Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Cumberland gap

The Cumberland Gap is a natural mountain pass separating Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia that was used by animals and Native Americans for centuries before English-speaking settlers made their way west through it in the 1700s.

Hikers can explore trails through groves of hemlock, wildflowers, rhododendron, and fiddle ferns while wildlife grazes in this lush habitat. There are also deep caves to discover and a pioneer settlement village to visit.

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park


Cumberland Gap has long been a gateway to the Appalachian Mountains. It was an oasis for bison, Native Americans, and pioneers on their way to a new land.

Before European settlement, the Gap served as a standard route for bison and other Native American herds to move from grazing lands in Tennessee to salt licks in northern Virginia and beyond. It also served as an important migratory route for Indian tribes traveling from Ohio and Pennsylvania to their hunting grounds in Kentucky.

Early explorers and colonists who traveled west often encountered Native American groups engaged in battle among themselves. On occasion, however, Indians would offer peaceful trade missions through this gap between them.

Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone were the first Americans to explore this gap, creating what would become known as “Wilderness Road”. Following trails made by Cherokee and Shawnee tribesmen, they cut a path through what would later become Gap of Woods, allowing settlers to traverse southern Appalachia’s vast wilderness.

However, as the Wilderness Road was replaced by the National Road, its popularity as a migration route to Kentucky’s fertile land diminished. Canals and railroads became more convenient ways for travelers to reach their destinations east of the mountains.

By the late 18th century, the gap had become a less popular travel route for people aiming to migrate to Kentucky. Instead, they turned towards taking the National Road which provided them with a more direct route through Tennessee and Virginia.

Throughout the Civil War, control of this strategic gap was frequently exchanged between the North and South. The North claimed it for its vital role in commerce and defense of East Tennessee’s loyal people while the South saw it as a natural invasion routes into their Confederacy.

In 1940, the legislatures of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia authorized the creation of a national park to preserve its historical importance. To make this happen, they acquired land and features within those states for this purpose.

Visitor Center

Experience a journey through history at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Located at the crossroads of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, this 24,000-acre preserve occupies part of Cumberland Gap – an Appalachian notch known for its breathtaking natural beauty.

Since prehistoric times, Cumberland Gap has been a route for wildlife. By 1750 it had become a hub for commerce and migration as Native Americans, Shawnee, and Cherokee Indians used this route to access an expansive trade network. In 1769 Daniel Boone crossed Cumberland Gap on foot and later established what would become known as Wilderness Road; eventually linking 300,000 settlers from Kentucky and beyond over more than 50 years.

Today, visitors to Cumberland Gap can explore this stunning area on foot through 85 miles of hiking trails that wind through eastern deciduous forests. Whether it’s a quick stroll or an epic multiday backcountry trek, there’s something for every outdoor adventurer in this breathtaking area.

At the main visitor center, there’s a gift shop featuring Cumberland crafts from local artisans. Additionally, you’ll find an exhibit detailing Daniel Boone and the westward movement.

Throughout the year, ranger-led programs provide visitors with an overview of Cumberland Gap and its surrounding region’s history. Rangers also answer questions about white water rafting, rock climbing, and other recreational activities available in the area.

The visitor center is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm, except Christmas Day. Additionally, guided tours of Hensley Settlement and Pinnacle Overlook can be arranged.

In addition to a gift shop, the center features an interactive museum with displays about the history of the Cumberland Gap. Plus, don’t miss out on award-winning 23-minute HD film “Daniel Boone and the Westward Movement,” available in high definition only here!

The museum is an excellent opportunity to gain more knowledge about Cumberland Gap’s history. There, you can view some of Daniel Boone’s personal effects like a cannon from the Civil War and a musket, plus there’s even a replica of his homestead that you can tour.


Cumberland Gap is the gateway to an epic path that helped pioneers reach the western frontier. Here, the Appalachian Mountains come alive and you can witness their majestic beauty firsthand. This 24,000-acre park boasts 85 miles of trails, backcountry campsites, and many historical sites – from Civil War fortifications to pioneer settlements – that you won’t want to miss.

Hikers will find the National Park Trail System to be an easy and scenic route through this park. It follows along the edge of the mountains, linking Cumberland Trail’s northern terminus with Kentucky’s Pine Mountain Trail.

This extensive footpath is the result of tireless volunteerism from across California and beyond. Additionally, it’s home to a professional trail crew that works twelve months out of the year.

Cumberland Gap, located along the border between Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky, has long been a path through the Appalachian Mountains used by Native Americans, explorers, hunters, and pioneers alike. Eventually, this route became known as Wilderness Road leading settlers into Kentucky.

Nowadays, Cumberland Gap is a national historic park that preserves the V-shaped notch in the mountains where Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia meet. It’s an increasingly popular tourist destination for those seeking breathtaking mountain views, cascading waterfalls, historical cabins, and settlements as well as Gap Caves.

The Park Trail System consists of 85 miles of hiking trails and backcountry campgrounds winding through eastern deciduous forest and high ridgetops in the Cumberland Mountains. It’s home to an array of wildlife including white-tailed deer, black bears, bobcats, elk, raccoons, opossums, rabbits, hawks vultures, and wild turkeys; making it a haven for adventurers everywhere.

