If you have not been to Natural Tunnel State Park, you will see the interesting thing about hiking at Natural Tunnel is that you can hike all the way down to the river and to the tunnel floor, or you can hike all the way up and around the top of the tunnel. Both hikes make for fascinating scenery and views!
You can hike along the top of the tunnel and look over the edge (and to Lover's Leap)
Of course if you aren't into hiking, there is the chair lift that will gladly take you down and back. (Check with the park for hours of operation as it is seasonal)
This trail is steep and leads to the tunnel floor
The view is fabulous from the tunnel floor or on the trek down
Railroad tracks and crossing
About Natural Tunnel State Park
Natural Tunnel, called the Eighth Wonder of the World by William Jennings Bryan, has been attracting sightseers to the mountains of southwestern Virginia for more than 100 years.
The creation of Natural Tunnel began more than a million years ago in the early glacial period when groundwater bearing carbonic acid percolated through crevices and slowly dissolved surrounding limestone and dolomite bedrock. Then, what is now Stock Creek was probably diverted underground to continue carving the tunnel slowly over many centuries. The walls of the tunnel show evidence of prehistoric life, and many fossils can be found in the creek bed and on tunnel walls.
Daniel Boone was probably among the first men of European descent to see the tunnel in that the tunnel lies along the original route he took westward. However, no one wrote of it until Lt. Col. Stephen H. Long explored the site in 1831 and published an article in a geology journal in 1832. The areas near the tunnel were mined for saltpeter during the Civil War. In 1890 the South Atlantic and Ohio Railroad arrived and, making use of the natural formation, laid tracks through the tunnel. In 1906 Southern Railway acquired the tracks and created a passenger line, the Natural Tunnel Line, which went through the tunnel. Large coal deposits were discovered in the area shortly thereafter, and although they no longer carry passengers, trains continue to this day to carry coal through Natural Tunnel.
Natural Tunnel State Park is in Scott County, about 13 miles north of Gate City and 20 miles north of Kingsport, Tenn.
Northern Virginia, eight hours; Richmond, six hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, eight to nine hours; Roanoke, three and a half hours. Click here for a Google map.
There are modern housekeeping cabins and one lodge, 2 campgrounds and a conference center. The cabins are on a mountain ridge offering mountain views and access to the park’s trails, and are open year-round.
The park's two campgrounds are Cove View Campground and Lover’s Leap Campground. All sites have electricity and water (EW).
Conference Center: The Cove Ridge Center is a year-round day-use/overnight educational resource facility that incorporates educational principles and concepts within a natural resource environment. The center, which accommodates up to 100 for meetings and 48 overnight guests, features an auditorium, classroom, catering kitchen, resource library (complete with Internet access), observation deck, audiovisual equipment, great room with stone fireplace, dorm, after-hours swimming (in season and by reservation) and environmental education equipment. Learn more here
The park has a junior Olympic-size swimming pool and 100-foot water slide.
Natural Tunnel State Park has five picnic shelters - three small and two large - for rent. They can be rented from 8 a.m. - dusk (all day). The shelters are available from March 1 - Nov. 30.
Natural Tunnel State Park has seven walking trails. The longest is 2.1 miles long. The trails lead to unique features of the park: the tunnel floor, Lover’s Leap, Tunnel Hill and Gorge Ridge. A 500-foot boardwalk and observation deck provide accessibility to guests with disabilities who may ride the chairlift, when operable, to the mouth of the tunnel. Most trails are open to mountain bikes.
The park has many fun outdoor events throughout the year, click here to view a listing with descriptions.