The Needles Eye Tunnel in Custer State Park

The Needles Highway is one of the many scenic drives in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This section of Highway 87 is part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway and is located in Custer State Park. The Needles Highway stretches from the junction of Highway 16A in the east to Sylvan Lake in the west. My favorite part of this drive is the Needles Eye Tunnel.

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The Needles Highway winds through spectacular Black Hills scenery.  This 14 mile stretch of highway was completed in 1922.  The terrain is dotted with other-worldly granite rock pinnacles. While driving this highway, you’ll have a better appreciation of the formidable challenge construction crews must have faced trying to make this road happen!

Custer State Park Trips
Needles Highway scenery

The entire drive is amazing, but the Needles Eye Tunnel is truly unique. It is a one lane section of road which passes right through granite.

Needles Eye Tunnel
Make sure your vehicle meets the size requirements!

The Needles Eye Tunnel is small! Be mindful of the size restrictions. Getting stuck in a tunnel on vacation would seriously cut down on fun time!

Needles Eye Tunnel
Signs indicate the size restrictions for the tunnel.

When I first read about the Needles Eye Tunnel, I assumed its name came from the feeling you get when driving through the tunnel – like going through the eye of a needle. Not so! There is actually a rock pinnacle that looks just like a needle’s eye next to the tunnel!

The Needles Eye rock formation in Custer State Park.
The Needles Eye rock formation.

It is easy to access the Needles Eye Tunnel. It is less than 2 miles from Sylvan Lake Lodge. On the west side of the tunnel, you’ll find a couple of small pullouts by the Needles Eye rock formation. I suggest that you park and get out of your car to get a better view but watch for traffic!

Needles Eye Tunnel
There are a few places to park near the Needles Eye Tunnel.

The Needles Highway and tunnel are not open during the winter.  Typically, the season runs from April through some time in October.  Check the South Dakota Department of Transportation to find out the status of the Needles Highway for the time of your visit.

Needles Eye Tunnel in Custer State Park
Driving thru the Needles Eye Tunnel does feel like driving thru the eye of a needle!

The Black Hills in South Dakota has so much to see and do! The Needles Highway is only one of the incredible drives in this area!  The Needles Eye Tunnel is a fun feature which the whole family will remember long after your trip!

South Dakota is a great state for a road trip!  Check out the Badlands Notch Trail, the best way to drive to Mount Rushmore, and the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

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