Best time to visit South Dakota

Iron Mountain Road in South Dakota 2024

Spiral up the summit to see the Mount Rushmore

Best time: March–November

Iron Mountain Road
Iron Mountain Road

Iron Mountain Road is an extremely curvy path with endless serpentine, twisty corners, turns, and steep grades. Being a part of the U.S. Route 16A, the way connects Custer State Park and the Mount Rushmore National Monument and featuring scenic views of the Black Hills.

The path climbs up to the 5,445 ft (1,660 m) summit—Iron Mountain, a peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The road was built on purpose over the summit to let travelers enjoy the view of the Mount Rushmore National Monument. Moreover, it was designed to slow down the vehicles and let them drive at a maximum speed of 35 mph (56 kph).

Iron Mountain Road covers 17 mi (27.4 km). On this comparatively short distance, you’ll pass 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 tunnels, and 3 so-called “pigtails.” In these spots, the road surrounds the Iron Mountain, makes 360 degree turns, completes a circle, and passes over itself. It takes about 40 minutes to drive the path.

The way is closed periodically during the winter as snow and ice make the curvy road hazardous to follow. Also, it’s not recommended to drive it in RVs and large trailers.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Iron Mountain Road in South Dakota?

Iron Mountain Road welcomes tourists from March to November. The peak season for visitors is June until late August when the weather is warm and dry. The fall season is also an excellent time to witness the foliage transforming into vibrant red and yellow hues. The winter months are not favorable due to the closure of the road because of snow and ice, making it perilous to drive. Show more

Where can I find the Iron Mountain Summit?

The highest point of Iron Mountain Road is where the Iron Mountain Summit is located, rising up to 5,445 ft (1,660 m) amidst the Black Hills of South Dakota. Tourists can relish breathtaking panoramic views of Mount Rushmore National Monument, which shares a connection with Custer State Park via the Iron Mountain Road. Travelers can stop by the summit during their journey to the Mount Rushmore National Monument and cherish the scenic grandeur of Black Hills. Show more

Can I drive an RV or a large trailer on the Iron Mountain Road?

Avoiding RVs and large trailers is advisable while driving on the Iron Mountain Road. The steep grades and sharp turns make it challenging for these vehicles to navigate. Besides, there are several tunnels and low clearance areas that can cause inconvenience. Driving an RV on this route can be precarious and dangerous, leading to accidents. Opting for a smaller vehicle is a better option that allows for a safe and hassle-free driving experience. Show more

What are the pigtails on the Iron Mountain Road?

The Iron Mountain Road's pigtails are circular bridges designed to enable the road to take a turn over itself. Three pigtails on this 17 mi (27.4 km) road surround Iron Mountain, offering a fabulous view of the surrounding landscape. The pigtails assist in smooth and rapid climbing or descending of the road gradient, meanwhile providing a continual driving experience free from bumps for the motorists. Show more

How long does it take to drive the entire Iron Mountain Road?

Driving the entire Iron Mountain Road takes approximately 40 minutes. The road spans for 17 mi (27.4 km) with 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 tunnels, and 3 pigtails. However, tourists are advised to take their time and appreciate the spectacular scenery. The route has several parking areas and scenic overlooks available for visitors to take pictures, relax and savor the beautiful sights before continuing their journey. Show more

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Authors: Olha Savych