The Black Hills region in and surrounding Custer State Park is beautiful and expansive, hosting two massive monuments, extensive trail networks, numerous lakes and streams, a menagerie of wild animals, and more. The sheer size of the landscape and terrain can be imposing, so thankfully there is an easy way to see the most beautiful and iconic parts of the area. The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway winds through nearly 70 miles of beautiful landscapes featuring the Needles Highway, wooden bridges, picturesque lakes, and, if you're lucky, bison sightings.
I had spent most of the morning touring Mount Rushmore and hiking, so I needed to give my feet a bit of a break from the trail. I hopped in my truck and started off along the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway (driving counterclockwise around the loop) expecting the 70 miles to take me about an hour and a half to complete. I soon discovered that this estimate was far from realistic, as I continually stopped to take photos of the towering granite spires or serene landscapes surrounding the road. Even though the speed limit was stated as 25 mph, I found myself driving closer to 10 mph to better admire the terrain.
While it is easy to get lost in the beautiful landscape, the farther I drove, the more I admired the engineering marvel of the road itself. Winding through the hills, the famed Iron Mountain Road passes through numerous single-lane stone tunnels and curves tightly around “pigtail” bridges, creating a wonderfully fun drive. After nearly 4 hours, my truck and I emerged from the full loop, already sad that the road trip had ended. Yet, though the scenic byway was behind me, the drive back to Rapid City was also strikingly beautiful.