By Jeremy Patton
Pinnacle Overlook is located in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Lee County, Virginia.
The overlook soars near the tri-state area of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. There is a line painted on a paved path near the Pinnacle that marks the Kentucky/Virginia border, so you can stand in two states simultaneously. When I visited on 10/15/16, it was faded and barely discernable. Pinnacle Road and much of the area near the overlook reside in Bell County, Kentucky.
From the Visitor Center in Middlesboro, just off US-25E, drive approximately four miles up Pinnacle Road (A.K.A. Skyland Road). It is very steep, with an elevation change of about 1400 feet. The road is paved, well-maintained and has many switchbacks, but it is one of the last places I would drive during winter weather.
Pinnacle Road dead-ends at a small parking lot. I have never seen it filled to capacity. If you plan your visit on a cold, winter day, you might enjoy some alone-time.
A stone-work landing with interpretive signs and restrooms greet visitors near the parking lot. It is a short, easy walk to the overlook, where you can view all three states. Additional signs help discern the boundaries.
I was elated to discover several small natural arches and a stone pillar, called Chimney Rock, just behind the overlook. I had missed them on previous visits. Chimney Rock appears to have escaped vandalism, thanks to its precarious position below the cliffs. An unusual, top-heavy boulder that balances near the path, however, has not been so lucky.
A short stroll northeast of the overlook leads to a Civil War fortification called Fort Lyon. The mounds are still evident; according to an account, all the trees for a mile were cut down to provide better visibility. The position was never used in battle.
Continue following the path along the ridge to Poor Valley Overlook. The view is marvelous and you are more likely to enjoy it alone because it resides at the edge of the tourist area. From there you can join the Ridge Trail, which runs the entire length of the park. I will write more on that another time.
As you drive back down the mountain, watch for a spectacular overlook of Middlesboro on your right. There is room for a single vehicle to pull off onto the shoulder.
Further down the mountain resides the Fort McCook Civil War Earth Work, on your left. A replica cannon stands guard atop a small hill; the fortification was used by both Confederate and Union forces.
There are many more sites and trails to explore. I will make updates here or write about them in separate articles.