Natural Tunnel State Park

Quick Facts

Natural Tunnel State Park

Virginia

(276) 940-2674

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

The state acquired the tunnel and 100 surrounding acres in 1967 from the Natural Tunnel Chasm and Caverns Corp. to establish Natural Tunnel State Park. Another 850 acres were later acquired, and the park opened in 1971. A modern meeting facility, the Cove Ridge Center, lies within the park. It came about thanks to a unique collaboration between the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Cove Ridge Foundation.

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. Today it is the focal point of Natural Tunnel State Park, a park which offers visitors not only spectacular sights but also swimming, camping, picnicking, hiking, a visitor center, an amphitheater and interpretive programs.

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.

Map of Natural Tunnel (VA)

Latitude, Longitude: 36.698522, -82.739390

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Activities

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Please contact park for information.

  • Camping

    The park has two campgrounds, Cove View Campground and Lover's Leap Campground, which is new. All sites have electricity and water.

  • Climbing

    Please contact park for information.

  • Fishing

    While there's no fishing within the park, it is near several trout streams, and the famed Clinch River runs through Scott County. The Clinch is known for a great variety of fish including, walleye, smallmouth bass and musky.

  • Hiking

    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.

  • Picnicking

    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. Parking and swimming fees are not included in shelter rental (see above for details).

    Cancellation policy: No refund within 14 days before reserved date. Before then, there's a cancellation fee.

    Shelter 1 (small): This shelter accommodates up to 40. It's about 225 feet from the parking area and 500 feet from the nearest restroom and is ill-suited for guests with disabilities. It has eight 6-foot tables, a 36 by 36-inch grill, a water fountain and an electrical outlet.

    Shelter 2 (small): This shelter accommodates up to 40 and is well suited for kids as it's just over 300 feet away from the playground. It's about 150 feet from the parking area and 275 feet from the nearest restroom. It includes eight 6-foot tables, a 36 by 36-inch grill, a water fountain and an electrical outlet.

    Shelter 3 (large - 30 by 40 feet): This shelter, which overlooks the valley, accommodates up to 100. It features horseshoe pits, swings nearby, portable toilet units, a water fountain-spigot, electrical outlets, 16 six-foot picnic tables, a deck with another six tables and a 36 by 36-inch grill. People and supplies can be ferried to and from the parking lot, which is about 150 feet away, however cars must afterwards return to the parking lot.

    Shelter 4 (small): This shelter, well suited for the handicapped and built by the Manville Ruritan Club, comfortably accommodates up to 30. It features fixed tables designed for wheelchair accessibility. It's about 160 feet from the playground, 50 feet from the parking lot and 20 feet from the restroom. It includes a 36 by 36-inch grill.

    Shelter 5 (large - 30 by 60 feet): This shelter, the park's largest, was built by the Duffield Lions Club and accommodates up to 150. There are 20 six-foot picnic tables, two "Texas style" grills, horseshoe pits, a water fountain, electrical outlets, a sand volleyball court and a 230-foot paved walkway, easing accessibility. It's 280 feet from the parking area, 230 feet from the volleyball court, 180 feet from the restroom and 390 feet from the playground. Caterers may use the shelter's back entrance but must arrange for such access with park staff beforehand.

Seasonality/Weather

Spring and fall are generally comfortable with precipitation possible. Summers can be hot and humid with average temperatures in the high 80s and with sudden thunderstorms possible. July and August are the hottest months. Winters can be cold with average temperatures in the winter of 41 degrees with variable precipitation.

Directions

Driving

Natural Tunnel State Park is in Scott County, approximately 13 miles north of Gate City and 20 miles north of Kingsport, Tenn.. To get there, from I-81, take U.S. 23 North to Gate City (approximately 20 miles). Take State Route 871 and go one mile east to park entrance.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(276) 940-2674

Links