Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

BJett

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Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
528
The first major gateway to the west, CGNHP is located on the Kentucky/Virginia border with Tennessee just to the south. Lots of history here as colonists followed the buffalo and Native American trails to find a route over the intimidating Cumberland Mountain. The Gap was a major thoroughfare and one of the few good routes up and over at the time and was part of the Wilderness Road.

This was a 3 day solo backpack trip. It had been 20 years since I had visited the Park. We used to backpack up to the ridge and spend an October weekend every year at Chadwell Gap and Martins Fork, near the historic Hensley Settlement. The 17 mile Ridge Trail leads to some cool sites...Hensley, Sand Cave, and White Rocks. There a are a few backcountry campsites, permits required, up on the ridge. This was my first time camping at White Rocks. Had the place to myself, had a surprisingly good water source and fantastic views a short hike up from camp.
The Ewing Trail starts at Ewing, VA and heads straight up 3 miles with 2000' of elevation gain. Lots of horses use these trails, and they can be crowded on weekends especially near Sand Cave and White Rocks.

Up I go...
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My lonely tent at the White Rocks campsite. Not the most ideal camping area but there are 6 or 7 flat spots with fire pits and the NPS has added bear hangs. Good water down the hill but it may require hiking further down to find water in drier parts of the year.
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I spent most of my time up here on White Rocks doing nothing. It was lovely. Looking east into Virginia.
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Dinner
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Sunset at White Rocks. Looking back into Kentucky.
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The massive Sand Cave. Its almost impossible to capture the scale of this place, it goes way back. I've never seen anything like it.
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Sunset at White Rocks
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Coffee action shot
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swmalone

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Joined
Apr 27, 2016
Messages
434
Thanks for the write up. I always enjoy seeing trip reports from back East. Of course being in Utah back East covers a lot of area.
 

Jon Carbaugh

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Jul 8, 2015
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213
Very nice! Brings back some old memories. I lived in Middlesboro KY for a little less than a year when I was 17. Never got to that park, but hung out in some areas in those mountains, the drive up to the pinnacle was cool, and around Pineville too.
Cheers!
 

Janice

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Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
499
I'd love more info about this. We're able to do a long weekend (4 days total, including driving) in mid-May and this might work for us. I just started exploring the NPS site and AllTrails to learn more. I see on the map that Sand Cave (which looks fantastic in your photos) is close to White Rocks. How far was it from your campsite to the rocks overlook? Where else did you camp and do you recommend that? Do you have any other general advice to give about this trail and/or any others in the area? Thanks!
 

BJett

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Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
528
Very nice! Brings back some old memories. I lived in Middlesboro KY for a little less than a year when I was 17. Never got to that park, but hung out in some areas in those mountains, the drive up to the pinnacle was cool, and around Pineville too.
Cheers!
Cool! Not much has changed down there I’d imagine :). That entire part of the southern Appalachians doesn’t get the attention it deserves being so far from interstate access, and big cities. Breaks Interstate Park, Pine Mountain Trail, CGNHP...
 

BJett

Member
Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
528
I'd love more info about this. We're able to do a long weekend (4 days total, including driving) in mid-May and this might work for us. I just started exploring the NPS site and AllTrails to learn more. I see on the map that Sand Cave (which looks fantastic in your photos) is close to White Rocks. How far was it from your campsite to the rocks overlook? Where else did you camp and do you recommend that? Do you have any other general advice to give about this trail and/or any others in the area? Thanks!
White Rocks camp is .4 miles from the top of White Rocks. Easy short hike. I spent both nights there but Martins Fork from the Chadwell Gap access has good camping and water, and shorter hike to the historic Hensley Settlement.
I’d recommend the Ewing access. Hensley is day hikable from there too.
Pine Mountain Trail is still being a work in progress but there are some scenic sections. Breaks Interstate Park is good too.
 

Janice

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
499
White Rocks camp is .4 miles from the top of White Rocks. Easy short hike. I spent both nights there but Martins Fork from the Chadwell Gap access has good camping and water, and shorter hike to the historic Hensley Settlement.
I’d recommend the Ewing access. Hensley is day hikable from there too.
Pine Mountain Trail is still being a work in progress but there are some scenic sections. Breaks Interstate Park is good too.
Thanks for your help!
 

wsp_scott

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Joined
May 16, 2016
Messages
912
I was thinking about a trip here in Feb and then we got hit with all the snow and ice and I just hibernated :)
 

BJett

Member
Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
528
I was thinking about a trip here in Feb and then we got hit with all the snow and ice and I just hibernated :)
That was an epic winter! Still having flashbacks of chipping away at inches of ice.
 
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