Sunday, December 3, 2023


One of the U.S.’s most dangerous roads will have you bracing for impact!

Needles Highway is one of the most beautiful and dangerous roads in the U.S. I drove our small, subcompact car gently through the Eye of the Needle on Needles Highway in South Dakota, looking carefully ahead (it is a one-way road) and glancing at the scrape marks on the tunnel’s granite walls.

14 miles of amazing scenery

The Needles Highway covers 14 miles of South Dakota’s Highway 87. It is breathtakingly scenic with drop-offs, mountain ridges and picture-perfect views. It also requires complete attention to driving, so it is a relief to have a number of scenic view pull-offs. Although it is only 14 miles, it may take several hours to drive it.

Custer State Park

The popular Needles Highway is located in Custer State Park and requires a state park annual or weekly pass. $20 for the week pass was a bit more than I anticipated for the drive-through, but it was well worth it. Custer State Park is a beautiful, huge park with many campgrounds. A number of the campgrounds are suitable for RVs, too, but they book up fast.

Completed in 1922

The highway is narrow and, when completed in 1922, it did not take into account some of today’s massive pickup trucks and SUVs. I found everyone considerate, driving slowly and moving over as far as possible when approaching other vehicles.

The tunnel itself is one way and only 12 ft. high and 8 ft. 4 inches wide. The warning sign says 9 ft. 9 inches by 8 ft. wide. Either way, it is short and narrow. And it is amazing!

We watched carefully for other vehicles before entering and slowly drove through. It gives new meaning to “Go Toward the Light!”

Others, however, were not as careful! Guess they did not read the multiple warnings or turnaround spots! Watch the video below to see what I’m talking about!

Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.



4.6 10 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Dennis Johnson (@guest_228384)
8 months ago

If you stop at the open area before the tunnel you can park and walk around and see the Needle. Turn around and there is a big phallic rock!

Dennis Johnson (@guest_228382)
8 months ago

I’ve driven our half-ton pickup through there a few times, mirrors out with no issues. A 3/4 or 1 ton with towing mirrors, probably wouldn’t.

Beth Holt (@guest_228117)
8 months ago

Our first workamping job in 2012 was at Buffalo Rock Lodge outside of Keystone, owned and operated by the granddaughter of C.C. Gideon. Gideon and Peter Norbeck explored together on horseback to lay out what is now the Peter Norbeck Nat.Scenic Byway thru the Black Hills. Gideon designed and built the popular Pigtail Bridges on Iron Mountain Road, as well as the artist studio at Mt Rushmore for Borglum. Gideon and his wife built the Game Lodge in Custer State Park and were caretakers there for several decades.

History has failed to give this man his well earned and deserved kudos for his involvement in the development of the area for future generations. In any case, all parts of the highway are spectacular, especially the Needles Eye area and the scenic tunnels.

Steven N (@guest_228115)
8 months ago

Took my F350 dually through the tunnel with no issues.

Kyle Petree (@guest_228163)
8 months ago
Reply to  Steven N

I did it with my Duramax dually also no problems. But lots of folks watching me and someone walking behind me filming. I think they were disapointed.

I measure my truck before we went there – – hips are 8′ 6″ and had room to spare.

Cecilia (@guest_228167)
8 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Petree

How is that possible if sign says 8’ even. Is the sign lying?

Kyle Petree (@guest_228230)
8 months ago
Reply to  Cecilia

Yep. The video of the bus getting through proves it’s wider than 8′

Terry (@guest_228109)
8 months ago

Nice drive to see the Eye of The Needle, a natural rock formation. You can not drive a car through it. The man made tunnel you can drive through to get the Eye of the Needle. Many drive through the tunnel and never stop and look at the actual rock formation and then say they drove through the Eye. Stupid people to drive through the tunnel and then never see the real Eye.

Spike (@guest_228126)
8 months ago
Reply to  Terry

Terry, you are correct that the “needle’s eye” is part of a needle-shaped rock spire and no one, not even Evil Knievel on a motorcycle, is driving through it. We have been on the Needles Hwy many, many times.

While there we watched a good sized tall sprinter-based MH go through the tunnel and that was a pretty close fit to the mirrors. I have no idea how that bus made it through there, or the other tunnels.

