Cumberland Gap National Park Guide

From the spectacular views of the Appalachian Mountains to the rich history of the first gateway to the west, Cumberland Gap National Park is a geological wonder that changed the nation’s fate!

In this travel guide, we’ll share the best time to visit Cumberland Gap National Park, things to do, places to stay, and much more. Let’s begin!



ParkCumberland Gap National Park
Things to doHiking, Touring and many more
Hotels near Cumberland Gap National ParkBoone Trail Inn, Cumberland Gap Inn and many more
Entry FeeFree Entry
Camping LocationsOne Location

Where is Cumberland Gap National Park?

Cumberland Gap National Park is located at the border between Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee; Cumberland Gap, a natural break between the Appalachian Mountains, the Cumberland Gap National Park is full of rich history.

You can reach this park by driving through the passageway that runs through Cumberland Mountain at the Virginia-Kentucky border, among a few other routes.

About Cumberland Gap National Park 

Known as the “Gateway to the West,” the ParkPark has a lot to offer, including rich scenery, spectacular vistas, underground caverns, unique geological formations, and remains of many Civil War fortifications.

Almost 85-miles of hiking trails in the ParkPark allows visitors to discover the wilds of Kentucky along with a variety of sightseeing and wildlife viewing opportunities. 

Spanning over 24,000 acres, this Park is among the largest national parks in the eastern United States.

Today, the Park attracts many history buffs and modern-day adventure seekers from all over the world to experience the Appalachian Mountains up close and take a look back into American history.

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History Of Cumberland Gap National Park

In 1970, an English naturalist named Dr. Thomas Walker led a small team of explorers after hearing about a natural pathway to the west in one of the three natural breaks in the Appalachian Mountain range.

He named it a “Cave Gap,” and the river north of the Cumberland River pass. 

The Cumberland Gap was used as the first gateway for the westward expansion.

For thousands of years, native and buffalo Americans used the route to venture into the wild west, now called Modern Kentucky. 

In 1938, this Historical Park Association was created to protect the memorials of civil war battles fought in the area, which paved the way for the federal authorization of the Park.

On June 11, 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the bill to establish the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park to commemorate the tale of the first gateway to the west.

The park includes a visitor center featuring an auditorium, museum, and several books and gifts shops. 

Things To Do In Cumberland Gap National Park

This Park is one of those parks that offers a diverse selection of sights and activities.

If this is your first time visiting the Park, here we are sharing the top 5 must-do things in the Park: 

Visit The Pinnacle Overlook

The Pinnacle overlook is one of the best places to enjoy the magnificent vistas of the Cumberland Gap.

The overlook is located at the elevation of 2440 feet and offers panoramic views of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia and the bird-eye view of the Cumberland Gap.

You can either drive or take a hike up to the Pinnacle overlook.

Whichever route you might take, you’ll find various informative signs along the way and get to see some fantastic geological formations. 

Take A Hensley Settlement Tour

Hensley Settlement is one of the most beloved destinations of locals and tourists alike.

Located on the top of Brush Mountain, this historic homestead of Gibbons and Hensley families from the early 1900s transports you back to the simpler time of American history.

The Tour starts from the visitor center and takes around 3.5 hours.

The guided tours of the settlement are offered from May through October and must be reserved one month in advance at the park visitor center. 

Explore The Tri-State Peak Trail

The Tri-State Peak Trail, also known as the “Saddle” of the Cumberland gap, is another popular trail in the ParkPark through which Daniel Boone led settlers into Kentucky.

The 2.2mile-long trail boasts splendid views of the Park and takes the hikers to an elevation of 1.79 to enjoy the region’s breathtaking views.

Just down the trail, towards Tri-State Peak, rests the massive monument to Boone. 

Visit The Iron Furnace

The iron Furnace is another famous historic site in the ParkPark that dates back to 1819.

Located near Gap Creek, the site served as the center of iron smelting business from the early 1820s to the 1880s.

Local blacksmiths used the Furnace to mined iron and limestone to create pig iron ingots.

