Corbitt's National Parks
     Cumberland Gap
               National Historical Park


1940: National Historical Park

Size: 20,508 acres

2008 visitors: 843,893

Stamp: ?

Rating (1-5): Unrated

About the Site

By the early 1700's, Europeans in America had tamed the Colonies and were looking to expand. The Appalachian Mountains, however, formed a huge natural barrier to the early settlers seeking new territory. What they didn't realize was that the route was ready for them. Native Americans had been following the path of migratory bison through the Cumberland Gap for a hundred years or so. Beside foraging for grazing areas in Kentucky and Virginia, these huge beasts also sought out salt licks in the area, and their hooves marked a clear trace, or trail. The Indians' Warrior's Path looped from Ohio through the Shenandoah Valley to the Potomac.

This route served the frontiersmen and explorers who were looking for the best way to the fertile land of America's interior. Dr. Thomas Walker provides the first Anglo written description of the Cumberland Gap, and others were to follow. After the interruption of the French and Indian War, many long settlers began using the Gap, and in 1769 Daniel Boone traversed it for the first time. Word of the passage leaked back, and a huge exodus began. From 1780, when the trail was improved to a road, to 1800, nearly 300,000 had crossed it, moving west.

But the Gap's importance didn't last. By the 1820's and 1830's, other paths were opened into the interior of the continent. Canals up north, including the Erie, the Pennsylvania Main Line, and the Chesapeake and Ohio all drew traffic away from the Cumberland Gap. Steamboats also were making their way far up the Mississippi. Although no longer as important, the Gap remained fixed in the imagination of the young country blah blah blah.

What You're Going to See

This park is located at the corner where Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia meet. It's a place of great scenic beauty and hundreds of years of hustory. There are wayside exhibits, a museum, and the abandoned cabins of the Hensley settlement, dating from the early 20th century. Perhaps the most popular part of the Park is the Pinnacle Overlook. An easy 1/4-mile paved trail provides access to this overlook, from which visitors have a spectacular view into Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. The Park is filled with caves, the most famous of which is Gap's Cave, which is open to visitors.

Activities include auto touring, backpacking, biking, birdwatching, camping, caving, hiking, horseback riding, nature walks, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Nearly 70 miles of trails wind through the Park. A highway tunnel, the Cumberland Gap tunnel, was opened in 1992 with the goal of restoring the original Gap more to its original appearance. It diverts auto traffic away from the valley.

Personal Observations

Someday ... It does seem beautiful.

Getting There

From Lexington, Kentucky -- Take I-75 south for 80 miles to Corbin and the interchange with US 25E. Take US 25E southeast for about 50 miles; it leads you straight into the Park.

From Knoxville, Tennessee -- Take US 11W northeast for 44 miles to the junction with US 25E. Take US 25E northwest for about 35 miles. It leads you right into the park.

Nearby Attractions

In Tennessee, about 60 miles to the southeast, is Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. About 70 miles due south is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. About 45 miles west and southwest are Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, and Obed Wild & Scenic River.