Hiking the trails at the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is to walk in the footsteps of Native Americans, early settlers and Civil War Soldiers. Stretching for 26 miles along the Cumberland Mountain, and ranging from 1 to 4 miles in width, the park spreads out into 3 states. The Pinnacle Overlook, presents views of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Along the trails are glimpses of the ruins of Civil War era fortifications and an old iron furnace. Hike to the early 20th century Kentucky mountain community, the Hensley Settlement. The park has preserved the hand-hewn cabins and split rail fences that offer a representation of the early settler's life on top of Brush Mountain. In addition to the park's rich history and impressive vistas, the geography is unique with geologic sandstone formations and magnificent underground caverns. Park Rangers offer guided tours of Gap Cave and the Hensley Settlement. Stop by the Visitors Center/Museum for a wealth of information on the Park, past and present. Get out and explore — the trails range from easy to strenuous and from only a quarter-of-a-mile to the long distance 21-mile Ridge Trail. There's something for everyone!
From 11 trailheads, hikers can venture into the wilderness to cover 85 miles of trail. Equestrians have access to 25 miles of trail while mountain bikers can travel along 7 miles of dirt and gravel roads mixed with some singletrack. With so many awesome trails to explore, there are a few spots that are a must see — the White Rocks overlook, the Sand Cave, and the Pinnacle Overlook.
Pinnacle Overlook: From the Thomas Walker parking area, follow the Ridge Trail 3 miles to the Overlook. Here, the three bordering states are presented in panoramic view at an elevation of 2,440 feet. In fall the autumn hawk migration can be observed from the overlook. History abounds at this Civil War site where a fort once stood. The Ridge Trail is the longest trail in the park at 21 miles one-way, traversing along the ridge from the Pinnacle Overlook on the west end of the Park, to the White Rocks Overlook on the east end.
White Rocks and Sand Cave: Hikers yearning for a challenge will find thrill with the 8-mile round trip trek over to White Rocks and the Sand Cave. From Civil Park, located on the east end of the park, take the Ewing Trail. It's uphill to the White Rock overlook, where you'll gain two thousand feet during the first two miles of hiking. The trail makes its way through hardwood forest, with oaks, hickories and beech making a grand appearance. Perched on the White Rocks sandstone uprising, you'll be towering 3,500 feet above the Powell Valley. July will bear succulent blueberries in abundance near the White Rocks Overlook. A mile to the west of the White Rocks Overlook, the Sand Cave is a definite must. Though called a cave, it is better characterized as a rock shelter. At least seven different colors of sand swirl together in the "cave." A real treat is the waterfall cascading over the lip of this rock shelter. Those hiking during the heat of the summer will be anxious to standing under this cold mountain water.
Birdwatching: The park is home to the Ring-billed Gull, Canada Goose, Snow Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, Wood Duck, Mallard, Wild Turkey, Northern Bobwhite, Ruffed Grouse, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, and the Bald Eagle to name just a few.
Camping: The Wilderness Road Campground is located approximately 3 miles from the park visitor center off of Highway 58 in Virginia. It has 160 sites in a beautiful wooded setting with electrial hookups and showers, and is open year-round. Backcountry camping is allowed in designated sites with a permit which is free of charge. Camping info