The Needle’s Eye tunnel and formation are one of the must-see spots in Custer State Park, located along the many twists and turns of Needles Highway. Just southeast of Sylvan Lake, along Highway 87, this area is well worth the stop. And be sure to plan more than just a few minutes for your visit. You’ll want to park your vehicle and walk around admiring these crazy rock formations—the products of millions of years of erosion!
Visitors looking for an extra dose of adventure should consider exploring the nearby Moonlight Ridge climbing area—accessible from a small trail located on the northwest corner of the Needle’s Eye parking lot. Whether or not you partake in rock climbing, this short hike doesn’t require any special equipment, provides astounding views, and often goes overlooked by many visitors. So, park your car, explore the area, and I bet you’ll be amazed by what you find.
Though the hike is seemingly steep at first, it quickly offers relief and rewards sightseers with incredible views of Custer State Park and the southern Black Hills. This short approach is a nice option for anyone looking to stay on their tour schedule for the day, but needing to get out of the car, burn off some energy, and get a unique feel for the park.
For any rock climbers in your group, this area is also a great place to experience quality granite climbing amongst a beautiful setting. Moonlight Ridge is made of up both sport and traditional climbing routes, ranging in difficulty from 5.6 to 5.10c ratings. Detailed route information can be found here on the Mountain Project database.
In the summertime, it’s best to add this climbing area to an early morning agenda—as recent tree thinning projects have left it very exposed to sunlight and direct heat. Anything before noon is usually quite manageable. As for the hike, it’s short enough that any time of day would be great for doing a little exploring.