Family Vacation Destination – Needles Highway Eye Tunnel

Posted on August 18, 2017

The state of South Dakota offers some of the most beautiful and rugged landscapes to be found in North America. And if you want to experience some of this rugged terrain from the comfort of your car, there is no better place to do so than the Needles Highway, a fourteen mile stretch of road encompassing the northernmost section of South Dakota State Highway 87.

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The Needles Highway was laid out by former South Dakota Governor Peter Norbeck, who surveyed the route on foot and horseback. The road was completed in 1922, and soon took its place as one of the most scenic byways in the world. Winding its way sinuously between sharply pointed granite formations, which give it its name, the drive passes through dense and luxurious pine and spruce forests, interspersed with the sunny mountain meadows of the Black Hills. The highway is not for the faint of heart, what with all the twists, turns, and claustrophobic granite, but your bravery will be rewarded with a once in a lifetime experience.

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Be sure to bring a camera, as unbelievable photo ops abound around every turn. And if the road is not entertaining enough, wait ‘til you get a load of the tunnels! Towering granite walls loom overhead as you attempt to push on through. Your head may tell you that there’s room to spare, but your beating heart may tell you otherwise. Possibly the most impressive of these tunnels is the appropriately named Needles Eye Tunnel. You are guaranteed to feel a bit too thick as you attempt to thread this needle. The Needles Highway ends in the area of Sylvan Lake, a place just as lovely and bucolic as its name implies. Here you will find a beautiful inn, as well as watercraft rentals, swimming, and fishing.

Because of the dangerous curves, and the harshness of the South Dakota winter, the Needles Highway is open only from April through mid-October. And a portion of the roadway is part of the Wildlife Loop Road of Custer State Park, so park admission is required, making it a toll road. Since the road travelers are almost entirely tourists, the byways is never really crowded, and you can take your time to enjoy the sights. Info is available here. Remember, be safe – slow and steady wins the race.

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