Welcome to the next installment of our Cumberland Gap adventures granola friends. I have no idea how many parts this Cumberland Gap series will be but there’s a good bit more ground to cover so I’ve just decided to dole it out in little bits and pieces in order keep the whole tale from being a 10,000 word opus.
If you haven’t figured out from the title, this particular granola morsel is about the trails. Or should I say, some of the trails. With roughly 85 miles of trails, there was certainly more park than we had time. At any rate here’s a glimpse of the kind of exploring you can do at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.
So starting with Pinnacle Overlook…
This fabulous vista is easily accessible to all via a drive on the winding Pinnacle Road. Once at the top, you’ll find a paved footpath that takes you across the state line from Kentucky to Virginia and then to the overlook which provides a grand view over the town of Cumberland Gap, TN and beyond.
The thing to realize about the overlook is that the view is in constant flux depending upon the weather. During our visit, we’d withstood a mild rainstorm the previous night so by morning, the low-hanging clouds made for an ethereal landscape as they rolled and molded themselves over the peaks. Fred and George had their big blue eyes open to full aperture in amazement as we eased our way through the fog to the top.
You can’t help but be inspired when looking out over this ridge and valley section of the Appalachians. It’s very impressive even if you’re not a geology geek. And it’s downright exciting if you are. Of course on our visit we were simply teased by the possibilities here. One minute we’d have an eye-popping view and the next we’d be engulfed in moody, soggy pillows. I know I probably just made that sound like a bad thing when in fact it was quite dynamic and groovy.
So if you’re just passing through the area and don’t have much time, give this little detour a try. It’s a quick jaunt to the overlook and it’s well worth the visit.
With a little more time, you might want to consider doing at least some of the Wilderness Road Trail. I’m going to admit a very high history dork factor right up front on this one. The Wilderness Road is the reconstruction of the path taken by the pioneers (including Daniel Boone) through Cumberland Gap. This area was also used by soldiers during the Civil War so you get some extra history bang-for-your-buck.
At the very least, it will certainly give you pause to walk the path of eras-gone-by and imagine the people who passed through in search of opportunity. And if you have an active imagination like yours truly, this trail will have it churning with visions of what must have taken place in these mountains.
We didn’t hike the extent of Wilderness Road but instead peeled of to Tri-State Peak. For the kids, it’s always the carrot-on-the-stick to have a destination to the hike that’s got some wow factor. All we had to do was show Geography George the map with the peak on it and he was ready to get his hike on. Although Fred was is full pre-teen mode that day, I think he secretly enjoyed the novelty of the destination.
You can reach the Tri-State peak from either park visitor center but by starting at the Daniel Boone Visitor Center instead of the main park visitor center, you get to experience the oddly appealing tribute to the pioneers that consists of large flat-metal sculptures. From either direction, it’s a reasonable length for an afternoon hike with kidlets. Having arrived in the area at the tail-end of a several-day rainfest, the trail was a bit muddy…not that it bothers us really, just an observation.
As muddy as this section was, it would have been a complete slog in the rain so we were quite relieved just to have overcast skies and not a downpour. Either way we carried half the trail back on our boots. In fact, the only way to preserve Blubaru given the lack of proper adventuring floor mats, was to strip off our boots and throw them into the roof box.
Green Leaf Trail…
There are so many trails at Cumberland Gap that even the Wilderness Road Campground has trails running directly from it to various points within the park. Here though, you’ll also find shorter nature trails that wiggle through the lower elevations where you can enjoy the lush, mossy goodness along the creeks.
I ventured out on the Green Leaf nature trail on a slow afternoon to explore. I certainly dig the large, open landscape views that can be had at places like Pinnacle Overlook but there’s something about the subtleties of these hidden treasures that can keep me occupied for hours. It’s in places like this that you find the surprises…every shape of fungi, amazing dappled sunlight over delicate ferns, a lone miniscule flower amongst towering tress. You get the idea…it’s a nature dork’s paradise.
And so many more…
Again, there’s lots of mileage at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park to get your hike on. We didn’t even put a dent in the possibilities. And since I have more pictures than words for this post, here’s a few more shots to tempt you to visit.