Skip to main content

2016 Summer Mountain Trip Part 5; South Dakota State Route 87/The Needles Highway

After leaving the Wind Cave I headed north to the junction of South Dakota State Route 87 the Needles Highway.






This is Part 5 of the 2016 Mountain Trip Series, Part 4 can be located here:

2016 Summer Mountain Trip; Wind Cave National Park

SD 87 is an approximately 38 mile state highway which connects US Route 385 in Wind Cave National Park to US 385/16 north of Custer State Park in the vicinity of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills.  The northern 14 miles of SD 87 through Custer State Park is known as the Needles Highway.  The Needles Highway is named for the granite needles that common near the high peaks of the Black Hills Range.  SD 87 begins at an approximate elevation of 4,000 feet above sea level before ascending above 6,000 feet.

Even though SD 87 heading north from US 385 through Wind Cave National Park doesn't start in the Black Hills it still is a spectacular route that starts off with a scenic bridge over Beaver Creek.





SD 87 crosses over itself a couple miles north of Beaver Creek on a 270 degree configuration.



A couple miles north of the 270 degree loop is a small entrance station for Custer State Park.  Custer State Park dates back to 1912 and is the first State Park in South Dakota.  Custer State Park has over 1,500 bison and various other animals common to the area like Burros.  The Bison are obvious almost immediately upon entering Custer State Park via SD 87.











Near the southern entrance station there is a spur road known as the Wild Life Loop which ends at the Custer State Park Visitor Center on US 16A.  I stuck to SD 87 and headed north to US 16A via Mount Coolidge.






SD 87 briefly multiplexes US 16A east past Legion Lake before splitting off onto the 14 mile Needles Highway.  The Needles Highway portion of SD 87 is very narrow and for the most part signed at 25 MPH.  I turned off of SD 87 briefly on Playhouse House to visit the Black Hills Playhouse on Center Lake. The Black Hills Playhouse dates back to 1933 when it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps but wouldn't host actual plays until 1946.





The Needles Highway portion of SD 87 was completed in 1922 and is a popular motorcycle route.  The Needles Highway is mostly known for the direct tunnel cuts the roadway takes through the granite needles.  The first cut is the Iron Creek Tunnel.







SD 87 on the Needles Highway begins to travel mostly west as it passes the overlooks for the Cathedral Spires.










SD 87 on the Needles Highway next crosses through the Needles Eye Tunnel which is probably the most known location on the highway and Custer State Park.








West of the Needles Eye Tunnel SD 87/Needles Highway meets the north terminus of SD 89.  The Needles Highway section of SD 87 terminates at SD 89.  West of SD 89 the route of SD 87/Needles Highway turns northward and crosses through the Hood Tunnel and leaves Custer State Park shortly thereafter.  SD 87 continues lose elevation through Johnson Canyon until it meets it's north terminus at US 16/US 385.  I turned north on US 16/US 385 to SD 244 towards Mount Rushmore.

Part 6 of this series on SD 244 and Mount Rushmore can be found here:

2016 Summer Mountain Trip Part 6; Mount Rushmore

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Small Towns of Virginia Series - Charlotte Court House

This sleepy little rural town in Central Virginia can easily be overlooked.  Located miles from the Interstate or four lane US and Virginia Highways, Charlotte Court House in many ways is easily forgotten.  However, this tiny town of slightly over 400 residents holds a lot of Virginia and American History.

In 1799, Charlotte Court House saw the passing of the torch from an aging Patrick Henry and a young John Randolph.  The great debate over states' rights was the last for the fiery Henry and the first in public for Randolph.  Randolph would go on to serve in the US House of Representatives and U.S. Minister to Russia.  Henry, who was serving in the Virginia General Assembly representing Charlotte County at the time of the debate, died three months later.

Charlotte Court House is not the original name of the town.  Originally named The Magazine, then Daltonsburgh, followed by Marysville (which was the town's name at the time of the Henry-Randolph debate), Smithfield, and finally…

Legend of the Ridge Route; a history of crossing the mountains between the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley from wagon trails to Interstates

Over the past two decades I've crossed the Interstate 5 corridor from Los Angeles north over the Sierra Pelona Mountains and Tehachapi Range to San Joaquin Valley what seems to be an immeasurable number of times.  While Interstate 5 from Castaic Junction to Grapevine via Tejon Pass today is known to most as "The Grapevine" it occupies a corridor traditionally traversed by the Ridge Route.  This article is dedicated to one of the most legendary American Roadways that was ever built.


The Ridge Route is a 44 mile section of highway which was completed in 1915.  The Ridge Route originally stretched from Castaic Junction north over Liebre Summit and Tejon Pass to the tiny community of Grapevine.  In spite of a roadway that once utilized nearly 700 curves the Ridge Route is generally considered far ahead of it's time and one of the first modern highways constructed for automotive use.  The following is a history of transportation along the Ridge Route corridor dating back …

Adventure US Route 299; California State Route 299 from US 101 east to Interstate 5

Back in 2016 I was seeking a way back from the Northern California/Southern Oregon Coast back to the Central Valley that I had not taken previously.  That being the case I decided on California State Route 299 from US 101 in Arcata eastward approximately 135 miles to Interstate 5 in Redding.


CA 299 is best known for once being signed as US Route 299 from US 101 east to US 395.  US 299 was first signed in 1934 according USends.com

USends.com on US 299

Interestingly all of US 299 was originally to be signed as part of CA 44 in 1934 according to CAhighways.org.  The current routing of CA 44 was originally signed as CA 440 which swapped signage once US 299 was approved in 1935.

CAhighways.org on US 299/CA 299

CAhighways.org on CA 440

US 299 first appears on the 1936-37 edition of the California State Highway Map.

1936-37 State Highway Map

US 299 was just slightly under 300 miles and thus was assigned CA 299 during the 1964 State Highway Renumbering.  The newly created CA 299 was extended e…