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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

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