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The Stunning Vistas of Needles Highway

“Go outside and try to recapture the happiness within yourself; think of all the beauty in yourself and in everything around you and be happy”. – Anne Frank

No visit to the Black Hills of South Dakota is complete without a drive through the impressive Needles Highway. Designed in 1919 by Peter Norbeck (an American politician from South Dakota who is most famous for commissioning Mount Rushmore) the 14-mile highway meanders through a vast web of spires and pointed, needle-shaped rock formations that look like they are launching off to space. There are several turnouts along the road where you can get out and do some fabulous hikes. However, even just pulling over to take in the view of the massive rock formations is enough to make it worth your while.

It took two years and 150,000 pounds of dynamite to make the Needles Highway. Engineers at the time thought it would be impossible to carve out a road through such wild land yet Norbeck proved them wrong. Finally some of the most gorgeous untouched land of the Black Hills was available for the world to see and enjoy. But not without a cost.

The most dramatic, awe-inspiring way to travel the Needles Highway is from south to north. You can begin in Custer State Park and end your journey at the beautiful Sylvan Lake for a snack and a short one-mile hike around the lake. Or if you are feeling more adventurous, you can pick up the trail for Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota and experience a fantastic four-hour roundtrip hike.

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

One of the most popular ways to experience South Dakota is on motorcycle and it is no surprise that the biggest biking event in the world, Sturgis, takes place every year in the Black Hills. It is perfect territory for riding, and the hum and drum of Harley’s could be heard for miles. Although the rally is not until early August, there were still plenty of bikes in July.

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

As a family of four, we preferred seeing the Needles Highway via car. I’m not too crazy about motorcycles but I am sure they are fun. The windy, serpentine road was enough to make my stomach churn but the views were sensational. Ponderosa pines soar to the sky and the blue-black hue of the hills are serene.

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

The pinnacles of the rocks are quite dramatic. There is one famous rock formation called “The Eye of the Needle” which is over 30 feet high, and there is also the Cathedral Spires which are a massive series of jagged, pointy rocks that jet to the sky. There is an excellent hike to the Cathedral Spires but I didn’t think that the kids were up for it. I am sure it would be a great one to do.

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

I realized that like with most places, the hike not taken would give me a reason to come back. There is certainly a lot more to do and see in South Dakota than I ever imagined.

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

I’ve learned in life that sometimes places take you by surprise. I never would have imagined that South Dakota would be such a special place. I’ve been all over the world yet  sometimes I forget how much beauty exists right outside my door.

The end of Needles Highway brings you to this treasure, Sylvan Lake.

Sylvan Lake, Black Hills, South DakotaNeedles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

“The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have”. – Norman Vincent Peale

It looks like I need another trip…

31 comments

  1. A perhaps subconscious voice in my head read instantly “Needless Highway”. I struggle with making wilderness accessible. There are compelling reasons on both sides.

  2. Pingback: The Stunning Vistas of Needles Highway | Christine

  3. Nicole, indeed, beauty can be found where we least expect it. We have to slow down and see. Often people suddenly discover something that has been right before them, but they have been distracted or occupied with everyday life. Lovely sweeping scenery…happy winter holidays to your family and you.

    • Yes that is the one thing I don’t like about life. It is just too busy. That is why I take my daily hour long walks around the lake. I need to be in nature and I always see something that inspires me. Happy Holidays to you too Sally! Looking forward to 2016!

    • Wow, are you going to be working in South Dakota Russ? If so, what park? Have you been there? I really fell in love with it. It is quite beautiful and so vast and open. A lot of beauty to find and I know you will find it with your amazing photography!

      • I won’t be working there, but I’m now officially a resident of that great state. Too long of a story for here, but I’m a proud South Dakotan, still working on my “O’s”

    • There isn’t anywhere to sail but I’m sure you’d adore it Lisa! Happy Holidays and all the best for a wonderful new year! I’ve enjoyed following you along on your journey! 🙂

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