17 Miles. 314 Curves. 14 Switchbacks. 3 Pigtails. 3 Tunnels. 4 Presidents. 2 Splits. That is more than enough to end this blog, but because it is fun reminiscing about this ride, I’ll continue writing.
The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is sixty-six miles of some of the most beautiful roads you will ride on in the United States whether on two wheels or four. You could spend all day riding there, or if short on time, you can see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse as well in the same day as I did the first time I went to South Dakota. That included a stop for a burger and beer in Deadwood plus walking around for a while.
Mount Rushmore is about five miles from Crazy Horse and I enjoyed my first bison burger there. Your visit to Crazy Horse could be brief but there is a restaurant onsite as well if you need a bite to eat before you head out. Otherwise, an hour is more than enough time at Crazy Horse. Once you ride out of Crazy Horse, you will ride through Custer National Park along Highway 16A, 244, 89 and 87. Along the way, stop to stretch your legs and talk about your great ride at the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center. There are exhibits to enjoy at the visitor center including a display with a 1,900 pound bison. The staff of course, is incredibly friendly and will answer your questions.
The only downside was traffic in places like Needles Highway where I wasn’t able to stop and take photos, however, that was expected since this was the 75th Anniversary of Sturgis. In 2012, we had the whole place to ourselves.
The Peter Norbeck Byway was purposefully constructed to be “tight.” The idea was to force travelers to slow down and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Peter Norbeck was quoted as saying: “This is not meant to be a super highway, to do the scenery justice you should drive no more than twenty miles per hour and to do it full justice you should simply get out and walk.”
When riding Iron Mountain, regardless of the engineering design to forcibly slow you down, you should anyway. Who knows when you will be back, so ride slow, smell the roses, and enjoy the scenery.
The best part has to be riding through the tunnels when on a clear day, the tunnels frame Mount Rushmore. It is even more an impressive sight when you realized this was 1930’s technology in road construction.
Throughout Iron Mountain as well as the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, there are plenty of areas you can pull off to the side of the road and just relax and take in the scenery. At the end of your 5,000 plus feet high climb, there will be a small parking lot where you can relax and enjoy your view. I stopped at Hole In the Wall Picnic Area and had a picnic with Anny and our doggie, Bella. What a great way to enjoy the day.
The design concept behind the pigtail bridges is also fascinating. With sudden elevation changes , engineers wanting to build the bridges of concrete and steel but Norbeck ever the visionary, believed that distracted from the environment, so he had the pigtail bridges made from wood.
Another great part of the ride is the lane splits where you think the road was designed for motorcyclists only. No oncoming traffic!
That day I rode two hundred twenty miles more (221) more, giving me a total of three thousand two hundred thirty miles (3,230) miles.
That night, like every night, we had dinner in front of the fire pit on the back of the truck. As I looked up into the sky, I thought to myself I could easily live a simple life. A life without cell phones, social media, the internet, and television. I just spent fourteen days on the road living in the back of truck and I was as happy as I had ever been.
Here is a link to the photos for the Peter Norbeck Byway as well as video.