White Rocks and Sand Cave Trail

All summer Tom has wanted to hike up the White Rocks and Sand Cave trail.  Cumberland Gap National Historical Park has over 85 miles of trails, including the 26-mile Ridge Trail which runs the length of the park.  The only problem with most of these trails is their change in elevation.  After all, we are a park on a mountain.  The trails either go up or down.

Sand Cave and White Rocks are accessed via the Ewing Trail, named after the town at the base of the mountain.  It is one of the steepest trails in the park, with an elevation gain of over 2,000 feet in three miles.  The Ewing Trail is at the other end of the park from where most stuff happens, so there are fewer people.  It is not, however, a remote area and you will meet other hikers on the trail.  The trailhead begins at Civic Park, a lovely area with restrooms and a picnic shelter.  The complete trail is close to 9 miles roundtrip.

Ewing Trailhead at Civic Park

Once up on the ridge you can climb around on the White Rocks, eating lunch perched on the rocks.  Then you can check out Sand Cave, which is an overhang with an arched entry about the size of a football field.  A lot of people say it is one of the most beautiful places in the park, especially in the late fall after the leaves are off the trees.  The views are stunning.

View from the White Rocks overlook

Tom has not been able to persuade me to hike to the White Rocks and Sand Cave.  My knees just don’t like that much up at one time.  I don’t think the rest of me is too crazy about it either.  And I don’t want Tom doing a hike like that by himself.  A solution recently presented itself when Ranger Olivia mentioned that she and her sister were hiking the Ewing trail on their day off.  Ranger Olivia’s days off just happen to coincide with our days off.  Tom and Olivia got together and made arrangements to hike the trail.

Park map

Up the mountain they went, backpacks full of fluids and snacks.  My contribution to the day was packing Tom’s lunch.  I waved them off at 9 a.m. and welcomed Tom home about 4 p.m.  He enjoyed the trail very much, especially the scramble up to Sand Cave.  And he said what he always says when he gets back from a strenuous hike, “You could have done this.”  It’s nice that he thinks so.

Sand Cave with Olivia at the left for perspective

If you decide to hike this trail, take plenty of water with you.  There is a backcountry campground (free but permit required) and it might make a good overnight trip in the fall.  Some people, in their AllTrails reviews, have stated the trail is longer than the park says.  About half the people hiking the trail see a bear, so it is important to be bear aware.

White Rocks and Sand Cave are absolutely beautiful.  Hiking the trail is a rewarding experience.  And I’m glad Tom was able to enjoy it without me having to go!