A gravity-defying work of engineering, The Needles Highway winds around hairpin, sharp-edged curves for fourteen miles through spectacular scenery of spruce and pine forests, lush meadows surrounded by birch and aspen, into the mystery of the granite needle like formations that skirt the highway. The pinnacles of granite, are cathedrals in stone formed by time's erosion. Each twist and turn in the highway inspires reverence and awe. You fall into the magic of Custer's monuments of stone.
The Needles Highway was carefully planned by former South Dakota Governor and Conservationist Peter Norbeck. He marked the entire course on foot and by horseback. Norbeck's goal was to expose travelers by automobile to the resplendent majesty of the landscape. Norbeck wanted the road to mimic the natural setting, not be a freeway for speeders, but a spiritual experience. A slow journey meant to be traversed at only twenty miles per hour with scenic photo vistas. His hope was that travelers would in turn opt to park their car and discover the backcountry via trails.
Construction of the highway was completed in 1922. It runs 14 miles of Highway 87 from the Center Lake area (near the 'Custer Playhouse') to Harney Peak and the Sylvan Lake area.
Picnic for breakfast at the Hole in the Wall picnic area, one of the key clue sites in Murder in Custer State Park. Spend the day slowly inching along the Needles Highway, going underneath granite tunnels and stopping for pictures of The Needles Eye and the Cathedral Spires. Wrap up your day with a walk along the shore of Sylvan Lake, and the maze of granite outcroppings, before capping off the night with dinner at the Sylvan Lake Lodge.