Custer and the Black Hills are known for their scenic drives. Just minutes from downtown Custer, you can be a on a 70-mile journey with hairpin curves, slender granite pinnacles and awe-inspiring views of our nation’s Shrine of Democracy.
The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway winds through Custer State Park, along Needles Highway and down Iron Mountain Road on its way to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. In the early 1900s, former South Dakota Governor and US Senator Peter Norbeck wanted to create a scenic Black Hills roadway that travelers could enjoy at a slower speed. He wanted visitors to enjoy the beauty and wildlife in the area, without hurting the natural resources of the hills.
The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway also includes portions of two other popular, but shorter, scenic drives. Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road are two spectacular displays of South Dakota beauty.
SD Highway 87, better known as Needles Highway, was constructed in 1919. The roadway curves and winds through 14 miles of granite rock formations called “needles.” One of the most popular stops on Needles Highway is at the Needles Eye. Needles Highway also has three narrow rock tunnels that can only fit one car or motorcycle at a time.
Iron Mountain Road, US 16A, is another scenic road located on the Norbeck byway. This highway offers some of the most spectacular views of Mount Rushmore framed in granite rock tunnels. There are three of these tunnels, each offering a different view of the mountain monument. Iron Mountain Road also has three pigtail bridges that are considered engineering marvels.
Another scenic drive near Custer is the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. This 18-mile roadway winds through pine covered hills, rolling prairies and along stream beds. The Wildlife Loop is also the best place to see the 1,500 head herd of bison that live in the park. Other wildlife you can see on this scenic drive include elk, Bighorn sheep, deer and friendly, begging burros. Although they are officially considered wild, these friendly donkeys always like to see visitors because they are looking for free food. Feeding the burros is discouraged since people food can harm the animals.
All of the scenic drives located near Custer are best viewed at a slow speed. So kick back, relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery.