Monday, June 28, 2010

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, VA-KY-TN and Wilderness Road State Park, VA

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park: National Park Service
Wilderness Road State Park: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park: Online Map
The trails we hiked are indicated in pink:

Wilderness Road State Park: Online Map

From Hungry Mother State Park 146 miles, about 3 hours
Google Maps is to Cumberland Gap, TN - as you turn off Hwy 58 towards Cumberland Gap shortly after you pass the "Welcome to Tennessee" sign, you will see the Daniel Boone Visitor Information Center almost immediately on the right.
GPS Coordinates: 36 36'05.7 83 39'36.0

View Larger Map

Wilderness Road State Park: You will pass the park on Highway 58 about 8 miles from the Daniel Boone Parking Area on the right.

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park - 9 miles
Wilderness Road State Park - 1 mile

From the Daniel Boone parking lot, look for the decking opposite the visitor center. Follow the decking all the way down to the street then walk along the street into the small historic town of Cumberland Gap, TN.

A woman I spoke to later in the hike told me she had breakfast at a restaurant in Cumberland Gap that morning. She was in the area doing some ancestry searching. In that restaurant there were old framed receipts hanging on the wall. She looked up to find three of them that had been signed by her great, great grandfather. A lot of people passed through that town a couple of hundred years ago. Hard telling what you might find.

If you do a little exploring in town, remember the sign you will see for the Iron Furnace as that is where you want to go to get on the hiking trails.

Follow the trail from the Iron Furnace, which is the Tennessee Road, to the intersection of the Wilderness Road where you turn left. (Right will take you back to the Daniel Boone parking lot if you want to do a short loop.)

Here is where I totally messed up. I saw this sign:

And shortly beyond that, this monument which I thought was the Tri-State Peak where the three states came together. I did not find out until later when I looked at the map more closely that you need to continue on the trail past this monument to get to the Tri-State-Peak - this monument is not it!

Even though I missed standing in all three states at one time, our hike did still take us through all of them - Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky.

From right in the area where the trail is to the Tri-State Peak, you want to take the Harlan Road Trail towards Fort McCook. These trails all come together in what is called the Saddle of the Gap.

You will be crossing over the road which heads to the Pinnacle.

At the Fort McCook parking lot, a trail leads up to a scenic overlook but it was a very foggy day so there was not much of a view.

From the Fort McCook parking lot you will see a sign for the continuation of the Harlan Road Trail but that is not the trail to take from this point. Look along the right side of the parking lot for an unmarked trail which is the Fort McCook Trail to the Pinnacle. If there are cars parked in the lot you might have trouble seeing it if you don't know where to look.

Take the Fort McCook Trail all the way to the Pinnacle. Our views were foggy in the morning so after the hike I drove up to get better pictures since the fog had lifted some. My SUV that gets 26 miles per gallon sucked up 1/8 of a tank of gas climbing that hill - hiking up had been much more energy efficient!

You will see the sign for the Ridge Trail trailhead in the Pinnacle area. Follow the Ridge Trail towards Lewis Hollow.

You'll pass some vistas on the right along the Ridge Trail. Again, when we were there the clouds were very low and covered most of the views.

As you are walking along the ridge, you will have one foot in Kentucky and the other in Virginia:

You start to come down off of the ridge and reach the intersection where you turn right on the Lewis Hollow Trail.

After crossing a bridge you will see Skylight Cave on the left.

At the end of the Lewis Hollow Trail, turn right and walk along the road for a short distance. Watch for the Colson Trail sign on the left. There will be a faint crosswalk in the road and opposite the Colson Trail sign on the right side is where you turn right on the Boone Trail which is unmarked.

The Boone Trail takes you through fragrant wild flower meadows with a view of the mountain ridge you were on earlier.

The Boone Trail brings you to the back of the Daniel Boone Visitor Center.

On the way back to Hungry Mother State Park we stopped at Wildnerness Road State Park where there were some great views of the mountains and the 1 mile Indian Ridge Trail.

For the Indian Ridge Trail parking lot, drive straight through the park past the visitor's center and you will see a sign for the parking lot on the right.

The view is obstructed by foliage in the summer but when the leave are down you should be able to look down from this viewpoint and see the original Wilderness Road which runs through the park:

We would have explored longer but after that last mile, which was our 56th mile of the week, my dog was limping and was ready to call it a day so that was the end of a week of hiking for us.

Stone Mountain State Park (Roaring Gap, NC)

ABOUT THE PARK: North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation

TRAIL MAP: Online Map
Our hike outlined in pink below.

From Hungry Mother State Park, VA 62 miles, about 1 1/2 hours on scenic country roads.
I plugged the park address into the GPS: 3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap, NC 28668
Online Maps and Directions
Park in the Upper Parking Lot (#12 on park map) which is beyond the park office on the left, opposite the turn for the campgrounds.

HIKE DISTANCE: Many distances are possible. The Stone Mountain Loop takes you from the Upper Parking Lot to the Stone Mountain summit, Hutchinson Homestead and Stone Mountain Falls over a 4.5 mile distance on mostly wide gravel trails, bridges over all stream crossings and steps built into mountainsides. We added in additional rugged hiking trails which are not as heavily used for a total of 9.5 miles.

From the Upper Parking Lot the trail starts to the left of the restrooms.
You will meet up with the Stone Mountain Loop Trail which will be marked with orange circles. Turn right to follow this trail to the Stone Mountain summit.

Signs will warn you of possible dangers. The danger lies in striking out on your own off the marked trail. If you stay on the trail, you have nothing to worry about.

Reaching the summit, it was a humid, hazy day so the views were not the best. Regardless, they were still spectacular:

To descend from the summit, follow the railing to a long series of steps.

Coming down the mountain, continue following the Stone Mountain Loop Trail where you will find a couple of benches...

... and just beyond on the left, Hutchinson Homestead:

Walk through the homestead meadow for great views of Stone Mountain from the bottom looking up to where you were a short while ago.

Continue through the meadow to hook back up with the Stone Mountain Loop Trail. From this point we turned right on the Cedar Rock Trail then left on the Black Jack Ridge Trail.

We then continued on to the Wolf Rock Trail where we took a long break at a vista where we had the whole place to ourselves.

The Wolf Rock Trail then switchbacks down through quiet forests.

You'll come back out on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail where you turn right and soon pass the Hutchinson Homestead on the left again. Continue on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail towards Stone Mountain Falls. Once again, stay on the trail and you have nothing to worry about.

A long series of steps which offer decks with benches throughout will bring you up to the top where you continue back to the Upper Parking Lot. My dog is usually terrified of going up steps but she had no problem with these so the steps are not at all steep or intimidating.

Sadly, we found quite a bit of litter at Stone Mountain summit. A local man who frequently hikes there told me the park staff comes through regularly to clean up. Well, that is simply ridiculous and park personnel should not have to do that. How hard is it if you can bring it in full, to take it back out empty? There simply is no excuse for littering. I squished down the cans and bottles and my dog packed them out in her backpack because my conscience simply will not allow me to walk by and ignore it. Please don't leave your garbage behind to ruin the beauty for others.