10 of the Best Sturgis Motorcycle Rides

Planning a trip to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally or the Black Hills in the near future?

Let’s highlight some of the top roads to ride (or drive!) during your visit to this scenic area of the United States.

These rides are the ones we couldn’t wait to experience on our first trip to South Dakota, and they’re also the ones that we look forward to revisiting during each return trip.

(For more details about each ride, including ride maps, click on the ride link within each segment)


One of three pigtails on Iron Mountain Road

1. Iron Mountain Road

Iron Mountain Road is one of the must-ride roads in the Black Hills.

We consider this one of the BEST roads to ride in the country.

There are more scenic roads out there, but this one’s just plain fun.

This 17-mile ride is known for its curves (314!), 14 switchbacks, 3 tunnels, 3 pigtails, and 2 splits.

Be sure to ride south to north to get a fantastic view of Mount Rushmore when you exit the second tunnel.

Give yourself plenty of time to ride Iron Mountain Road.

You’re going to want to stop and check out the overlooks and enjoy the ever-changing scenery.


Rock formations along Needles Highway

2. Needles Highway

Needles Highway is a one-of-a-kind road – another must during a visit to South Dakota.

During this ride, you’ll be taken through magnificent granite rock formations known as spires.

There are two tunnels cutting through the spires, the most famous being the Needle’s Eye tunnel.

This narrow tunnel is less than 9 feet wide, barely fitting the tour buses that squeeze through its walls. 

It’s almost impossible to take in all of the scenery when you’re riding through.

Needles Highway is a road worth traveling more than once.

It’s a great option to ride straight through one time, then make a return trip to stop at the overlooks and admire the views and natural beauty of the cathedral spires.


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Prairie dogs can be found throughout Custer State Park

3. Custer State Park Wildlife Loop

As the name implies, this loop is the most popular place to check out the wildlife in Custer State Park.

The wildlife loop is an 18-mile ride through open grasslands and wooded hills.

Allow yourself an hour or two to make your way through this area, since the location of the buffalo herds will dictate the speed at which you can complete the loop.

You’ll have chances to spot buffalo, coyote, whitetail, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and more as you wind through the hills of the park.

This ride is the perfect add-on to Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road.

You can easily take a full day to explore Custer State Park.

Bring plenty of sunscreen and water if you’re on a motorcycle.


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4. Highway 87 to Wind Cave National Park

As mentioned above, Needles Highway is also part of South Dakota Highway 87.

It’s worth making note of this southern stretch separate from Needles because it can easily be missed when you’re looping through all of the popular roads in Custer State Park.

This section of Highway 87 – south of Highway 16A – held quite a few surprises for us the first time we traveled down to Wind Cave.

On that day, there were no buffalo on the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop because they were all hanging out in this area.

Be sure to ask the park employees where the herds are located, they’ll be happy to guide you to their locations.

Along with the potential for wildlife encounters, you’ll be able to check out another pigtail and a few cool bridges and overlooks, with the possibility of less traffic than the north side of the park.

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Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming

5. Devils Tower – Inner Loop

There are several options to get to Devils Tower from the Black Hills area – and all are worth checking out.

Our Inner Loop takes you from Sturgis across either Interstate 90 or Old Highway 14 on your way to Sundance.

After Sundance, you’ll make your way over to the tower, approaching from the south side.

When you leave the tower, you’ll continue the loop onto Highway 24 through the towns of Hulett and Aladdin.

If you’re visiting during rally, leave time to make stops in every town on this loop.

Make sure you mark Aladdin General Store as a pit stop for a cold drink.

This famous store is packed full of interesting history and antiques. It’s the picture of small-town USA history and well worth a visit on each trip to the Black Hills.


6. Devils Tower – Outer Loop

Our Outer Loop to Devils Tower allows you to cross through three states.

For this loop, you’ll head out of Sturgis toward Alzada, Montana. Be sure to stop for fuel and snacks in Belle Fourche.

You’ll leave South Dakota, cut through Wyoming, and touch the bottom of Montana with opportunities to stop for photos at each state line.

After leaving Montana, you can loop down to the tower and take either of the options listed on the Inner Loop back to the Sturgis area.

Plan for this loop, with all of the stops including Devils Tower, to take an entire day.


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Downtown Deadwood

7. Deadwood Loop

We always enjoy riding between Sturgis and Deadwood.

Our ‘Deadwood Loop’ usually just includes driving straight out to Deadwood and back, but it worth calling out because we love the winding highway with its spectacular scenery.

Highway 14A between these two towns is beautiful.

You’ll encounter heavier traffic at times, but if you’re lucky enough to take this ride on a lighter traffic day be sure to take time to enjoy the ride!


Scenic Spearfish Canyon

8. Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish is located about 20 miles west of Sturgis by way of Interstate 90.

After you get off of the interstate, riding down 14A provides a gorgeous, winding, wooded ride through the high walls of Spearfish Canyon Highway.

Riding north to south sets you up nicely to be able to pull in and out of the parking areas to check out one of the waterfalls, hiking trails, or spot some of the mountain goats climbing on the cliffs.

Many people consider this area to be one of the most beautiful areas in the Black Hills, especially if you’re looking for a scenic hike or break from the heat.


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9. Vanocker Canyon to Nemo Road

This stretch of road is not always highlighted on the local ride maps and could easily be overlooked.

If you’re visiting Sturgis and want to get off of the main drags, head over to Vanocker Canyon.

You’ll find lots of curves, views, and fresh air on this wooded ride.

It’s a scenic alternative to get from Deadwood to Rapid City if you’re looking for a break from the interstate and rally crowds.

We enjoyed this ride so much that we ended up riding it three days in a row during our first visit to the Black Hills.


Badlands National Park

10. Badlands National Park

Visiting Badlands is another full day ride from downtown Sturgis.

Plan to dress in layers and bring lots of water and snacks if you’re heading out on this ride.

Leaving the Black Hills, you’ll head down Interstate 90 to Badlands National Park.

Make sure you stop at the famous Wall Drug on your way down to Badlands – if you came across 90 on your way to the Black Hills, you definitely saw the signs for this tourist attraction. It’s a great place to stretch your legs and shop for treats and souvenirs.

As you enter the Badlands, you’ll experience the ride through the giant, colorful sandbox that is Badlands National Park.

Plan to stop at the visitors center to check out the maps of trails and overlooks.

Keep an eye out for wildlife (we saw an actual buffalo stampede when we were there!) and leave yourself time to stop at the overlooks and take in the expansive views.

The views are amazing and there are no shortage of photo opportunities on this ride!


Whether it’s your first time, or you’re a veteran Black Hills visitor, the unmatched scenery and wildlife experiences on these roads will keep you coming back for more.

These are some of our favorites, and the ones that we recommend to first time visitors.

Whether you’re on a motorcycle like us, or in your car, the scenery of the Black Hills is some of the best in the country – enjoy the ride!

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