Last edited 8 months ago by Spike
Millicent Butterworth (@guest_218886)
10 months ago

Beautiful road! Hint: if you start from the south end, the images on Mount Rushmore will be framed in the exit of all three tunnels.😎No
Wrong highway!
You have to exit the south entrance to Custer State Park on highway 16 and immediately turn left on Iron Mountain Road to see the faces of the presidents through the tunnels. AND it’s better to do this in the morning as the sun shines on their faces and you get better visuals! Three roads are worth your payment to Custer State Park, Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road, and the Wildlife Loop Road. All are fantastic scenery. Stop at Blue Bell Lodge for lunch. It is an old, old hunting lodge built by Bell Telephone Company.

Judy G (@guest_228087)
8 months ago

YES! Custer was my homebase for 12 years as a full-timer. Loved Custer State Park.

Terry (@guest_218874)
10 months ago

I have driven the needles highway many times but the tunnel is not the eye of the needle. It is actually called the Needles Eye, it is a rock formation that has a hole in it above ground level. It is sad the author drove thru the man made tunnel got pictures then totally missed the Needles Eye made by nature.

Christine (@guest_218873)
10 months ago

We drove the Needles Hwy this summer when visiting Mt Rushmore. It is such a cool drive; definitely a highlight of the Mt Rushmore trip!

Joel Lefkowitz (@guest_156068)
1 year ago

We took that bus excursion back in September with a bunch of other Rver’s while attending a rally in Rapid City. Our driver came at that tunnel in one turn and drove straight through. The driver of the second bus made a big show of stopping, putting up a student driver sign in his window and taking a big drink from a steel hip flask. They like to put on a big show when actually they can drive through that tunnel easily. The buses are imported from Europe and are shorter and narrower than those manufactured in the USA. The bus in the video is one of their older ones. When we exited the tunnel the crowd standing their gave the driver a big round of applause. Our driver was the owner of the company and told me that they had only lost a few mirrors in their many years traversing that tunnel. As I looked out the window of the bus I was really glad I was a passenger and not trying to drive my Class B through that tunnel.

MevetS (@guest_156045)
1 year ago

Needles Hwy is only dangerous to those who decide to not heed the warning signs. Or just weren’t astute enough to read them when they entered the highway. Like the people pulling the Airstream. That was back in the 70’s. A few years ago when we returned there, I was kind of surprised that someone hadn’t turned that Airstream into a concession stand.

It really isn’t the highway that’s dangerous. It’s those who decide to drive the highway without taking the appropriate precautions, that are dangerous.

Spike (@guest_228128)
8 months ago
Reply to  MevetS

Or the high number of people coming around the curves that seem to think they own BOTH lanes of the narrow road because they are driving too fast.

Terry (@guest_155959)
1 year ago

Have driven through the tunnel several times when workcamping in Keystone SD. The tunnel is a the site of the Needles Eye. A natural rock formation. Yes it is officially called needles eye, mistakenly called eye of the needle by many. Many come to see the Needles eye see the tunnel and miss the real Needles Eye. Like the person who wrote this story. To bad they missed real Needles Eye. The reason it is called the needles highway is because of the rock formations not the tunnel.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_155952)
1 year ago

Why the discrepancy in height measurements? There is a HUGE difference between 12 feet and nine foot nine.

Vincee (@guest_155948)
1 year ago

One amazing view after another. Well worth the time to drive it when visiting Mt. Rushmore and the surrounding area. Careful at dusk for the prog horn dear jumping across the roadway out of nowhere.

Wayne Caldwell (@guest_155938)
1 year ago

I wouldn’t want to pull our TT through it but it looks like this wasn’t the driver’s first time through this tunnel.

Bob Johnson (@guest_155931)
1 year ago

Been there, done that. Beautiful!! Worth the trip.

Donald N Wright (@guest_155893)
1 year ago

There are roads I wish I had driven a Honda Civic on.

Vaiden Holmes (@guest_155873)
1 year ago

Beautiful road! Hint: if you start from the south end, the images on Mount Rushmore will be framed in the exit of all three tunnels.😎

Rick K (@guest_155942)
1 year ago
Reply to  Vaiden Holmes

Thanks for the tip! Already booked campsite for June / July!

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.