Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
Re-enactors demonstrate pioneer days at an event at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.
In my haste to leave for a hike in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, I found I’d neglected to pack any food. I drove to Middlesboro; coming out of the grocery store, noticed the mountains had become covered in clouds. It was still a sunny day in town, so I postponed the hike for some urban rambling.
Walking along Cumberland Avenue, I was attracted to an imposing structure with interesting stonework and a turret jutting from the roof. The 1890 building happened to be the local visitor center, and I learned of places within walking distance that should be visited.
On North 20th Street is the Coal House, reminiscent of the “other” Coal House in Williamson, W.Va. Not only are both constructed with tons of bituminous coal, but each is now home to the local chambers of commerce. Next door is the outdoor Bell County Coal Mining Museum, which provides just a glimpse of what a tough job miners have. From a bench in Centennial Park on Lothbury Avenue, I glanced upward to see sunshine dappling the mountaintops. Time to say goodbye to Middlesboro and begin the hike.
- BEREA 859-986-2540, berea.com
- Eat: Main Street Cafe for lunch; Papaleno’s for Italian; Maria Coffee & Tea for caffeine
- Stay: Boone Tavern Hotel
- See: The Berea College campus and shops and galleries in the blocks surrounding the hotel
- PIKEVILLE 606-432-5063, tourpikecounty.com
- Eat: Lunch at Chirico’s; make reservations for dinner at Savor, in the East Kentucky Expo Center
- Stay: Hampton Inn
- See: The Pikeville Cut-Through; Big Sandy Heritage Center; 1888 courthouse
- BARBOURVILLE 606-546-4300, knoxcochamber.com
- Eat: Country cooking at Hillbilly Country Restaurant
- Stay: In the 1905 Apple Tree Inn Bed & Breakfast, decorated in Colonial and Victorian styles
- See: Performances at restored 1931 Paramount Arts Center; Battle of Barbourville Park for Civil War history; Knox Historical Museum
KEY TRAVEL INFO
- State travel information. 800-225-8747, kentuckytourism.com
- State parks. 800-255-7275, parks.ky.gov
- State B&B association. 888-281-8188, kentuckybb.com
- Breaks Interstate Park. 800-982-5122, breakspark.com
- Daniel Boone National Forest. 859-745-3100, 877-444-6777, fs.fed.us/r8/boone
- Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. 606-248-2817,nps.gov/cuga
- Kentucky Appalachians. kyappalachians.com
- Kentucky Scenic Byways. 800-225-8747
- Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism. 877-TOUR-SEKY, tourseky.com
- Mountain Weather. 606-666-8000