Scenic Drives and Byways in the Black Hills
The highways and scenic byways, as well as an extensive network of backcountry lanes, make the Black Hills and Badlands of western South Dakota a driver’s delight. From hairpin curves, mountain-carved tunnels and eagle-eye views, to wide-open meadows and ranges with bountiful wildlife, to deep canyon passageways along sparkling mountain creeks, a family drive offers every pleasure from thrills and chills to blissful, serene relaxation.
As you wend your way along the area’s spectacular scenic drives, you will experience a sightseeing adventure of wilderness, wildlife and waterways. Custer State Park’s 70-mile Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, threading its way around the Pigtail Bridges, through one-lane rock-walled tunnels, and ascending to the uppermost heights of the Needles and Harney Peak in Custer State Park, is considered one of the Most Outstanding Byways in America. No less spectacular is the Hills’ other noted National Scenic Byway – Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway in the northern Black Hills. The Canyon’s thousand-foot-high limestone palisades, richly and uniquely landscaped by all manner of woodlands fauna and flora, line Hwy. 14A as it twists through the 19-mile gorge between the towns of Spearfish and Lead. Three waterfalls only add to the wonder of Spearfish Canyon.
U.S. Highway 385, sometimes called the Black Hills Parkway, is the route of choice for rambling through the Black Hills National Forest. You’ll wind through dense Ponderosa pines and around scenic mountain lakes as you travel this north-south route through the heart of the Hills. Plan a stay at one or more of the picturesque towns along the way – Hill City, Custer, Hot Springs, Deadwood and Lead. Or spend a day or a week at one of the many popular camping and fishing destinations along Hwy. 385, such as Sheridan Lake and Pactola Reservoir.
Other drives well-worth considering are Highway 44, also known as Rimrock Highway, that winds along Rapid Creek from its intersection with US 385 on to the western edge of Rapid City. Vanocker Canyon Road between Sturgis and the tiny town of Nemo, Iron Mountain Road from Mount Rushmore into Custer State Park, and Hwy. 14A through Boulder Canyon between Sturgis and Deadwood all have their unique scenic charms.
Go 50 miles east along Interstate 90 to discover the eerie charms and wild magic of the Badlands Loop Road, a State Scenic Byway. Take Exit 110 or 131 to access this 35-mile drive through the National Park’s most dramatic formations. Nearly 30 scenic overlooks offer great photo opportunities, plus parking areas allow you to get out and hike along one of the many trails.