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Kentucky is home to one of the largest national parks in the eastern United States. The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is situated on the borders of where Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia all come together. The Cumberland Gap is located in the Appalachians and is of significant historical importance to the nation. It tells the tale of American expansion in a similar way as the famous Lewis, and Clark Trail does further west.

Kentucky is an often forgotten state, but it has a number of things to see and do. Take the time to go on a bourbon tour or see the state's stunning autumn foliage. If one is looking for a very unusual attraction, see the giant full-sized replica of Noah's Ark as it was recorded in Kentucky.

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The Cumberland Gap - America's Large Tri-State National Park

Central to the national historical park is the Cumberland Gap. It is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountains. The national park follows the Gap and stretches for around 20 miles (or 32 km) along the Cumberland Mountains. It is only narrow, having an average width of 1.6 miles or 2.6 kilometers.

  • Location: Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia
  • Size: 24,000 acres or 9,700 ha
  • Length: 20 Miles
  • Width: 1.6 Miles

Elevation in the park varies between 1,100 feet and 3,500 feet. The region is also home to a number of caves (24 are known). They range from being only small to over 16 miles long.

  • Gap Cave: Can Be Explored With a Park Ranger

One of the attractions to hike to in the park is the Kentucky-Virginia-Tennessee tripoint. It is accessible by hiking the trail to it, and then one can say one stood in three states at once. Travel out west to the Four Corners, and one can stand in four states at once.

Related: Trail of Tears National Historic Trail: Remembering The Dark Days of The Past

Explore Gap Cave With A Park Ranger Tour

Join the Park Ranges on tour to Gap Cave. See the majestic underground cathedral and see scores of glistening stalagmites and other formations (as well as bats).

Park Range Gap Cave Tour Dates:

  • April 20 - May 14: Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 10.00 am
  • May 15 - June 14: Wednesday, Saturdays at 10.00 am
  • June 15 - August 31: Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10.00 am
  • September 1 - September 30: Wednesdays at 10.00 am

To participate in the tours, a reservation is required, and one must be at the visitor center at least 30 minutes early. The tour covers around 1.5 miles of moderately strenuous walking through 3 cave levels and 183 stairs.

  • Age Restriction: 5 And Over
  • Tour Size: Limited To 20 People
  • Prices: Adults: $8.00

It is always exciting to explore below as well as above the surface of any destination.

The Historical Significance Of The Cumberland Gap

It is a historical park as it was through the Cumberland Gap that American settlers streamed westwards to colonize west of the Appalachians. It was also used by Native Americans long before that time and was the path of the bison and Native Americans for thousands of years.

The Cumberland Gap is regarded as the first great gateway to the west (the Appalachians were an early barrier to westward expansion). It was the path that some 300,000 people used to cross the Appalachians and push the frontier westwards.

  • Gateway: Was the First Gateway To The West
  • Settlers: Used By 300,000 Settlers

The Gap is a place to learn about different parts of America's history, including Native Americas, settler expansion, and the Civil War. See game trails that became the Wilderness Road.

One place to experience what life was like in the 20th-century mountain communities is at Hensley Settlement.

Related: Hike The Natchez Trace: The Shortest National Scenic Trail

Planning A Visit To The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

The park's visitor center (the Cumberland Gap Visitor Center) is located in Kentucky, just southeast of the city of Middleboro. At the visitor center, one can learn the historical significance of the Gap tour interactive exhibits and the films shown at the auditorium.

  • Open: 24/7 Year Round
  • Entrance Fee: None
  • Visitor Center Hours: 9.00 am to 4.00 pm

Today visitors can explore the park and hike the 85 miles of trails and explore the 14,000 acres of wilderness. Visitors are impressed by the beauty and unique geologic sandstone formations of the park.