By Jeremy Patton
Lewis Hollow Trail is located in Lee County, Virginia.
From Cumberland Gap Visitor Center in Middlesboro, KY, drive through the Cumberland Gap Tunnel on US-25E then continue on US-58 into Virginia. Drive for about 4 miles then turn left into Wilderness Road Campground and Picnic Area. Continue for about one mile then park at the picnic area.
The above directions are the easiest way to access the trail. On 10/15/16, I drove up to Pinnacle Overlook from Middlesboro, hiked east 1.7 miles on Ridge Trail, then descended about 2 miles via Lewis Hollow Trail to Wilderness Road Campground (not the picnic area, which would have been shorter). Because it was the beginning of hiking season, I was not in prime ass-kicking shape, so the journey was pretty brutal.
I rate Lewis Hollow Trail as difficult because it gains about 1000 feet in elevation.
The trail is beautiful, but ordinary. The two main attractions are: 1. It provides access to Ridge Trail, which runs the length of the park and offers spectacular views. 2. It meanders through a karst area.
Lewis Hollow Trail parallels a creek-bed southeast down the mountain. It was dry on 10/15/16, but almost certainly comes alive during flooding. I am not sure if this waterway is considered Lewis Hollow or if it is a tributary of an east-to-west hollow below the mountain.
When I emerged into the campground, I was greeted by a sign that said “No Picnicking,” which was not a message welcomed by a weary hiker. I guess the campground staff wanted to ensure that all visitors paid to sit at a table, no matter how brief their stay. I walked into the campground host’s cabin and asked if there was a spot where I could sit and eat my salmon and crackers. She led me behind the cabin to a picnic table designated for workers on break. It was not the best scenery, but I was thankful to rest for a few minutes.
On my way back up the mountain, I slipped on some loose dirt and fell backward. I reached behind my back and landed on my hands, which is very poor technique if you study Judo or Jiu-Jitsu. The center of my palm smashed against a sharp rock, cutting it and causing pain for the rest of the day. Thankfully, I did not break my wrist. I rubbed some dirt on it, puffed out my chest and marched out of the wilderness like the man that I am.
Added 10/20/16 – Updated 10/25/16