National Park’s “Going to the Sun Road” as well as the 36-mile road that makes up the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota, and also North Dakota’s Enchanted Highway.
But they all take a back seat to South Dakota Highway 87. This highway can be found about three miles south of Hill City along US Highway 385 or accessed inside of Custer State Park with an intersection with US 16A, and this is a 14 mile ride through some of God’s greatest creations. We can thank former South Dakota Governor Peter Norbeck for creating the route through these needles and doing it on horseback.
The 14 mile route is divided into two sections centered on Sylvan Lake. This is a lake found at the intersection of Highways 87 and 89 and could be a good place for a possible picnic. On a nice day, the water is relaxing and you are in the Black Hills. Plus, if one finds the right place, they can get a reflection of the needles through the lake.
But the real story is the granite formations that make up the Needles Highway. The geology dates back to ten of thousands of years and even more so thanks to the neverending job of nature. The spires have withstood the test of time and have been formed through the cycles of rain, snow, ice, and wind on them. In other words, erosion takes place every second. Here’s more on the geology including the origin of the rocks that make up the scenery.
One of the highlights is the Eye of the needle natural sculpture. This is a natural formation that looks just like its short description, a rock formation that looks just like a sewing needle. Perhaps this is the needle Jesus was referring to when he said “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of god.” (Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25). Since Jesus is the Son of God, he likely knew of the existence of this formation during his earthly ministry. But since this article isn’t a sermon, I will not dwell on this fact any longer.
One thing I do want to highlight is one of the major tunnels on the Needles Highway. It is this tunnel located about 2 miles southeast of Sylvan Lake. It measures 8.4 feet in width and has a height of 12 feet. However, the scary thing about this tunnel is that it opens up about halfway through when traveling north on highway 87. The tunnel features small narrow split formation down the middle and includes a skylight for travelers. But looks can be deceiving. This is the same tunnel with a tour bus traveling through it. I would guess that a scene like that would happen every single day.
Traveling south on this highway will deposit you into the thick of Custer State Park. From here, be sure to pay your fee if you haven’t done so because the Needles Highway is in a portion of the park. From there, one can travel the wildlife loop or travel US 16A, the Iron Mountain Road, up to Mount Rushmore.
Source: TakemyTrip.com for more on the Needles Highway including pictures.