South Dakota's Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway
South Dakota's Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway offers the best of the Black Hills, and is one of the nation's most unusual routes. It features the unique Iron Mountain Road with its stone tunnels (one of which frames the presidents on Mt. Rushmore) and "pigtail" bridges, Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park - where the "buffalo roam", beautiful Sylvan Lake, and the Needles Highway with its surreal rock formations. The entire area is rich in wildlife, often on or adjacent to the road. (Photo, left: Mt. Rushmore)
The route runs 68 miles in a loop, starting and ending in Custer State Park, noted for beautiful lakes and forests as well as plentiful wildlife, especially its large herd of buffalo. Expect to take. a full day on this route. Visitors on the road early in the day cannot fail to see wildlife. The route starting as US-16a makes a slow but steady climb up Iron Mountain before descending sharply down the craggy side of the mountain. This is where you will find the stone tunnels and pigtail bridges. The uniquely designed bridges reduce elevation without the need for switchbacks which require a lot more road. (Photo right: Solitary Needle, Needle's Highway)
The byway turns west at SD-244 which reaches Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. This is a popular tourist attraction, and there is a fair amount of traffic, especially coming from Rapid City which is east of the memorial. Continuing west on SD-244 the traffic eases, and the road crosses the popular Centennial Trail. the trail runs through the Black Hills with convenient access in numerous locations. (Photo below, left: A pigtail bridge on Iron Mountain)
The Norbeck Byway turns southeast on SD-87 and starts climbing into the heavily wooded mountains until reaching very beautiful Sylvan Lake. The idyllic lake offers all kinds of recreational opporunities such as picnicking, hiking, and fishing. East of the lake, the route becomes the Needles Highway which features bizarre rock formations such as the Needles Eye and Cathedral Spires. Soon the road starts descending, entering denser wood and passing by the Black Hills Playhouse. This unique theater has been entertaining visitors for sixty years, and is a pleasant place to visit on a summer evening. The route shortly returns to US-16a in Custer State Park.
Map of South Dakota's Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway
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Best in the West Guide - Spectacular Scenic Routes