Needles Highway | Scenic Motorcycle Ride

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.

Needles Highway is a winding, scenic road filled with unique rock formations

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

Motorcycle in Needles Highway tunnel

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

The ‘Eye’ at the top of the Needles Eye Tunnel

Trip Summary for Needles Highway

Trip Distance – 14 miles

Time – 1-2 hours to allow for traffic and stops

Highlights – Tunnels, Sharp Curves, Unique Rock Formations, Scenic Overlooks, Access to Trailheads

Riding Skill Level – Intermediate to Advanced

Max Elevation – 6,385 feet

Min Elevation – 4,823 feet

Tips for this ride

  • Go early. Tourists frequent this popular road. During rally, you can expect heavy stop and go traffic which can detract from the ride. Heading out before 10am will allow you to experience this unique road with less traffic and road obstacles.
  • When approaching the tunnels, be prepared to stop. The tunnels are one-way, and you will need to yield to oncoming traffic. During peak times like the Sturgis rally, flaggers will assist with traffic control.
  • Stop at the overlooks. There are some amazing views of the Black Hills at the pull-offs and parking areas. Take your time and enjoy these points of interest.
  • Hike around Sylvan Lake. These trails are surrounded by gorgeous scenery and views. Sylvan Lake has a general store, fishing pier, picnic area, and several trailheads. Sylvan Lake Shore Trail takes you on a 1 mile loop around the lake.
  • As always, ride your ride and stay alert for other riders, tourists, and wildlife. This is more of a riding course than a road at times. We’ve encountered deer leaping out in front of our bike, tourists taking photos in the middle of the road, and several opposing riders not maintaining their lane position. Ride safe and enjoy!
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Sylvan Lake

Nearby Rides & Attractions

Needles Highway is another perfect ride to combine with a visit to Mount Rushmore.

Riding Iron Mountain Road from south to north provides the perfect opportunity to add a Rushmore stop, followed by a ride down Needles Highway.

Both of these roads are part of the Custer State Park experience, so adding the Wildlife Loop and even a visit down to Wind Cave National Park can turn this short mileage ride into a full-day itinerary.

Overlook facing granite rock formations

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 Needles Highway 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.

Ride Along with Us

Join us on our Needles Highway ride from June 2022

Needles Highway ride | June 2022

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