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Needles hIghway, which way to take it?

Genesee, CO
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646 posts
52 reviews
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Needles hIghway, which way to take it?

When taking the Needles highway does it matter which way you take it? For example, if in Keystone, does it make more sense to take 16A down to the visitor center and then take 87 northwest towards sylvan lake?

OR

Is it better to head west on 244 from keystone and then take needles the other way (southeast on 87) back towards 16A? Is one way prettier than the other, or less traffic, etc?

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Needles Highway
Needles Highway
594 Reviews
South Dakota
Rapid City, SD
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893 posts
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1. Re: Needles hIghway, which way to take it?

The direction that you drive the actual Needles Highway (SD87)portion of the drive you mention really doesn't matter. But the Iron Mountain Road portion (US 16A from Custer State Park to Keystone) is by far best if traveling to the north (toward Mt. Rushmore). There are numerous tunnels aligning the highway with Mt. Rushmore in the distance so as you travel toward Mt. Rushmore, it appears through the tunnels.

So the better drive is to take 244 west of Keystone through Mt. Rushmore to Sylvan Lake, then the Needles Highway and then Iron Mountain Road back to Keystone.

A little side road that is worth driving and is actually a short cut is called Palmer Creek Road. As you drive west on 244, turn left (south) onto Palmer Creek Road. It's a couple miles of well maintained gravel with some great views of Harney Peak. It will then take you to 87 which takes you toward Sylvan Lake.

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Needles Highway
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Harney Peak
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South Dakota
Genesee, CO
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646 posts
52 reviews
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2. Re: Needles hIghway, which way to take it?

thank you, i think we will do mount rushmore very early and then pick up a picnic lunch at the restaurant at Sylvan lake and then stop for a picnic somewhere along the drive.

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Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake
1,447 Reviews
Custer, SD
alta
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32 posts
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3. Re: Needles hIghway, which way to take it?

travel north.

4. Re: Needles hIghway, which way to take it?

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