Sand Cave and White Rocks
Loop hike up side of Cumberland Mountain to see enormous wind-carved Sand Cave and then over to White Rocks cliffs for expansive view south into Virginia.
How to get there
From Gate City, VA
- Continue on US 23/58/421 to Duffield, VA .
- Turn left on US 58/421 in Duffield and continue 11 miles to Stickleyville, VA.
- Continue on US 58 west where US 421 turns north and through Jonesville, VA.
- Proceed on US 58 about 25 miles to Ewing, VA although the highway is on a new bypass north of town.
- Turn right at traffic lights onto VA724.
- Proceed about a mile to the Thomas Walker Civic Park.
- Park in grass by pit toilets for day hike. (Park back outside gate if returning after dark.)
- Trailhead is behind the covered pavilion (which has only a handicapped parking space).
Travel time from Colonial Heights, TN was hour and half.
Route is a loop hike formed by taking 3.6-mile Ewing Trail up to Ridge Trail, west over to spur to Sand Cave, then back east to White Rocks overlook. Finally, return along Ridge Trail to 0.5-mile shortcut down on White Rocks Trail to finish with Ewing Trail.
Walk through picnic area past covered pavilion to trail leading into the woods. First section is narrow hiking path until it reaches the wider horse trail. Continue up and up through series of switchbacks. Once up on top, the trail will descend some on other side until Ridge Trail is reached. Take right until you see several horse hitching posts. Across the way is the spur trail to Sand Cave (in Kentucky), which drops down some big steps. Just before the cave the trail breaks into several options. Far left on the steps may require some creek hopping during wet weather, while the right is a narrow ledge to cross. Enjoy lunch at Sand Cave. Backtrack up to Ridge Trail. Take left to follow Ridge Trail (passing sign for White Rocks backcountry camping area) until another set of horse hitching posts. The sign here says only "200 ft" to overlook but it involves a climb up a crevice to reach White Rocks. Return back to trail signs to take left on White Rocks Trail down to Ewing Trail. Continue back down to vehicles.
|0.5||1921||Intersection with horse trail/trail register|
|2.4||2931||Lower end of White Rocks Trail|
|3.6||3347||Intersection with Ridge Trail|
|3.7||3209||Spur trail for Sand Cave|
|4.1||3209||Back at Ridge Trail|
|4.9||3302||Ridge Trail at upper end of White Rocks Trail|
|5.2||3291||White Rock overlook|
|5.4||3302||Back at upper end of White Rocks Trail|
|5.8||2931||Back at Ewing Trail|
|8.2||1684||Back at trailhead|
Being a national park, the trails are fairly well maintained. Varies from narrow hard packed hiking-only trail to wide roadway/horse trail. The path is very rocky at times with loose gravel. Another challenge is diverting water off the trail, thus many water bars. After a rain, several water crossings will be encountered which might have few well placed stepping stones in place (or not). Access to White Rocks overlook a steep climb up a crevice.
Although most of the trail route can be used by horses, there were no piles of evidence of recent use; however, hoove prints could be seen in the clay.
Fees, Permits, etc.
Located in Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. No permits or fees required for day hiking. Permit needed from main park visitors center if camping in the backcountry. There is a trail register along the way. Dogs need to be on a leash.
After the Hike
Duffield is closest town on way back with several fast food options.
Sand Cave has been formed by wind, not water, erosion of the overhanging sandstone. The cave contains football field-size beach of deep sand opening to a lush woodland entrance. It is a great place to have lunch (pack trash out!) in the coolness. The large cavern also echos, thus larger groups can be noisy. If solo, then just the calm dripping of a small waterfall by the entrance will be heard.