The Pinnacle at Cumberland Gap NHP

The #1 thing that people want to see when they come to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is the Pinnacle.  Who wouldn’t want to see the Pinnacle – it is the top thing!  As part of our training we had to get thoroughly acquainted to the Pinnacle – able to tell how to get there and all about its significance.

View of Cumberland Gap and Middlesboro

The Pinnacle is the highest spot in the park and offers a beautiful, panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.  From the Pinnacle you can see the Cumberland Gap, the town of Cumberland Gap, the towns of Harrogate and Middlesboro and three states.  On a really clear day you can also see the Smokey Mountains and North Carolina.  It is a gorgeous, awe-inspiring view.

The Pinnacle parking lot is large, but the road up to it is narrow and twisting.  As a result, nothing longer than 20 feet is allowed to go up the road.  We recently had a school bus that trucked up the road and back without anyone noticing.  That is one fearless school bus driver!  But RVs or tour buses that try to get to the Pinnacle often get stuck in a switchback or go off the road.  If you are driving a motorhome anything but the very smallest is not allowed on the Pinnacle road.  The Law Enforcement Rangers will catch you and fine you.

The Pinnacle itself is at an elevation of 2,400 feet.  The other day Tom and I noticed, on our way to work, that Middlesboro was socked in with fog.  Middlesboro, Kentucky, is built in a meteor crater, lower than everything else around here.  When we have a cool night, following a hot day, fog builds up in Middlesboro in the morning.  It can be crystal clear in Virginia and Tennessee on the other side of the mountain.  But you won’t be able to see a thing in Middlesboro.  When this happens, the fog pours through the Cumberland Gap.  One of the rangers said Middlesboro was like a teapot and the gap was the spout.

Middlesboro fog

As soon as Tom and I saw the fog pouring through the gap, we knew we had to go to the Pinnacle.  We contacted work to tell them we would be a little late and drove up Pinnacle Road.  The fog wasn’t too bad on the road and when we got to the top, it was clear.  But we could see the fog settled on Middlesboro and moving through the gap.  It was really cool!

We also went to the Pinnacle with Ranger Lucas to hear his pinnacle talk.  Each of the rangers goes to the Pinnacle one afternoon a week to do a talk at 2 p.m.  Some of the rangers just rove and answer questions.  Ranger Lucas, who has a Ph.D. in Civil War history, has a talk about seeing nine states.  He talks about the four you can see now, and five states that were carved out of the area around us historically.  Because we worked at Kings Mountain, Tom and I knew about the state of Franklin (now Tennessee) but the other ones were new to us.  It was an interesting and short talk.  People come to see the view, not to hear a ranger talk.

Ranger Lucas

The Civil War history in the park takes place at the Pinnacle.  Cumberland Gap changed hands three times.  The Confederates took it first as they imposed martial law on eastern Tennessee.  The Union surrounded the gap and the Confederates ran away.  Then the Confederates took it back again after the Union decided the gap was indefensible.  Finally, the Union just went around the gap as they took over Tennessee and western Virginia.  Cannons were placed by both sides on the Pinnacle to defend the gap.  One cannon, “Long Tom” was hauled up and thrown off the mountain three times.  No battles, however, ever took place in the gap or on the Pinnacle.

We love seeing the Pinnacle in all kinds of weather.  We especially love the mpg’s we get on the Prius on the drive back down.  The Pinnacle is a HIGHlight in the park!

199.9 mpg!