Pinnacle Overlook: Cumberland Gap

By Jeremy Patton

Pinnacle Overlook is located in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Lee County, Virginia.

A view of three states from Pinnacle Overlook on 10-15-16

A view of three states from Pinnacle Overlook on 10-15-16

Peering into Virginia

Peering into 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.

kentucky-virginia-line-5-27-13

5/27/13

My friends standing in Kentucky...and Virginia 10/16/16

My friends standing in Kentucky…and Virginia 10/16/16

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.

10/15/16

10/15/16

10/15/16

10/15/16

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.

Pinnacle Overlook Arch 10/16/16

Pinnacle Overlook Arch 10/16/16

Little Pinnacle Overlook Arch 10/16/16

Little Pinnacle Overlook Arch 10/16/16

Chimney Rock 10/15/16

Chimney Rock 10/15/16

Balancing Rock on 10/15/16. Note the graffiti on its back side, facing away from the path.

Balancing Rock on 10/15/16. Note the graffiti on its back side, facing away from the path.

I suppose that this graffiti is considered history.

I suppose that this graffiti is considered history.

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.

Fort Lyon on 10/15/16. The remnants of the earthworks are still visible.

Fort Lyon on 10/15/16. Remnants of the earthwork are still visible.

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.

10/15/16

10/15/16

Poor Valley Overlook 10/15/16

Poor Valley Overlook 10/15/16

10/15/16

10/15/16

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.

Pinnacle Road Overlook 10/15/16

Pinnacle Road Overlook 10/15/16

10/15/16

10/15/16

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.

By buddy Robert posing at Fort McCook 10/16/16

Robert posing at Fort McCook 10/16/16

There are many more sites and trails to explore. I will make updates here or write about them in separate articles.

Added 10/17/16