Looking to visit the beautiful Cumberland Gap National Historical Park?
From the beautiful panoramic views of the mountains, to the rich history of the first settlers (like Daniel Boone!) that paved the way westward, the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a must-see!
Located just right around the corner from the Great Smoky Mountains, the Cumberland Gap area of the southern Appalachian Mountains has a ton to offer!
Read on to learn a little more about Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and things that you can do when visiting!
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How Do I Get to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park?
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is located in Middlesboro, Kentucky, just a hop skip and a jump from the Great Smoky Mountains.
A great place to start your visit to Cumberland Gap is the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Visitor Center.
The physical address for the Visitor Center is: 91 Bartlett Park Road, Middlesboro, KY 40965.
A Little History About Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is full of rich history. From the early settlers (like Daniel Boone!) that blazed a trail on Wilderness Road to the unique geology of this region, there is plenty of interesting things to learn about this region.
If you are looking to expand your knowledge about Cumberland Gap or Daniel Boone before you go, here are a few recommended suggestions that you can check out!
Get a Map of Cumberland Gap
With most parks you can access a map beforehand on their website to begin familiarizing yourself with the area. Head over to nps.gov to download a map of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
Of course there is nothing like holding a map in your hand, so be sure to grab one at the visitor center when you get there as well.
Drive Through the Cumberland Gap Tunnel
Right inside the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park is a 0.9 mile tunnel that you can drive through. The Cumberland Gap Tunnel is located on Highway 25E and is a really neat experience.
Be sure to drive through it at some point during your visit. It was definitely the longest tunnel we have ever been in and we were all really impressed by it!
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Visitor Center
As with most park visits, the visitor center is always a great place to start. You can stop by and talk to a Park Ranger, ask about the best things to do, as well as get more familiar with the area.
Take a Picture at the Park Sign
But first things first – don’t forget to take a picture at the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park sign to document your trip!
As soon as you arrive at the main visitor center parking lot, you can’t miss it. Whether you do it before or after you go into the visitor center, just be sure to stop by and take a picture before you leave the main visitor center parking area.
Check out the Informational Signs
There are some great informational signs posted outside the visitor center (near the bathrooms) that will give you a great overview of the area as well as popular things to do while you are there.
Also out in front of the visitor center entrance, you can find more interesting history about the Cumberland Gap area in a mural on the side of the building, as well as a canon from the civil war era.
Get a Souvenir at the Gift Shop
As with any National Park gift shop, this is a great place to grab some souvenirs to remember your adventures! They had some great books about Cumberland Gap, Daniel Boone and the surrounding areas as well.
This is also where you can get a stamp for your National Park Passport book.
Also, be sure to find our bear friend that is hanging out in the gift shop and say hello!
Watch the Cumberland Gap Video
Most visitor centers also have a little film or video that you can typically watch when you visit. However, due to COVID, the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Visitor Center wasn’t playing any videos the day that we were there.
HOWEVER…you can watch it online before you head that way! Easy peasy!
Explore the Grounds
Be sure to take a few minutes to walk around the grounds of the main visitor center. There is a cabin and little homestead that is right next to the visitor center.
There are also a few little trails that you can walk around.
Have a Picnic
Across the parking lot from the visitor’s center is a path with some picnic tables in the shade. This was a perfect place for us to stop and have our lunch that we packed before we headed out for our day’s adventures at Cumberland Gap!
Drive to the Cumberland Gap Pinnacle Overlook
Once you are ready to explore a little more, take a drive up to Pinnacle Overlook. As you follow the windy road to the top, you will end at the parking area where you can hop out and take in some magnificent views of the region!
Hike out to the Pinnacle Overlook
From the Pinnacle Overlook building, it is only 200 yards to the overlook and is an elevation of 2440 ft.
There are actually two paths to get to the overlook. One near the building and then another walkway near the parking area. Take your pick!
They are both a super short trek. We chose to take the lower path out to the overlook.
Walking along the lower pathway to the pinnacle, you will come across a few informational signs along the way. One even informed us that we were now in Virginia!
Right before you get to the overlook, you will also see some really interesting geological formations on your left.
