When visiting the Black Hills area of South Dakota there are many things to see including Mt. Rushmore Monument, Crazy Horse, Custer State park and a twisted 14 mile drive through an amazing landscape with several size restricted tunnels known as the Needles Highway.

Is Our Truck too BIG?

While we travel full time in our fifth wheel driving our dually Ford F450 pickup when we arrive to a location our dually is the option for transportation in seeing the area. We knew we wanted to drive the Needles Highway but also had heard that several of the tunnels on the Highway (total of 3) are relatively small.

Now I have seen pictures in the past with a tour bus going through the tunnel so I had to assume that we could fit however after looking up the size of the tunnels I quickly realized our vehicle was oversized.

Our dually with our kayaks attached is 9′ 6″ tall, at the fenders is exactly 8′ wide and when the mirrors are extended (not folded against the truck) the extend a total of 9′ 8″. We were by numbers too big for the highway.

We have been told that if we were going to drive through the tunnel while many folks pull their mirrors this doesn’t enable you to view your fenders going through. It is better to scratch a mirror and have the opportunity to pull them in than tear off a fender. I wanted to keep my mirrors out.

Three Tunnels

When traveling the Needles highway we started at Sylvan Lake as we were told that traveling in this direction permitted views of Mt. Rushmore during the drive. In going this route you will run into the three one lane tunnels in this order:

Hood Tunnel is 8′ 9″ wide and 9’8″ high

Needles Eye Tunnel is 8’0″ wide and 9’9″ high

Iron Creek is 8’9″ wide and 10’10” high.

We had spoke with folks that have traveled the highway and told us that it was extremely narrow however we had also heard that the numbers listed on the signs for restrictions are conservative. We measured our truck and decided that we would go through the Hood Tunnel and make the decision there as to moving forward.

Once we went through that first tunnel we realized that there was ample room to spare and we decided that Needles was ours for the taking.

We were able to go through the Needles tunnel with our mirrors extended and kayaks on the roof without issue. We had several inches to spare on each side of our dually however it was still a close creep through the tunnel.

When you get to the large parking area right outside of the Needles tunnel make sure you stop and enjoy the views, watch other folks try to traverse the tunnel and keep a look out for mountain goats. During our visit several were blocking the tunnel for a large period of time where a vehicle finally pressed through to get them out of the tunnel.

Also take the time to look up at the formations that the area is named for. Many people miss the Needles Eye as the excitement for the tunnel takes over.

The Needles Highway provides some scenic landscape combined with a unique drive through a winding road with the tunnels providing a highlight.

What we didnt talk about in the video

We were limited for time during our stay due to a timeline to make it back to Idaho.

The damage we talked about on the rear passenger side of our truck was recently caused by a rig hitting us with tail swing in a RV Park.

We enjoyed the drive on the Needles Highway so much we did it twice. We also spent a few hours at the Needles Tunnel opening observing people and their awe of the tunnel.

We visited Mt. Rushmore right at 6AM (yes it really light out and it was early) and were able to get pictures with no other people. We also visited Crazy Horse Memorial. Both destinations require a permit to film for a Youtube channel and our plans to visit were last minute.. so no filming.

We started our RV journey in 2019 and have traveled over 50k miles between our three fifth wheels. 2021 brought a new set of experiences for us selling our home and going full time in our Beacon and has been a bumpy road.

We are blessed to have each other and the support of our family and friends as we continue our journeys.

Search for more:

Subscribe To Our Free Newsletter.
Receive Updates On Our Travel And Blog Releases.