Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Our Fall Vacation To South Dakota, Day 4, Part III: Custer State Park, Needles Highway & Iron Mountain Road


This is a continuation of a travel series to South Dakota.  To start at the beginning, go HERE.  The rest of the posts in chronological order are  HEREHEREHERE HERE,  HERE,  HERE,  HERE and HERE!

After spending the morning at Mt. Rushmore, we headed over to Custer State Park.  Let me say before I begin this post, that I thought Custer State Park was the best and most beautiful state park I had ever seen.  We had two and a half days to spend in this magnificent park and we crammed a lot into those two days.  I will be dividing the two days into five separate blog posts so I can cover everything in great detail.

The first thing we did when we arrived in Custer State Park was to drive.  Even though there are lots of hiking trails, and we did hike a lot in our two days there, you can see some of the most amazing views right from your car.  The two best scenic drives to take are Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road.

Needles Highway is a National Scenic Byway completed in 1922.  It is 14 miles long and has views of Mt. Rushmore (often seen through tunnels), and magnificent views of the "Needles" or granite spires of Custer State Park.  


After visiting the Mt. Rushmore Memorial it was amazing seeing all the different views of the monument in Custer State Park.  It really gives you perspective on the sheer size of the sculpture.  Can you see the presidents faces in the pictures below?



This is a picture of some of the spires that made Needles Highway famous.


There are many spots and parking lots where you can stop and get out of your car and enjoy the views.  Some of the spots are really crowded (like the Cathedral Spires) and it's hard to find a parking space.


I highly recommend that you take the scenic drives through the park when you first arrive (or stop at the Visitor's Center).  Driving through the park gave us ideas of the parts of the park we really wanted to hike.  Seeing the Cathedral Spires for example really made us wanted to see them up close and not just from a great distance.


Iron Mountain Road is another scenic drive not to be missed.  This road was constructed in 1933 and runs between Mt. Rushmore Memorial and the US16A and SD36 in Custer State Park.  The Black Hills Scenery is simply magnificent on this road, but perhaps the most impressive of all is how the tunnels "frame" Mt. Rushmore.  It was so cool driving through a tunnel and seeing a perfect view of the monument.  I was so impressed!  Unfortunately I never got a picture of Mt. Rushmore "framed" in a tunnel as I was too busy "Oohing" and "Ahhing"  but you can check it out on this website.








There are three tunnels on Needles Highway and more on the Iron Mountain Road.  Some tunnels only allow one car at a time to go through.  I have no idea what they do on a crowded summer day when cars want to go through the tunnel from both directions.  We were there during the off season and it was difficult at times waiting for an opportunity to go through a tunnel.



I loved all the unique rock formations found on both scenic roads.


And finally, here is a picture of a one lane tunnel.  Cars coming from the other direction have to wait their turn.  The space is very tight.  The pick up truck in front of us could barely fit through.  If you stuck your hand out the window you could touch the rock.  It was such a cool experience.


Before I close I should mention that there are two other scenic drives in Custer State Park.  The most famous one:  Wildlife Loop Road I will cover in a later post.  The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is also a lovely drive.  The Peter Norbeck Byway is two to three hours long if you drive the entire road. It consists of a loop made up of four highways (Needles, SD89, SD244, and Iron Mountain Road).

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

21 comments:

  1. What amazing sights, Amy!! I was only at Mt Rushmore as a kid so I don't remember if we went here too. I doubt it because even then I took a lot of photos and I don't have any like this!
    XOXO
    Jodie
    www.jtouchofstyle.com

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    1. Oh, driving on these roads was one of the highlights of my trip. You would remember had you been here!

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  2. Wow it really is beautiful! Oh and look at the greenery while we're still buried in snow lol... I hope you have more fun on your trip :)

    https://the-wardrobe-stylist.com/2018/11/05/spring-lawn-maintenance/

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    1. Thanks! I had a blast! And I'm dying for some greenery with all the snow we keep getting! It just won't stop!

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  3. Really beautiful place dear!
    Have a great day! xx

    La ilusión de Nina - http://lailusiondenina.blogspot.com/

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  4. Our hotel wasn't very far from this park so we spent a few days here, driving and hiking. A most beautiful area! Got to watch some big horn sheep at one of the tunnels. Every post you share about the black hills makes me want to go back even more!

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    1. We stayed near the park too. I saw one big horn sheep on this drive. I should have mentioned that. I didn't get a good photograph of it though. I would love to go back and explore this area more too. I'm hoping to take the kids and grandkids here someday.

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  5. OOOhhh! You are making me so anxious for our trip! The house we're renting is near Custer state park so hopefully we'll get to explore it pretty extensively. Though I'm not looking forward to those tight squeezes.

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    1. Custer State Park was my favorite of everything we did on this trip. It's beauty is breath-taking. If you've never seen Kevin Costner's movie "Dances With Wolves" you must see it before you go! As for the "tight squeeze:" we drive a small car so it wasn't scary at all, but I'd be a little worried if I was in a big vehicle.

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  6. Oh wow that one lane road through the rocks looks a bit scary, but otherwise looks like a wonderful trip and a beautiful park! :)

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    1. Well, it wasn't as scary for us as we drive a small car but we could tell the truck in front of us was super nervous about it as they drove ridiculously slow through it.

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  7. This looks so much fun! I love your photos dear.

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

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  8. Your post brought back memories of a trip we made to the same areas. South Dakota has so many beautiful places to visit. Did you also see the Badlands National Park? another amazing area!

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    1. Yes, I was blown away by the diverse beauty of SD. And yes, I did visit the Badlands and did a post here:https://www.amyscreativepursuits.com/2018/10/our-fall-vacation-to-south-dakota-day-1.html
      I didn't get to spend near enough time there though and hope to go back to the Badlands soon.

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  9. What an amazing trip, Amy. I mentioned last time that I've always wanted to go to Mount Rushmore, but now I'm even more eager to visit the area. South Dakota has definitely moved up on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing your experience on #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty. I'll be sharing on social media.

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    1. Oh great! I hope you get there soon! You will love it!

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  10. An amazing place, Amy, and I like the sense of scale one is aware of in your long shots of the monument at Mt Rushmore. Quite awesome!
    Thank you for joining the "Travel Tuesday" meme.

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