Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
Nestled within the Cumberland Mountains where the borders of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia meet is 24,000-acre Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Further tucked inside this pristine part of the Bluegrass State is famed Cumberland Gap, a natural passageway through the larger Appalachian Mountains that later became known as Wilderness Road – the first great gateway to the West since pioneer Daniel Boone first blazed a trail through this area back in 1775.
Modern-day explorers can walk in the same footsteps – and stand in awe at the same sights – that Boone, Native Americans, Cherokee warriors, wildlife and an estimated 200,000-300,000 settlers did nearly 250 years ago into an unknown wilderness that has since become a very well-known land of incomparable beauty and adventure.
Hiking & Wildlife
Today, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park offers exceptional outdoor experiences ranging from scenic hiking, deep cave exploring and wildlife watching to touring historic landmarks and even a pioneer settlement village.
Enjoy more than 85 miles of amazing walking and hiking trails from easy to strenuous, from just a quarter of a mile to more than 20 miles long, from self-guided to ranger-led. Surrounded by the pristine Appalachian Mountains, you’ll wind through groves of hemlock, fields of wildflowers and meadows of lush ferns and rhododendrons while spotting some of the more than 370 recorded animal species – from deer and beaver to 150-plus different types of birds.
For epic views, trek up to White Rocks Overlook or the half-mile-high Pinnacle Overlook (shuttles are available) and soak up the gorgeous, sweeping expanse of all three states.
Cave & History Tours
Now that you’ve explored above-ground, it’s time to venture below!
Descend four levels deep (183 steps) into cavernous Gap Cave (formerly known as Cudjo’s Cave) to discover towering stalagmites and beautiful flowstone cascades in a magnificent underground cathedral. The two-hour tour even includes a one-mile hike along Daniel Boone’s historic Wilderness Road!
Next, learn about the Native Americans who once lived in this area and explore Cumberland Gap’s role in our national heritage at Civil War forts still standing today. Then experience what life was like in a turn-of-the-century mountain community at historic Hensley Settlement high atop Brush Mountain. Established in 1901, this fascinating village still features remnants of the hand-hewn cabins, original blacksmith shop, springhouse and one-room schoolhouse that operated back in the day.
Camping & Lodging
While you are here, plan to stay at one of more than 150 open and wooded backcountry campsites, RV and trailer campgrounds (electrical hookups and hot water provided) or at one of many nearby B&Bs.
To learn more about things to see and do in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park while you are here, check out the Visitor Center on US Highway 25E just south of Middlesboro. You’ll find local travel information, a park store with Appalachian books and art, plus a museum with hands-on exhibits. For more information, call the Visitor Center at 606-248-2817.