North Entrance, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Image by J. Stephen Conn
"Stand at Cumberland Gap and watch the procession of civilization, marching single file – the buffalo following the trail to the salt springs, the Indian, the fur-trader and hunter, the cattle raiser, the pioneer farmer – and the frontier has passed by."
–Frederick Jackson Turner, 1893
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park sits astride three states, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. It memorializes Daniel Boone’s "Wilderness Road," which was the first passage through the Appalachian Mountains for American settlers in the early 1800’s. Until the building of this road the Appalachian Mountains had formed a barrier to western migration.
Actually, Daniel Boone himself was following ancient paths made by large mammals, particularly the bison, which had used this gap for millenia in their seasonal migratons. The same route was known to early native Americans as the Warriors Path.
Today twin 4,600 ft. tunnels carry US Hwy. 25-E through (under) the gap, connecting Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, and Middlesboro, Kentucky. Interestingly, Middlesboro lays claim to being the only town in the world built on the site of a huge meteor crater.
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park has an extensive wild area of more than 20,000 acres. There are 50 miles of hiking trails ranging in length from 1/4 mile to 21 miles.
And by the way – Daniel Boone wore a wide-brimmed beaver hat. Not the silly coonskin contraption, complete with tail, in the the Walt Disney portrayal of him.