Norbeck Overlook

Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota

Trip Date: Thursday, September 20th, 2018
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 13th, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 0.3 miles roundtrip
Time 15 minutes
Terrain Mostly flat
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible Yes

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Iron Mountain Road is the quintessential scenic drive in the Black Hills -- this winding road was intentionally engineered to make travelers drive slow so you may better enjoy the beautiful wilderness surrounding you. Situated at the top of Iron Mountain about one mile away from Mount Rushmore (as the crow flies), Norbeck Overlook is one place you absolutely must stop along this scenic drive. Even better, this overlook is one of the few places you can view Mount Rushmore for free.

The paved path heads in two different directions with a link in the middle to create a short loop. If you go to the left first, you'll end at an overlook of the Black Hills with the view pictured below. In the distance, you can see the highest point in South Dakota, Black Elk Peak, which at an elevation of over 7200 feet above sea level is also the highest point east of the Rockies.

The silhouette of Black Elk Peak in the setting sun

The silhouette of Black Elk Peak in the setting sun

On the other end of the path, you'll reach an overlook of Mount Rushmore, with the monument peeking above the pines as shown in the center of the picture below. Depending on the lighting and time of day, you'll be able to make out the carved presidential faces. Morning is the best time of day to visit here, since the eastern sun will illuminate the Black Hills rather than casting long shadows like in my pictures.
The view of Mount Rushmore in the distance

The view of Mount Rushmore in the distance

Whether it's your first time in the Black Hills or you visit every year, Iron Mountain Road is one of the best ways to experience the splendid natural beauty here. And since Mount Rushmore is on everyone's itinerary, Norbeck Overlook is definitely one place you should visit, whether you are driving to or from the monument. Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. This paved trail isn't designated as accessible by the Forest Service, but the path is flat and wide enough that anyone in a wheelchair should be able to reach the overlooks (my untrained opinion). This is a great place for kids since it can break up the long drive to Mount Rushmore while building excitement for that main event. You can visit during the three warm seasons, but the road is not maintained in the winter. As a free, drive-up view, this is a popular spot in the peak season, but people don't linger long if you want to wait for a more peaceful experience.

Directions

The best way to approach this scenic overlook is from the town of Custer by following U.S. Highway 16A through Custer State Park. Not only do you get a taste of the amazing scenery in Custer State Park without having to pay the entrance fee, this is also the most beautiful route to Mount Rushmore, with one particular tunnel as you descend from Norbeck Overlook that opens up to a great view of Mount Rushmore.

Alternatively, from Rapid City, head west on U.S. Highway 16. Follow signs for Keystone and Mount Rushmore and stay left to merge onto U.S. Highway 16A. Instead of taking the turn for South Dakota Highway 244 for Mount Rushmore, turn left to stay on U.S. Highway 16A. This scenic mountain road climbs up into the hills with many interesting turns, including two spots where the road loops over itself. As you reach the top of the mountain, the parking area for Norbeck Overlook will be signed and on the left side of the road.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! There are no facilities here.

External Links

Nearby Hikes

Presidential Trail

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
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Breezy Point

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Black Elk Peak Loop (South Dakota State Highpoint)

Custer State Park, South Dakota
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Lover's Leap Loop

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