Scenic Drives in the Black Hills

One of the best ways to see the Black Hills is by enjoying a slow, scenic drive through the canyons, valleys and rock tunnels. As former U.S. Senator and South Dakota Governor Peter Norbeck said, “You’re not supposed to drive here at 60 miles an hour. To do the scenery half justice, people should drive 20 or under; to do it full justice, they should get out and walk.” Here are some of our favorite rides.

To find out where these scenic highways are located, be sure to check out our Black Hills maps!

Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway

Located in Custer State Park and named one of the 10 Most Outstanding Byways in America, the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway spans 70 miles. The loop includes the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road that takes drivers by granite spires, through rock tunnels and across pigtail bridges on the way to Mount Rushmore. Roads along the route include US 16A, SD 244, SD 87 and SD 89.

Needles Highway

Needles Highway is a 14-mile stretch of road that features some of the most spectacular scenery in the Black Hills. This slow speed drive features narrow tunnels, hairpin curves and the Needle’s Eye, which is a popular photograph site. Frequent picnic areas, climbing rocks and alpine brooks add to the family fun.

Custer State Park Wildlife Loop

The 18-mile Wildlife Loop takes travelers from forests to prairie grasslands. Located in Custer State Park, the loop is where you’ll often encounter Black Hills wildlife, including bison, pronghorn, deer, elk, burros and prairie dogs.

Iron Mountain Road

Iron Mountain Road, part of the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway, winds between Mount Rushmore and the junctions of Highway 16A and SD 36. Drivers can view Mount Rushmore in the distance while passing through three rock tunnels on the 17-mile route.

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

This 20-mile drive follows US 14A through an ancient, narrow canyon. The canyon’s 1,000-foot limestone palisades tower over the route as Spearfish Creek and several waterfalls line the canyon floor. Stop to view mountains in the distance or marvel at colorful fall foliage. Visitors can also hike and fish blue-ribbon trout streams in the area.

Black Hills Parkway

More commonly known as US Highway 385, the parkway is the longest road in the Black Hills and passes through several area tourist communities. View dense ponderosa pines and mountain lakes while stopping in Hill City, Custer, Deadwood or Lead for shopping and sightseeing opportunities.

Badlands Loop Road

This 35-mile route takes travelers through Badlands National Park, an area enclosed with dramatic rock formations, carved out cliffs and color-patterned buttes. The road is a state scenic byway on Highway 240 and offers nearly 30 scenic overlooks and stops. Visitors can also hike along several trails for a closer look at the canyons and sunset views.