South Dakota 87 is a fairly short route that connects U.S. 385 in Wind Cave National Park with U.S. 16-385 south of Hill City. The highway largely serves Custer State Park and the scenic areas of the Black Hills.
Wind Cave National Park, Blue Bell, Custer State Park, Needles Highway
South Dakota 87 North
The Wildlife Loop Road follows a semicircle around the southwestern corner of Custer State Park. It is almost guaranteed that buffalo (bison), deer, antelope, wild turkey, and other wild animals will be seen from the famed loop drive. This reassurance shield for South Dakota 87 is located after the Wildlife Loop Road intersection. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Continuing north, South Dakota 87 northbound reaches a small turnout for picnicking. Continue north to Mount Coolidge (three miles) and U.S. 16A (four miles). Photo taken 09/03/04.
Evidence remains of a massive fire in 1988 that burned the hillsides of Custer State Park. Areas that used to be enclosed in trees is now open to the sun for the first time in decades. Photo taken 09/03/04.
The antennae on the hill are located at the top of Mount Coolidge; a look-out is available on top of the mountain via an unpaved roadway. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Even more Galena Fire damage is evident in this photo taken near Mount Coolidge. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Northbound South Dakota 87 approaches its junction with U.S. 16A, Iron Mountain Road, in Custer State Park. Photo taken 09/03/04.
U.S. 16A east and South Dakota 87 north briefly merge together; they separate at the Needles Highway intersection. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Turn left (west) on U.S. 16A to Stockade Lake, Custer, and Jewel Cave National Monument. Turn right (east) on U.S. 16A/South Dakota 87 north to Needles Highway, Legion Lake, State Game Lodge, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Much further north, South Dakota 87 northbound passes through one of its many one-lane tunnels along the Needles Highway. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Southbound South Dakota 87
Tall trees rise high above South Dakota 87 as the scenic highway travels south toward Custer State Park. Photo taken 09/03/04.
This sign, which appears to be unique to South Dakota, indicates that livestock are will not be found loose south of this point. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Indeed, motorists using South Dakota 87 through Custer State Park between South Dakota 89 and U.S. 16A must pay a fee for daily travel to sights such as Lake Harney and the Needles. Photo taken 09/03/04.
South Dakota 87/Needles Highway is graced with several tunnels, some of which can only accommodate one-way traffic. Since this is a scenic area, traffic tends to move slowly, which makes navigation of these narrow tunnels much easier. Photo taken 09/03/04.
This narrow tunnel has limited sight distance, which makes slow travel even more important. Tour buses and other large profile vehicles pass through this tunnel often during the summer, making tunnel travel a bit more treacherous. However, the views on either side of the tunnel make the trip well worth it. At night, there is no tunnel lighting. Photo taken 09/03/04.
South Dakota 87/Needles Highway passes by several rock formations that help give the highway its name. Photo taken 09/03/04.
A cathedral of rocks rise triumphantly above the trees as the Needles Highway continues south through Custer State Park. Photo taken 09/03/04.
There is no centerline dividing line between the two directions of traffic on this stretch of South Dakota 87/Needles Highway. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Trees line South Dakota 87 as the highway passes through the forest of Custer State Park. Photo taken 09/03/04.
This trailblazer sign provides the distance to U.S. 16A (Iron Mountain Road) via southbound South Dakota 87. Note that South Dakota 87 again has a more traditional two-lane configuration. Turn left here to Iron Creek Horse Camp and Camp Remington. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Southbound South Dakota 87/Needles Highway reaches its junction with U.S. 16A/Iron Mountain Road. Turn left to follow U.S. 16A through Custer State Park to the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center and the route toward Iron Mountain and Mount Rushmore. To the west, U.S. 16A aims toward the city of Custer. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Scenes Pertaining to South Dakota 87
Now on top of Mount Coolidge, this marquee sign shows that much of the area around the mountain is recovering from the Galena Fire of 1988, the same year as the disastrous Yellowstone fires. During that summer, rainfall was abysmally low, and conditions were ripe for fire. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Close to Mount Coolidge, the Black Hills rise with the green, tree-topped hills in the foreground. In the distance, the greenery transitions into the browner lands of the South Dakota badlands. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Many of the scorched trees from the 1988 fire are still in place. Photo taken 09/03/04.
Further to the north, Sylvan Lake offers a respite from driving the narrow Needles Highway and allows for hikes around the lake. Photos taken 09/03/04.
Large rock formations form the barrier at one end of the lake. Photos taken 09/03/04.