Trail Report: Ewing Trail to White Rocks at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park

Trail Details

 The Ewing Trail up to White Rocks in Cumberland Gap NHP, is a strenuous hike that is not to be taken lightly. It’s not extremely difficult in technicality, but the terrain and the elevation gain make this hike a challenge.

The trail, which starts in Civic Park in Ewing, Virginia, has two entrances. One is for horses but hikers can take their pick. The hike’s one-way distance is 3.2 miles with an elevation gain of over 1,500 feet. Ewing Trail goes 2.5 miles to the White Rocks Trail, which continues .5 mile to White Rocks overlook, which has one heck of a view. Definitely worth the work getting up there.

 Ewing Trail is a rugged double-track, wide enough for horses, all the way to the connection with White Rocks Trail. It is quite rooty and rocky the whole way. You won’t want to spend much time looking around while walking; otherwise you will end up  staring face-first at a nice pile of … yes, I said the trail is for horses, and plenty use it. We actually ran across a group on horseback on our way up the mountain. On farther up, horses are not allowed.

 

Another word of caution on this hike during spring, summer and fall: Be vigilant and be smart. Bears are in the area. When we hiked this trail last year, we were a good mile and a half in when we came upon a bag of garbage that had been thrown around and obviously rooted through by a black bear. There are several little neighborhoods at the base of the Cumberland Mountains along the stretch of Highway 58 that runs along the mountains. It appeared as though a bear had made its way down the mountain, found an easily accessible bag of garbage and decided to bring it home for supper. Needless to say, we didn’t hang around the area long.

By the end of the Ewing Trail, just when you think things can’t get tougher, they do. At the 2.5-mile mark, you take the White Rocks Trail for the final push to the White Rocks summit. This portion of the trail is definitely harder in elevation gain than I have done anywhere else, including up Mount LeConte in the Great  Smoky Mountains NP. On this portion of the trail, it’s best to take your time, keep your head down and push forward until things level out;  otherwise, you might seriously consider turning back, but I promise you, it is totally worth it. Once you reach the top of the climb, you have another 200 feet along the ridge top before you climb out to the overlook.

When you finally make it to the top, the views are astounding. The thermal vents up the side of the mountain are constant and the birds of prey seem to glide around effortlessly. You can see all around for miles on a clear day. Looking back south and east into Tennessee and Virginia, you can glimpse the Poor and Powell valleys. To the north is Kentucky. Take your time up top to really soak in  the views and enjoy the achievement.

We did. It was magnificent.

The hike back down isn’t as tough as climbing up, but it is just as rugged, so exercise caution. At the end, you will have completed a 6.4-mile trek just as we did, and will wonder how long before you can make it back to do it again. We’ve yet to make it back up; I think it might be awhile since our newest family member is due to arrive in December. However, I look forward to getting back up there, because there is more than just the overlook to see. There is also the sand cave, which is accessible by going to the left on the Ridge Trail instead of the right once you get on top of the ridge.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

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Our hearts are attached to the Southern Appalachia region. In our minds, East Tennessee is the only place to be, surrounded by the glorious wonders of the ages old mountains. During the week we lead frantic lives raising a family and working for the man. On most weekends, we are following our hearts and dreams, playing in the outdoors enjoying the mountains and the woods from two feet and capturing them on memory card to share with others from our blog Appalachia & Beyond. We try to share this love of the outdoors (hiking and camping) with our teenage daughter and our constant four-legged companion Clover always loves the adventures. In addition we have four cats, who are constantly trying to plan our untimely demise, and one cute as a bag of buttons hamster, Ms. Coo. Finally, we are in the works of expanding our family by one. This expansion project should be complete sometime in early December. Her name is Dinah, and we can't wait to meet her.

  • Looks like a great workout.  Didn’t take long for those fall leaves to start dropping either.

    • Tim

      That was a hike we did last year around April if I remember correctly so the leaves weren’t quite out yet after winter. The photo up above the trail details was from this weekend.

  • Anonymous

    Great trip report.Sounds like a fun trail to me. These trails hikes are always the most rewarding, because you work so hard for that summit! Good job guys…I love hearing about older trips…we should all dig back and the past and pull one out every now and then.

    Karl

    • Tim

       Thanks Karl, yeah we were kind of hoping a couple of months back that maybe we’d get to make it up there again before Robin got too pregnant, but I guess we will have to wait until sometime next year. 😛

  • Busybee2

    That sounds like an awesome hike!  Way to go Robbin!  Ok, you too Tim, but you’re not pregnant.  LOL  Just think, the next time you hike that trail you’ll probably be taking the baby.  Cool, huh? 

    • Tim

       It was an awesome hike. We actually did this one last April sometime although I have no doubt that Robin could totally rule that hike even if she is eight months pregnant. 😛 I don’t know that we’d be taking baby up anytime soon. It’s a pretty tough trail and there are bears.  Maybe when she’s older. We didn’t even bring Ashby on that hike. Of course she was just as happy with that too. Teenagers.

  • Beth Wagenius

    Sounds like a great hike! Thanks for posting it. 

    • Tim

      It is definitely a tough one, but the views are very rewarding.

  • John k

    Great hike report. I’ve been there several times since my first time in 79. I read your report to remind myself of the details. May go up there this weekend. Weather forecast is good. I highly recommend this to anyone who is up to it. All the good things they wrote are true and then some. Happy hiking to one and all. John k from Knoxville

  • John k

    P.s. the last time I took this was a sunny day the first weekend in november. Fall colors were fabulous. John k from knoxville

  • hhdese

    Did this trail yesterday in the snow. Magic. The top was melting in a structure, painted by the low sun, and written on by dropping ice. Three deer looked at this clumsy creature stumbling by, forgetting to run away. The ridge section almost beat me, wading up to my hips through wind-swept snow and scrambling up the dark gulley under frozen rhodo’s. Coming up into the light, what a rewarding view. Not enough daylight left for the sand cave, nor energy after struggling back on the ridge. My rubber crampons disappeared from my soaked shoes, reward for the lucky finder in spring. The feeling in my toes is almost back, the bramble scratches on my legs will heal – the fantastic memory is there to stay.

  • Tim Crotwell

    Thanks for all the trail details. My daughter and I made the hike up Ewing Trail and White Rocks Overlook earlier this week. It was a great trip, and we would highly recommend it.