COVID-19 Response— Effective June 9, 2020, The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Visitor Center and the Wilderness Road Campground are open as the park continues to increase accessibility in phased stages. While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. Contact the park at 606-248-2817 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. for updated information or to reserve picnic shelters. Law enforcement rangers continue to patrol, monitor the park, and enforce all rules.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
91 Bartlett Park Road, Middlesboro, KY 40965
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, part of the National Park Service, has a rich history as the first great gateway to the west. From Native Americans traveling the Warrior’s Path to pioneers and settlers passing through the gap as they walked westward on the Wilderness Road, then later, a home for those modern-day pioneers who brought their music and culture to the area; the park has been an important location geographically and historically.
Today, the 24,000 acres of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park offer visitors beauty and solitude, pristine mountain streams and pastoral landscapes, 85 miles of trails, and a glimpse into the past through the guided tours and collections.
Events and Activities
There are a variety of indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy at Cumberland Gap, from sightseeing and wildlife watching to films, guided tours, and kid-focused fun. (Note: visitors should check the website for any COVID-19 restrictions and cancellations.)
Photographers find the park an endless source of inspiration, from spring wildflowers and summer wildlife to the flaming colors of fall and the peaceful winter wonderland dusted with snow. And with deer, beaver, fox, bobcat, bear, and more than 150 species of birds calling the park home, there’s plenty of wildlife to capture on film!
At the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Visitor Center, visitors can tour the hands-on museum or pick up a park map to plan their stay. The Eastern National bookstore, a non-profit cooperating association, has publications and educational items focusing on the park’s rich mosaic of cultural, natural, and historical resources.
From the center, visitors can drive the winding, four-mile-long Skyland Road up the mountain to the Pinnacle Overlook (elevation 2,440 feet) for a spectacular view of three states: Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. When park staff is available, shuttles to the Overlook can be arranged for $5.00 per person. (Note: Skyland Road is periodically closed during the winter due to inclement weather and is closed to vehicles 20 feet or longer in length.)
The Cumberland Gap Tunnel, located within the park on Highway 25E, is another popular drive. Less than a mile in length, it’s open to RVs, camp trailers, and campers, although LP gas must be turned off before entering the tunnel.
Those who prefer to bike through the park have seven miles of park trails to enjoy. The two-mile dirt-and-gravel Boone Trail connects the Wilderness Road Campground and the Daniel Boone parking area, and the five-mile gravel Shillalah Creek Trail, accessed from Kentucky Highway 217, leads up to Hensley Settlement. (Note: No bicycles are allowed in the Settlement.) Bicycles are also allowed on park roads, but caution is advised as most park roads experience a high amount of vehicle traffic. A “Rails to Trails” program and Greenway Trail System in adjacent communities provide additional biking opportunities and can be accessed from the park.
The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Visitor Center is located on U.S. Highway 25E just south of Middlesboro, Kentucky. The complex is wheelchair-accessible with designated parking allowing easy access to the building.
The Daniel Boone Visitor Information Center is located just off Highway 58 near the town of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee and is the location of the trailhead for the Wilderness Road; it also has an outdoor pavilion featuring the sights and sounds of early travelers and pioneers. Tickets for Gap Cave tours can be purchased at this location prior to departure, and restroom facilities are on site.
Both the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Visitor Center and the Daniel Boone Visitor Information Center are open year-round (except on December 25th) from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information, call 606-248-2817.
Hours and Fees
Park grounds and picnic areas are open daily to pedestrians and cyclists, although some services and facilities have separate hours noted on the website. The road leading to the Pinnacle Overlook may be closed periodically due to inclement weather, including ice, snow, and lightning.
There are no entrance fees at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, although there are fees for camping, guided tours, and other amenities in the park.
Information about permits is available here, and details about the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program can be found here. Safety information for the park is here.
Located off Highway 58 in Virginia approximately three miles from the park visitor center, the 160-site Wilderness Road Campground has 20-amp, 30-amp, and 50-amp electrical hookups at 41 of the sites. Hot showers and potable water are located in the comfort stations. Camping rigs up to 50 feet can be accommodated and are accessed through paved loop roads. Most of the sites require backing in with the exception of one pull-through site.
Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and fees are $14.00 per night per site for tent sites with no electricity and $20.00 per night per site for electrical hookup. All tent and RV sites are one-half price for Golden Age, Interagency Senior Pass, and Interagency Access Pass holders. Group campsites at $35.00 per night per site are also available. Reservations for group campsites can be made up to 90 days in advance by calling the park visitor center at 606-248-2817.
Note: Firewood must be purchased or gathered locally to avoid bringing in the exotic Emerald Ash Borer or the Asian Long-Horned Beetle. Also, visitors should be aware that bears are active in the backcountry. All food must be properly stored using approved bear-proof containers or elevated to a height of at least 10 feet. Please report any bear activity to a park ranger or by calling the park visitor center at 606-248-2817.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park has numerous handicap-accessible locations. The park’s visitor center complex is wheelchair-accessible, while the multimedia exhibits in the museum allow for use of different senses with park films featuring close captioning (assisted listening devices are available.) Access to Pinnacle Overlook is by a level quarter-mile paved trail, and accessible restrooms are located nearby.
The Wilderness Road Campground has accessible drive-in campsites, with hardened surfaces within these sites, elevated fire grates, and modified picnic tables. Restrooms and showers are accessible and are family-friendly for visitors with small children.
Cumberland Gap’s weather ranges from mild winters with temperatures in the 30s and 40s to hot and humid summers into the nineties. Visitors should be aware that weather in higher elevations can be unpredictable.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a pet-friendly park, but all pets must be on a leash or in a carrier at all times while in the park. Horses are allowed on designated trails and at the Hensley Camp, White Rocks, and Martin’s Fork backcountry campsites. For more information about horse trails, download the park’s Horseback Riding at Cumberland Gap.