Scenic Drives

One of the first drives we took was thru Wind Cave National Park. Besides having a really neat cave, they have a scenic drive that takes you to Rankin Ridge to a walking trail.


And now we’re back at Custer State Park . . . .

Driving the Iron Mountain Road

Iron Mountain Road, also known as 16A, is an unforgettable road for sure and a unique experience.  It has been said that it’s the most unusual and captivating road in America. Everyone that has experienced this 17 mile stretch in the Black Hills of South Dakota leaves with an opinion about this road, either good or bad this road will leave an impression. It was designed  and is a historical work of art to make you slow down, to see and feel things that you don’t experience every day .

Our first view of Mount Rushmore was through The Scovel Johnson Tunnel.

 The road takes you thru the town of Custer where we came upon this stockade.

 The Gordon party was named after its leader, John Gordon. The party was made up of twenty-six men, one woman, and one small boy. The party came to the Black Hills in December 1874. They built a stockade and stayed through the winter. In April, the United States Army came and took them out of the hills.  They decided to just settle here, dig for gold until they got caught and the best thing was they never got in any trouble for it, they didn’t even have to pay a fine.

The only woman in the party was Annie D. Tallent. Her husband and their nine-year-old son were also along. Annie Tallent later wrote a book about her experiences. It is called The Black Hills; or, The Last Hunting Ground of the Dacotahs. She later moved to the Black Hills, where she taught school. She was also superintendent of schools for Pennington County.

Our next stop . . .

The Needles  Highway was completed in 1922.. The whole road was marked by foot & horseback by former South Dakota Governor Peter Norbeck.  Needles Highway in South Dakota seemed almost impossible to build.  There are giant “granite needles” – large rocks that look like needles all along the path.  To create a road they had to blast through the needles to create tunnels.  It was designed to hit the most beautiful parts of Custer State Park.  The 14-mile stretch has a speed limit of 20 mph and many places to pull off the road to take in the views.

The most famous part of the drive is the Needle Eye Tunnel. This one-way tunnel is only  8′ 4″ wide by 12′ 0″ high.

Before entering any of the tunnels you have make sure no other car is coming from the other end and gauge the size of your vehicle.  It’s also a good thing to honk to make sure your safe, It’s a tight fit.

The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway, which contains both Iron Mountain and Needles Highway is  named one of the 10 Most Outstanding Byways in America.  I gotta say it has truly amazing scenery everywhere!   Both highways are also on the most 5 dangerous roads in South Dakota, being numbers 1 and 2. Dangerously sharp hair-pin turns, rapid-climbing lengths of roadway, narrow tunnels through rock formations and driver’s not going the speed limit, on the average it’s 25 miles an hour, plus both of these roads have no winter maintenance.  So if your planning a visit to Custer State Park don’t go in the winter and have lots of time to spend.  

Sylvan Lake, commonly referred to as the “crown jewel” of Custer State Park. The lake was created in 1881 when a dam was built across Sunday Gulch.    We took a trail around the shore of the lake. It was only 1.6 miles but it was worth it.  It was mostly a dirt trail with some stairs and we got to climb on some boulders to stay on the trail. Plus all around the lake trail  there was breathtaking views.

I keep following this guy in the blue shirt.

You can also swim, boat or fish in the lake.

The Blue Star Memorial Highway marker on Highway 83 was erected by the South Dakota State Federation of Garden Clubs.  Blue Star Memorial Highways are highways in the United States that are marked to pay tribute to the U.S. armed forces.

2 thoughts on “Scenic Drives

  1. Sandy

    Beautiful scenery! You’ve found some great places and lots of fun and are making me want to return sometime. Wish we were there too.

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