Make a quick stop at this fun site to learn about the history of the Iron Furnace and Cumberland Gap Area During that time. 

Hike To The Sugar Run Trail

This Park has more than 85-miles of walking trails with varying length and difficulty levels.

Those who are up for more intense adventure head to the Sugar Trail, one of the most challenging trails in the Park.

The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and bird watching; however, when combined with a section of Ridge trail, Harlan Road trail, and Fort McCook Trail, it forms a great 9-mile loop where you can enjoy some of the most amazing views of the Park. 

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Best Time To Visit

Summer months (June through August) are ideal for visiting the Park.

The weather during these months is warm yet comfortable to enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities.

September is the peak season in the Park, while Spring is the slowest, so for those who want to avoid crowds and looking for good hotel deals, Spring makes an excellent time to visit. 

Map Of Cumberland Gap National Park

Make sure to download the Park’s map beforehand on their website to familiarize yourself with the area, hiking trails, roads, and all main attractions.

You can download the official map of the Park from the NPS website in excellent resolution for free, or you can grab your copy at the visitor center upon reaching the ParkPark. 

Hotels Near The Cumberland Gap National Park

While there are no lodging options within the Park, you can find a variety of overnight accommodations near the Park within a few minutes’ drive.

Here are some best places to stay near the Park: 

  • The Olde Mill Inn Be & Breakfast
  • Cumberland Gap Inn
  • Suburban Extended Stay Hotel
  • Sleep Inn & Suites
  • Historic Cabin on the Tolliver Manor 
  • Boone Trail Inn 

Camping Locations

There is only one campground inside the Park; The Wilderness Road Campground, located approximately 3 miles from the park visitor center off of Highway 58 in Virginia.

The campground features 160 campsites in a stunning wooded setting, equipped with electrical hook-ups, hot showers, picnic tables, and dump stations.

The campsites are available on a first-come-first-served basis for $12 per night. Backcountry camping is also allowed in the designated campgrounds with a permit.

For more information and to make reservations, visit the NPS Website

Weather Of Cumberland Gap National Park

The Park’s climate is mild, with hot summers and mild winters. The average temperature in the Park usually hovers around the 30s and 40s. 

The weather is cold for about half of the year, with a good chance of precipitation.

The weather can be unpredictable at the higher elevations to come prepared if you plan to hike.

June, July, and August are the hottest months of the year, with average highs of around 88.5°F during the day, while January through March brings rain with little snowfall.

Make sure to check out the current weather forecast before planning a visit. 

Entry Fee & Passes

Admission to the Park is entirely free. However, visitors must pay for guided tours, camping, and other amenities in the ParkPark.

The charges for the Gap Cave tours are $8 per adult, and the Hensley settlement Tour is $10 per adult

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Checklist For Packing List 

Here’s a list of some essential items you must bring with you to the Park for a more secure and comfortable visit: 

  1. A day bag pack
  2. Seasonally appropriate clothes
  3. Fleece or light cover
  4. Rain jacket
  5. Sturdy hiking shoes
  6. Sun protection
  7. Insulated water bottle
  8. Mask and sanitizer
  9. Binoculars
  10. Sleeping bag
  11.  Satellite phone
  12.  Torch/ headlamp
  13.  Bug spray
  14.  Medical kit 
  15.  Map 


How many days should I Spend in Cumberland Gap National Park?

Cumberland Gap National Park offers a pretty diverse range of sights to see and activities to explore.

We’d recommend spending at least 2-3 days or a week at best to get the best experience in the ParkPark. 

What should I wear to Cumberland Gap National Park?

Wear comfortable and seasonally appropriate clothes along with sturdy hiking boots.

Avoid wearing sandals and in the caves, and keep a light jacket or cover yourself while hiking to higher elevations. 

Are pets allowed in the Cumberland Gap National Park?

Cumberland Gap is a pet-friendly park. Service animals and dogs are allowed on the trails but put them on a leash. 

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