Hiking and backpacking are the primary activities at Cumberland Gap, though the park also features a small town of Cumberland Gap where visitors can stop for refreshments and enjoy breathtaking views from one of many scenic overlooks. If you’re up for something challenging, there is a nine-mile loop that traverses Cumberland Mountain to a cave with stunning ridgetop views across Cumberland Gap’s landscape.

Cumberland Gap boasts many trails that lead to spectacular places and opportunities for wildlife viewing. Some of the most popular include Daniel Boone Trail, which traverses a narrow gorge home to Skylight Cave; or Ridge Trail which provides breathtaking vistas of nearby peaks.

Pinnacle Rock Overlook in Cumberland Gap National Historical

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Cumberland Gap offers plenty of activities and attractions, from caves and museums to backcountry campgrounds and more. But for sheer beauty, one of the best views is at Pinnacle Rock Overlook which gives you a panoramic view into Cumberland Gap as well as parts of three states!

For an easy hike with a picturesque view, the Pinnacle trail is the perfect option. This trail covers 7.8 miles round trip and ascends approximately 1,500 feet in elevation.

Pinnacle Rock Overlook is a clifftop overlook situated atop Cumberland Mountain, where three states converge: Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. It’s one of the most popular and easily accessible attractions within Cumberland Gap National Historical Park with an unforgettable view.

The Pinnacle Overlook offers stunning panoramas of three bordering states from its elevation of 2,440 feet. It’s an ideal spot to watch fall hawk migration or spot wildlife like the red fox, white-tailed deer, squirrels, and birds.

A hike can be enjoyed as either a short loop or part of an extended journey through the park. Looping around Cumberland Mountain’s peaks and valleys provides excellent opportunities to take in its rugged beauty, which is further enhanced by towering limestone cliffs lining its ridgeline.

Cumberland Gap Trail offers stunning views of Cumberland Gap and its surrounding mountain ranges. The trail provides numerous elevation changes and breathtaking vistas that will leave you in awe as you take in the picturesque scenery.

The trail begins with a steep ascent from the Thomas Walker parking area to Pinnacle Overlook, providing an ideal starting point if you’re looking for a shorter hike as the rest of it is flat and straightforward.

Once you’ve taken in the breathtaking views, make your way over to the Ridge Trail which follows Cumberland Mountain’s crest for nearly 15 miles until reaching White Rocks Overlook at the other end of the park. It is the longest trail within Cumberland Gap State Park and provides an amazing overview of the entire park.

Running Time: This 6.5-mile loop offers a moderately strenuous hike that will provide you with an unforgettable experience in Cumberland Gap!

From Thomas Walker Parking Area, hike 1.6 miles uphill to Pinnacle Overlook. This trail is paved and provides stunning views of mountain tops to the south as well as Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee states’ mountains.

At the top of the overlook, there’s a small hut where you can have your picnic lunch and take in the views. It also serves as a base for visitors visiting nearby Sand Cave and Hensley Settlement.

This trail can be enjoyed year-round but is especially picturesque during autumn and winter when fog blankets the landscape. In springtime, as the snow melts from the landscape, you’re treated to even more stunning views!

The woods offer an ethereal sense of serenity, making it the ideal spot to hike if you’re searching for some quiet time.


Cumberland Gap offers a range of accommodations to suit any traveler’s style. Additionally, there are some camping options available, including glamping.

Experience Cumberland Gap at its best by staying in a cabin or yurt, but hotel stays can also be convenient for many visitors. Fortunately, there are plenty of hotels within Cumberland Gap offering comfortable rooms at budget-friendly prices.

For a comfortable place to rest your head while visiting Cumberland Gap, Olde Mill Inn Bed & Breakfast is an ideal option. This property boasts a shared lounge and sun terrace, plus rooms equipped with flat-screen TVs and private bathrooms with complimentary toiletries. A complimentary breakfast is served each morning at this accommodation.

Cumberland Gap offers a range of bed and breakfast accommodations to fit any budget, with most offering free Wi-Fi access and hot tubs; some even boast additional amenities like fitness centers.

Families looking for a fun vacation spot in Cumberland Gap will find plenty of vacation resorts with pools that can accommodate multiple guests. Some even provide on-site activities like fishing and golfing.

With Hotwire, you can book a room for as low as $54! That’s up to 60% off the average price of a hotel in Cumberland Gap when you use their service.

When on a budget, the key to successful travel is being flexible with your plans. That means booking your Cumberland gap hotel during the least expensive times of the year–usually June and November–can help ensure you stay within your budget.

In addition to booking a hotel in Cumberland Gap, you can save on car rental as well. If you’re traveling as part of a larger group, it may be beneficial to book an additional vehicle to accommodate everyone comfortably.

Cumberland Gap offers some of Tennessee’s premier glamping destinations. Whether you’re searching for an all-inclusive vacation or a romantic weekend away, glamping is here to stay and will remain popular in 2019.