Saturday, September 1, 2012

Custer State Park - Needles Highway

Today we decided to do the Needles Highway, which is about a 45 mile loop from the RV Park.  Needles Highway is about 16 miles long, and is part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway.  It is essentially highway 87 north of highway 16 to where highway 87 meets up with highways 385/16.  The route passes through three narrow and low tunnels, the Iron Creek Tunnel, Needles Eye Tunnel, and Hood Tunnel, and goes right through "The Needles of the Black Hills", an area of granite pillars, towers, and spires.

At the start of the "Needles Highway", it is very peaceful, and a nice drive.
There are a few "S" turns, but the road is wide, there is little traffic, and the forest and surrounding hills are very enjoyable.
Soon we came to the "Hole in the Wall" picnic area.  The little cave has water inside of it, and I have no idea how far back it goes...and did not care to find out.
We continued on down the road....climbing higher and higher.  The trees up here are just starting to show signs of turning will be a nice site in a few more weeks.
 Occasionally we would come across a tree or two which has already turned yellow, as below.
We then come to our first tunnel, Iron Creek Tunnel.  This one was short, easy to see through, and not bad at all.  (In case you have not gathered this yet...we are in our HHR, not our motor home.  We did see some class "B" motor homes, and one class "C", but it could not make it through the second tunnel and turned back.)
A bit further down the road, and we get our first look at "The Needles".

And another turnout later...
And this road is going to go right into this!

And so it did....
 Thank goodness there were lots of turnouts so that you can get views ahead (above) and behind (below).
But other times I just had to let Skruffy grab hold of the steering wheel while I got the shot while driving! (below)
And when you came to a turnout, the views looking out were pretty good too...

Then comes the hairiest hairpin turn I have ever faced.  Just as you start to turn, you face a one lane narrow tunnel....
These pictures were taken after we passed through the tunnel and parked the car.  This is the Needles Eye Tunnel.  It is long, it is narrow, it something!  Below you can see the cars maneuvering into position to go through the tunnel....they were headed the opposite way we were.
They call that the "Needles Eye Tunnel" because below is the "Needles Eye", right after you go through the tunnel headed south to north.
This information plaque sits at the bottom of the needles eye rock.  Essentially it says that this area is to "core" of the Black Hills, and the rocks in this area are among the oldest in North America. hmmm.....

Not far from the Needles Eye is Sylvan Lake, and also highway 89, a quicker, easier, and RV friendly route up to the Lake.  This lake was created with a dam was built across Sunday Gulch.  There is a lodge and a campground right in this area, and it is very pretty, as the picture below shows.
If you ever saw the movie "National Treasure: Book of Secrets", one of Nicolas Cage's movies, this lake was featured in the movie, but depicted as being right behind Mt. really is a good 5 miles away, even more distance driving on a road.

As we descended down toward highways 385/16, we had one last tunnel to go through, Hood Tunnel.  This one was easy too even though it is a one lane tunnel, because you can clearly see through it.
 On the other side, as you wind down and down, the rocks in the Black Hills are so striking...
This is the area where Harney Peak is located.  Harney Peak (not sure if it is shown in any of these pictures) is 7,242 feet tall, is the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and the highest point within the Black Hills.  There is a fire lookout station on its peak, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1935 to 1938. Stones gathered from French Creek were used to construct the tower. All of the building materials were hauled by man and mule along the three mile trail to the summit of Harney Peak.  Below is a picture I got off the Internet that is in the public domain.
It is about a 2.5 mile hike from Sylvan Lake to Harney Peak...but alas, the GoGo would not make it, and Skruffy said, "Dad, you can't do that alone, and my legs are too short, how about taking Bubba?"  (I think she was hoping that one or both of us never made it back.)

That was it for the day.  Still a few more days here in the Black Hills to enjoy.


  1. Skruffy and Bubba missed 8 inches of rain in Pine Bluff Thursday through Saturday morning, Dave. Good pictures. Larry Fugate

    1. So did David and

      See you in about a month when we pass through town, will try to make the Rotary Club meeting. --Dave


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