If you plan to hang at the Sturgis Rally this August 3–12, you owe it to yourself to check out the area's epic scenery too. Our five scenic ride suggestions will steer you through the best roads of the Black Hills, with exposed granite mountaintops, baking-hot badlands, and narrow, eerie tunnels being just a few of the sweet scenes you'll experience.

Through The Needles

This one's a can't-miss. Roll out from Custer, South Dakota, on Highway 16A, then head north on state Route 87. Look around—you're on the Needles Highway, named for the weird granite spires it threads around. Skitter around the hairpin turns and slip into tunnels blasted through granite walls—or at least until you roll up on one of the inevitable traffic jam (Tip: Go early in the morning). After Needles Eye Tunnel, you’ll loop onto Highway 87. In a few miles Route 244 will send you east toward Mount Rushmore.

Needles Highway
A ride along Needles Highway will have you holding your breath in some parts.Andrew Cherney

The Good Way To The Badlands

For some reason everyone who goes to Sturgis feels drawn to Wall Drug, just off I-90 east, to snap a bunch of cheesy photos. I'm more interested in the next part of the route, which curves south out of Wall onto the Badlands Loop—that’s Route 240 east. Turning south on Route 377 and on to Route 44 west, the route begins its dance through some funky stone pillars. When you find yourself in the Black Hills, the pavement starts to get pretty challenging, so you might as well pull over at the kooky Longhorn Saloon in Scenic, South Dakota (yup), before heading back to Rapid City on Route 44.

Spearfish Canyon Cruise

Everyone knows Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway—or US 14A—is easily one of the most scenic rides out of Spearfish. Roll out from the Spearfish Golf Course and twist south through a beautiful rock-walled canyon that hugs Spearfish Creek. That waterway is one of a few creeks in the US that flows north. Make a plan to stop at one of the waterfalls or scenic pullouts and poke around before you head down the curving road; you’ll see why the speed limit is only 35 mph. At Cheyenne, follow Route 85/14 as it hooks north and west, running through the town of Lead, then Deadwood, and finally Sturgis.

historic Deadwood
Don’t miss a stop in historic Deadwood, the Wild West town that never lost its dusty spirit.Andrew Cherney

Touring Devils Tower

Also known as the Lasso, this ride will eat up most of your day, but it's totally worth it. It’s west out of Sturgis on I-90, then take the exit for Route 111. From there, it’s north to historic Aladdin, climbing through pine trees, then veering off on Route 24 west toward Alva, before hitting Hulett. Rejoin Route 24 south and blast over to the huge Devils Tower National Monument—our country’s first national monument. You won't believe you're making a close encounter with this massive, 60-million-year-old, 867-foot volcanic butte. When you're done gawking, rumble back on Route 24 south to Route 14 east, then I-90 east to finish up the loop.

Devils Tower
The rolling route to Devils Tower goes through an awesome slice of Wyoming.NPS

Vanocker Canyon To Rapid City

It's short but sweet and it's also one of the most fun rides in the Black Hills, mainly because of the twisties (and also because you can actually get up past second gear). Take Junction Avenue out of downtown Sturgis; it’ll eventually turn into Vanocker Canyon Road past I-90. It’ll turn into a sweet little ride through the Black Hills National Forest, and then you’ll hit the town of Nemo. Quench your thirst at the Nemo Mercantile when you get there, or keep following Nemo Road (it becomes Canyon) all the way to Rapid City. It’s the long way to Rapid, but it’s way cooler than the slab.

Black Hills
The rolling pavement of the Black Hills deserves at least a day or two of straight up riding - the rally can wait.Tom Riles