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Continued from the previous page.


The last mile of Trail #9 back to the trailhead at Sylvan Lake is more smooth as it undulates through attractive autumn-hued meadows and trees and continues to pass more rock formations:





Cody still leads the way as we get close to the trailhead at Sylvan Lake.
That's a good sign; when he's tired, he lags behind me.

Cody did great with the distance, difficulty, and hauling his own water. He hasnít worn his pack for a long while.

If you hike with your four-legged buddy to Harney Peak be sure to take plenty of water for both you and your dog. At this time of year there is only one little stream along this loop.

I didnít see any other dogs on the trail so sweet Cody got lots of attention. Last fall I remember that we met a German shepherd near the fire tower and its owner warned me about the grated metal stairs. Fortunately Cody didn't have any trouble negotiating them either time we've been up to the tower.

Happy hiker, still going strong at 9Ĺ years of age

Weekdays are great for hiking these trails. There were other people on the trail today but it wasnít crowded at any time -- even around popular Sylvan Lake or the picturesque fire tower on the peak.


Meanwhile, Jim was patiently waiting for me in another section of the park about 25 miles away after his long bike ride.

After my hike I went back out to the Needles Highway (SD 87) from the Sylvan Lake Road and drove the remaining part of the super-scenic Needles Highway through the northwestern part of Custer State Park to the intersection with US 16A.

The Needles Highway is 14 miles long. "Highway" is a misnomer. Although it is a two-way road it's very narrow. It's a great drive, especially in the fall, on a bike or in a vehicle small enough to get through the even more narrow tunnels.


This is the approach to one of the tunnels:



I have to put the side mirrors of the pickup truck in when I go that tunnel to be sure I don't scrape the rock walls -- that's how narrow these tunnels are! Do not ever drive this road or Iron Mountain Road in a motorhome (even a little one) or hauling a trailer (even a little one).

The road is named "Needles" because of the rock spires it passes:




Despite being narrow, it's a fascinating road to cycle when there isn't a lot of traffic:

About three miles from Sylvan Lake is the trailhead for Trail #4A to Cathedral Spires:

This strenuous trail is 1.5 miles long and is usually hiked out and back. It's a very popular trail. I've been on only the top part of it where it connects to Trail #4.

Here's a view of the south side of the spires from the road near the trailhead:

Along the Needles Highway the aspens and birches are at their peak right now. It's a good thing there was minimal traffic on the road today because I kept stopping to take pictures through the windshield or out my window:

I had the pleasure of driving through two more tunnels before I got off the Needles Highway:


Those tunnels are narrow but not as skinny as the one where I put in the truck mirrors to pass through without scraping.

I turned east on US 16A and drove about eight more miles to meet Jim at the cabin area in the park.

After waiting over an hour for me to come get him, he was understandably in a hurry to get home. He drove out of the park and up US 79 to our campground at Ellsworth AFB just east of Rapid City.

Colorful barn on US 16A east of Custer State Park

A more scenic option would be to drive north on Iron Mountain Road from Custer State Park to the town of Keystone and back on US 16 but that would have taken twice as long.

We both had a great day down in the Black Hills today. We plan to go back a couple more times while we're in the area so stay tuned for more adventures in the Hills . . .

Next entrymore cycling on the Mickelson Trail, photos from the stockade at Stockade Lake, plus a visit to Prairie Berry Winery (yum!)

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil