I recently drove to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Tucked away in the far southwest corner of the state, this 24,000-acre national park encompasses three states: Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.
It’s quite a drive, particularly for those (me) who live in Northern Virginia. As in, 7+ hours in the car, mostly on I-81. Seriously, so many semi trucks.
Even from Roanoke, it’s 4+ hours to reach this historically significant destination that facilitated westward expansion. Thank you, Daniel Boone.
I was eager to hike the Tri-State Peak Trail at this historical park. It’s a 2.5-mile out-and-back historic hiking trail that leads to – yes, you guessed it – the Tri-State Peak.
This 1,990-foot peak is at the tripoint where the three states meet. There you’ll find a gazebo-like structure. Placards point out the direction of each of the three states.
|Mostly gravel & dirt trails
Arriving at the Trailhead
This trail is within Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, but the trailhead is located one mile away, at the back of the Iron Furnace Parking Area.
The closest town – if you really dig in on a map – is Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. The state line is toward the front of the parking lot, so the trail is all in Virginia.
The parking area is a good size, with plenty of room for at least 20 cars. The paved trailhead is easy to find, adjacent to a large “Gateway to Kaintuck” trail sign.
The First Steps
While the trail begins as paved, within the first .1-mile the surface switches over to mostly gravel. At this point, you will turn left and see the remains of an old Iron Furnace on the right.
Set on the banks of Gap Creek, this Iron Furnace was used from the 1820’s to the 1880’s to create iron, which was then sold to area blacksmiths.
In a few more steps, at the .15-mile mark, you will see a placard titled “Warrior’s Path” on the use of the region as a wide game trail by Native Americans.
Near the .4-mile mark, you will see a sign for the Wilderness Road Trail. Turn left here to continue on to Tri-State Peak.
In a few more steps, you will see yet another historical sign on the left, this one titled “A Hard Road for a New Life” on the challenges early settlers faced in traveling west.
At the .6-mile mark, you’ll reach a dozen or so wide log steps. In a few more steps, turn left at the trail sign.
Up ahead on the right is a pyramid-shaped marker celebrating Daniel Boone’s Trail.
This was placed by the Tennessee Daughters of the American Revolution to commemorate the work to create the historic west-opening Cumberland Gap.
At the .8-mile mark, look for a trail placard titled “Leave Nothing Useful Behind” on the role the region played during the Civil War.
Shortly after this, a trail sign indicating that Fort Foote is to the right. This sounds intriguing, right? Don’t be fooled.
This short side trail is (thankfully) just .25-mile round-trip, but it goes nowhere. Just a dead end. I saw no placard or remains of Fort Foote. Just skip this.
Continuing on to Tri-State Peak, you will arrive at the 1.2-mile mark. When you see the open gazebo, bear right for the overlook. It’s impossible to miss.
At the overlook, you’ll see placards for Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Each one shares state facts, like nickname, square mileage, state capital and date of statehood.
Each placard is set in the direction of the state, but only one – Kentucky – has a wide-open view. The other two face into eastern deciduous forest.
It was cool to be at the tripoint of three states. However, this is not like the See Seven States marker at Lookout Point in Chattanooga, Tennessee (I was thinking it would be, too).
Once you’ve spent time at the overlook, simply re-trace your steps back to the parking area. If you did not on the way up, take time to read the historical placards.
From the parking area, this hike took me just over one hour, including time spent at the overlook. Once you’ve completed this historic hike, take time to stroll the quaint town of Cumberland Gap.
Here you’ll find several restaurants for a bite, like The Caboose Saloon and Angelo’s in the Gap. The Little Congress Bicycle Museum is also worth a stop.
Once you’ve re-fueled, head over to the park’s visitor center for historic exhibits and artifacts.
Then, drive the four-mile (one-way) Skyland Road to Pinnacle Overlook for truly breathtaking views of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.
You can’t drive to Tri-State Peak (as many would like to do), but it is a huge bonus that you can drive to Pinnacle Overlook for even more amazing tri-state views.