Then you will head on out to take in your views of the beautiful surrounding areas of the Cumberland Gap area.
After you have had some time to take in the views, be sure to head back the other way (up the hill) to see the Virginia/Kentucky state line that is painted on the pavement.
That was a fun visual to stand in two different states at one time!
Visit Civil War Forts along the way on Pinnacle Road
As you head back down the mountain, there is also a short trail that will lead you to the site of what was originally a fort from the Civil War.
There really isn’t much to see, but if you want to get out and stretch your legs a little more, hike up a bajillion steps, and read some more interesting historical signs then that’s a good place to do that!
Oh, and there is also another canon up there, too.
Hike to the Iron Furnace
Our next stop was over to see the Iron Furnace near Gap Creek. This is the site where an iron smelting business existed from the early 1820’s – 1880’s.
The Tennessee Road Trail trailhead starts right next to the parking lot right across the street from the little Cumberland Gap town.
From there you can also hike to the Tri-State Peak (2.4 miles roundtrip) and stand in all three states at one time!
We didn’t have time that day, so we just took a little stroll along the creek and hiked to the Iron Furnace.
It was fun to walk around and explore and read more about the history of the Iron Furnace and the Cumberland Gap area during that time.
If time allows, this is also a great place to let the kids play and splash in the water. There were several families out enjoying the water while we were there.
Visit the Daniel Boone Visitor Information Center
Another quick stop was at the Daniel Boone visitor information center. It wasn’t open that day due to COVID and minimal staffing, but it was a great place to read more about the Cumberland Gap area and how Daniel Boone played a huge role in the development of the Wilderness Road.
Plus there were some really fun metal silhouettes of Daniel Boone and some early settlers traveling on Wilderness Road.
Maggie rounded up some buffalo while she was there, too.
You can also hike on up the hill and walk on Wilderness Road from this area.
Take a Cumberland Gap Tour
Although we didn’t get to visit Gap Cave or the Hensley Settlement (they weren’t doing tours at the time of our visit), these are definitely things on our list to do when life returns to normal.
Hensley Settlement Tour
The Hensley Settlement Tour takes you to the historic homestead from the early 1900’s of the Gibbons and Hensley families. It a 1 mile hike to the settlement and takes about 3.5 hours for the tour.
Gap Cave Tour
The Gap Cave Tour takes you through the underground adventure of Gap Cave. This one mile tour of the cave takes about 2 hours and includes 183 steps. We love caves, so we hope to go back and do this one day!
Extra Hiking Options at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
With over 85 miles of hiking trails throughout Cumberland Gap, there are plenty of ways to see the park. Whether an avid hiker or just a beginner, there are many ways to see the beauty that this region offers!
There are some great Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Day Hike options that can be accessed on the National Park Service Website. Be sure to plan ahead and wear appropriate clothing and shoes to make the best of your hiking experience in Cumberland Gap.
Although we didn’t get to do any of the hikes listed that go around, we have definitely added these two for our next visit:
Tri-State Peak Hike
From the Tennessee Road Trail (where the Iron Furnace was) is also the trailhead for the hike to Tri-State Peak. The hike is 1.2 miles one way (2.4 roundtrip) and is where you can stand in all three states at one time! (Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia)
White Rocks and Sand Cave
From Civic Park to Sand Cave, it is about 4 miles (8 miles roundtrip.) The pictures of Sand Cave are absolutely beautiful!
Along the way you can also take a slight detour and stop by White Rocks. It is located at the eastern tip of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park on the top of Cumberland Mountain.
Final Thoughts on Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
From the beautiful panoramic views of the mountains, to the fascinating history of the first settlers that paved the way westward, the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a great place to spend a few days exploring as a family!
We absolutely loved visiting the area and think it is a great place to make more memories together as a family as you explore the area that opened up the gateway to westward expansion!
So have you ever been to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park before? What was your favorite part of the park?
And if you are looking for more parks to visit in Kentucky or Virginia, be sure to check out our visits to Wilderness Road State Park in Virginia or Mammoth Cave National Park and the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace in Kentucky.
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