Cumberland Gap: Wilderness Road Campground

With the bulk of the things-to-do-and-see items covered in this series of posts on Cumberland Gap NHP, I thought I’d switch gears into review mode. And so my granola-munching peeps, here are my thoughts on the Wilderness Road Campground at Cumberland Gap.

Campground Geocache
The obligatory sign photo...that also happened to hold a geocache treasure.


This is a cozy little campground nestled amongst a wonderful landscape of tall trees and scenic mountains. It’s just off of Highway 58 in the far-west recesses of Virginia. The closest town is the microscopic-but-charming Cumberland Gap, TN. For stocking up on supplies however, you’re best bet is to visit nearby Middleboro, KY on the other side of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the highlights of this campground is the easy access to hiking trails as well as some nature trails that had yours truly all aflutter. One of the other features I loved was the ampitheater where Fred played happily for quite awhile, lost in his imagination. There weren’t any programs happening during our visit but I suspect that this is put to good use during heavier visitation times.

Wilderness Road Campsite
The back part of the campsite at Wilderness Road. Somehow I missed taking a shot of the front part with the slope of doom.

The Sites…

There are electric and non-electric sites but no water hookups. There are water sources you can use to fill up but be prepared to portage your containers a little ways, depending upon which site you choose.

One of Fred and George's highlights was making "geek-henge" out of the fire logs. Yeah, my boys let their geek flags fly.

We opted for a non-electric site because we really don’t need electric to get by with our minimal tent-camping set up. (Except when all six of your camera batteries are dead and your car-adapter fails you. Can you say photographer/blogger minor cardiac event? I knew you could.) The other factor in choosing non-electric is that the electric sites all seemed to have paved parking pads for RVs and pop-ups. Great for them…not so great for us.

So we pitched on a fairly level site that had a good bit of breathing room for the kids to romp without getting tangled in the abundant poison ivy. I say fairly level because we couldn’t find one perfectly level. Unlike our RV/Popup counterparts, tents aren’t equipped with nifty leveling feet to even things out artificially so we have to work with what we’ve got… and if you’ve ever slept in a tent on a slope, you’ll understand why that’s important. Let’s just say it’s not quite the right kind of cozy to have all five tent occupants piled up in heap at the foot of the tent in the middle of the night for three nights running. Yeah, not the most restful of our camping adventures.

At any rate, we ended up pitching on the gravel pad meant for vehicles rather than the lumpy, muddy, poorly drained area in the middle of the site. With the amount of rain forecast for our visit, we were placing our bets on the best drainage…and that’s gravel, even if it’s very large, pointy gravel in this case.

One Fred-A-Leaping
Fred making use of the empty ampitheater.

The sites were equipped with newer six-foot plastic (as opposed to concrete or wood) picnic tables which made for easy drying off in the inclement weather we were in initially. Now, I could probably write an entire post on the virtues of varying table construction at campgrounds, but I won’t belabor the issue lest you begin to think of me as a camping princess.

Anyway…another nice little perk of our particular site was the bear box which is great when you’re camping out of a small car. Not all the sites had them though and it was indeed one of the reasons we picked this site as our home for a few nights.

The facilities…

I have to give the restroom facilities very high marks. They looked relatively new and were clean, standard issue campground lavatories. Where they excelled was in the shower arena though. Instead of shower stalls in the restrooms, they built them as individual stalls (actually mini-rooms) separate from the sinks & toilets. Faboo my friends!

Why is this so revolutionary? Well, typically campgrounds with showers have a couple of stalls in each restroom i.e. the men’s and women’s. But by separating the showers from the potties, they’ve maximized the use those facilities will get since they’ve removed the gender-barrier. Now I don’t know if this is something that’s happening in other parks, but it’s certainly not something I’ve seen before and I hope Georgia State Parks take a few notes before they do any renovations.

Around Camp
Fred and George taking advantage of the lapse in rain to play a card game outside the big tent house.

Plus, these mini-shower-rooms were floored with porous-pebble instead of tile. All sorts of wonderful in terms of drainage and general shower comfort. Throw in the large size (to accommodate the disabled) and it was downright luxurious…for camping that is.

Other bonuses of this set up include being able to send all three of my boys for a shower at once. Also, without gender segregated showers, I could conceivably nag, nay…encourage, my kids to hurry up with out having to shout through the door of the men’s room. It’s been known to happen, trust me. I’ve ruffled a few male campers feathers in my day. Sorry fellas, it’s no picnic on this end either.

In a nutshell…

Overall, there were some highlights at this campground. Loved the shower setup, nature trails, and bear box. And no doubt, it’s a beautiful park.

His Beagleness Atop his Camping Throne
Dobby took advantage of the break in rain to enjoy his throne by the campfire.

On the downside, this campground is definitely not geared towards tent camping. The sites were just horrendous for pitching. I’m guessing the RV/Popup crowd have a better time of it. Secondly, I have to say the road noise from nearby four-lane Highway 58 was surprisingly loud and not exactly the atmosphere we were hoping to find. Road noise at night may not an issue if you’re an RV camper but in a tent it was a serious bummer. Or maybe I’m just a ridiculously light sleeper.

Ultimately the cons were bigger than the pros and that kept this campground from being a great place for us. And as you know from my report on our adventures at Cumberland Gap NHP, we cut our time short. Now you have a little more insight as to why. Camp Granola just could not get comfortable here and that takes the crunch out of our granola so we kept rolling.

Why all my thoughts may not amount to a hill of beans…

Well, the campground is slated to close and undergo renovations next month. Since I have no idea the extent of those plans, I can’t tell you how much of this will still be relevant. Given that it will be closed for more than six months, I’m guessing this could be fairly extensive. Hopefully some future visitor will give me an update but until then you’ll want to contact the park for more info.

So out of curiosity, what’s the best campground shower you’ve found?

And now for your moment of green…

Dogwood Sunset
While not very comfortable, the Wilderness Road campground definitely had lots of pretty to shoot.