7 Scenic Drives In South Dakota So Beautiful They’ll Give You The Chills

Have you ever taken a drive that gives you the chill bumps as you take in the natural beauty you see along it?

There’s no feeling like it, and South Dakota offers a number of drives that’ll leave you mesmerized.

Heck, South Dakota’s most scenic drives even rival those most beautiful drives in Utah and the most scenic drives in the Pacific Northwest if you ask me!

In this guide, we’ll detail the seven most stunning drives in the state of South Dakota.

Needles Highway

Credit: Instagram: @nickhubbard_

Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Needles Highway (SD Highway 87) is a 14-mile drive known for its unique granite rock formations resembling needles. 

This winding road offers views of the Cathedral Spires, narrow tunnels, and wildlife. Key stops include Sylvan Lake and the Needle’s Eye, a granite pillar with a narrow slit. 

The highway is part of Custer State Park, making it a gateway to further exploration and hiking opportunities.

Iron Mountain Road

Credit: Instagram: @feliz_na_estrada

Iron Mountain Road, part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, stretches 17 miles through the Black Hills, connecting Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore. 

Notable for its pigtail bridges, this drive features 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, and three tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore in their openings. 

It’s designed to immerse travelers in the natural beauty of the area and offer unique perspectives of the iconic monument, making it a must-drive for visitors.

Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway

Credit: Instagram: @archivesloan

Running through Badlands National Park, the Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway (SD Highway 240) spans about 39 miles. 

The drive showcases the park’s striking geological formations, layered rocks, and vast prairies. 

Along the way, there are numerous overlooks and trails where visitors can stop to admire the landscape and possibly spot bighorn sheep, bison, and prairie dogs. 

The Ben Reifel Visitor Center provides insights into the area’s paleontological history.

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

Credit: Instagram: @blackhillstraveler

The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, located in the northern Black Hills, follows US Highway 14A for 22 miles. 

This route is known for its towering limestone cliffs, dense forests, and waterfalls, including Bridal Veil and Roughlock Falls. 

The canyon’s geological formations date back over 600 million years, making it a stunning drive year-round, especially during the fall when the foliage is at its peak. 

Hiking trails and fishing spots are accessible from the byway.

Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park

Credit: Instagram: @momoseyooo

Wildlife Loop Road is a 18-mile drive situated in Custer State Park, South Dakota. 

This scenic drive is famous for its opportunities to see the park’s abundant wildlife, including bison, elk, pronghorns, and the park’s famous “begging” burros. 

The route offers several pullouts for wildlife viewing and photography. 

Visitors can also learn about the area’s natural history at the Custer State Park Visitor Center.

Vanocker Canyon Road

Credit: Instagram: @cwaldenjr

Vanocker Canyon Road stretches for about 17 miles through the Black Hills, from Sturgis to Nemo. 

This less-traveled route offers a peaceful drive with lush forests, meadows, and clear streams. 

The road is particularly beautiful in the fall when the aspen and birch trees turn vibrant colors. 

Along the drive, visitors can enjoy the natural beauty, with opportunities for picnicking, hiking, and spotting wildlife in a serene setting.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

Credit: Instagram: @where_the_wifi_ends

The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway encompasses 70 miles of roads, including Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road, within the Black Hills region. 

It offers a comprehensive tour of the area’s natural beauty, with views of Mount Rushmore, the Black Elk Peak, and Custer State Park. 

The byway is designed to encourage slow travel, with numerous curves, tunnels, and switchbacks. 

Highlights include Sylvan Lake, the Cathedral Spires, and several hiking trails.

Leave a Comment