Saturday, June 25, 2011

Black Hills Byways

It’s finally warming up in the Black Hills; the snow is gone, the streams are running clear, and the green of the foliage is bright enough to hurt your Needles Highway2eyes.  It was time for a road trip before the crowds hit, and we headed for Hill City and the Needles Highway, a twisting road through carved rock tunnels, dense forest, and with some of most beautiful vistas in the Black Hills.  It’s an area of towering granite spires, unlike any other place in the area.  We made a quick stop at Sylvan Sylvan Lake, Black HillsLake, one of those beautiful places that looks like a painting.  The lake has a nice lodge, boat rentals, and is stocked with trout; just one of the many places in Custer State Park with these type of activities.  Continuing down the road we came to the first tunnel, or more correctly, the first hole carved Needles Tunnel2through the rock.  Prior to the tunnel, there are interesting rock formations, viewpoints, and very limited parking.  It was a mess when we were there on a quiet day, and we can’t imagine what it would be like during the busy season.  Needles Tunnel3One of the problems is that the tunnel, which is limited to one way traffic, has traffic coming from both directions, and it’s difficult to see if anyone is waiting on the other end.  We watched this Hummer slowly work his way through, just barely clearing his mirrors on each side.  It made us wonder how many large RVs ignore the signs and end up stuck here with almost no space to turn around.  Bet it only happens on the busiest days!
The views as we traveled the highway were stunning:
Needles Highway5
Needles Highway6
Needles Highway8
At the end of the Needles Highway, we entered the “wildlife loop” section, an area where the majority of the Bison are located.  It’s spring, and calves were everywhere – running, jumping, and generally driving their mothers crazy.  There were a few half-hearted battles between the bulls, but in general everyone was hanging out in the grass enjoying the day.
Custer SP Bison
Bison Calf
Bison Fighting
Driving along a more remote stretch of road, my eye caught something up against the trees in the distance.  We stopped to get a better look with binoculars, and were surprised to see this mother Pronghorn with twin fawns enjoying a day in the sunshine. 
Pronghorn with twins
What an amazing place, the Black Hills!  We’ll be back soon with more stories of our travels, C’mon back!


  1. What great photos...thanks for sharing. I don't think I want to try that tunnel anytime soon LOL!!

  2. great tour of Needles!..the tunnel looks a bit narrow!..maybe just walking through would be a better option?

  3. We LOVE the Black Hills! One of our favorite places. Your pics are just awesome....thanks for sharing this amazing place with us.

  4. The Puglieses8:50 PM

    You blog is great. It was nice meeting both of you today at the Fish Hatchery. We were the couple from Tampa, Florida (Chardon,Ohio) Deb and Vince Pugliese. Our blog I hope you get a chance to visit ours. We will be looking back at some of your spots to see where we might stay also.
    Happy Travels,
    Debbie and Vince