Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Part 1: Pinnacle Mountain and Hiking the Object Lesson Road to Tri-State Peak
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a lesser-known holding of the park service that features the pass in the Appalachian Mountain chain used by Native Americans, migrating buffalo and deer, Civil War soldiers, American settlers, and, most-famously, Daniel Boone on his journey into Kentucky. The park is historical in focus but I was initially more interested in the stunning views and hiking to be found – though I came to be enthralled by the early 20th century mountaintop Hensley Settlement. I encountered more than one Civil War enthusiast (including a very nice young ranger working on his graduate degree) who assured me that it’s definitely the place to visit if you have an interest in Civil War history however.
I arrived at Cumberland Gap early and headed to the visitor center to ask some rangers for hiking and general advice. The most famous destination in the park is the Pinnacle Overlook and I thought I might as well start there but it was incredibly foggy that morning and so I asked if I should even bother driving the road up. I was assured that the peak was most likely clear and that I’d actually be able to see the fog moving through the gap. Well, that turned out to not be true but I’m so glad I drove up anyway as it gave me a chance to watch the sunlight filter through the fog and trees. I went up again the following morning which happened to be perfectly clear and was indeed treated to views of fog moving through the gap in the mountains.
One of the neat things about Cumberland Gap National Park is how often you cross over or have views into other states since the gap by definition is the crossing point between Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. In fact, the main feature of the park is the massive tunnel which breaches the mountain range and connects Kentucky with Tennessee (and Virginia). That first morning on the Pinnacle Overlook Trail was my first taste of that as the 600 foot “trail” crosses into Virginia even though you ascend the mountain on the Kentucky side.
My second activity at Cumberland Gap was the short hike following the Object Lesson section of the Wilderness Road used by thousands of westbound settlers beginning in the 18th century. Although a popular route allows hikers to follow in Daniel Boone’s footsteps over the gap, I chose to follow this path for only a short while before breaking off to see the Tri-State Peak. The hike wasn’t very scenic unfortunately, nor did it offer any great views at the top, but it was a pretty fun little jaunt up the mountain. I had this idea that I might be able to stand in the three states simultaneously – which I did – but my efforts at capturing the moment fell a bit short. I was attempting to document each foot and one hand in each of the three states but I couldn’t come up with a way to capture myself doing so. My best efforts are below.