Natural Tunnel State Park
Guide

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Introduction

Referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by William Jennings Bryan, the Natural Tunnel stretches more than 850 feet long and as tall as a 10-story building. Carved naturally over thousands of years through a limestone ridge, this breathtaking natural wonder stands as the centerpiece of Natural Tunnel State Park in Scott County, Virginia. While this naturally-formed cave—which is so large that it is used as a railroad tunnel—easily merits a visit on its own, this Virginia state park boasts a whole range of additional attractions that make Natural Tunnel State Park the ideal destination for your next RV trip.

With cave tours and canoe trips on the Clinch River, a swimming pool with a 100-foot slide, miles of hiking, mountain biking, and self-guided trails, the historic Wilderness Road Blockhouse, and a chairlift to the tunnel floor, Natural Tunnel State Park has something to lure in every kind of guest—from hikers and paddlers to history buffs and casual sightseers. That said, whatever your main interest is, it will be difficult not to be wowed by the natural wonder of the park’s main attraction and namesake, which began its creation more than a million years ago in the early glacial period, and which has been attracting sightseers to the mountains of southwestern Virginia for more than 100 years.

Visitors eager to soak in the natural wonder of this park can take advantage of Natural Tunnel State Park’s 34 RV sites with water and electric hookups spread across two campgrounds. The park is open year-round, but if you want to enjoy the canoe trips and cave tours, plan to visit sometime between the warmer months of early May through late October.

RV Rentals in Natural Tunnel State Park

Transportation in Natural Tunnel State Park

Driving

Located in southwestern Virginia just a few miles from the Tennessee border, Natural Tunnel State Park sits about 13 miles north of Gate City, Virginia, and 20 miles north of Kingsport, Tennessee. The park is easily accessible by RV or car, as it is located just about a mile off of Route 23 N/ Route 58 W.

Once inside the park though, visitors should be mindful of more difficult roads to reach the campgrounds. The road to reach Cove View and Lover’s Leap Campground is narrow and steep, so drive with caution. Parking is available at the campsites as well as at various parking areas sprinkled throughout the park, including at the Cove Ridge Center and Swim Complex, the Wilderness Road Historical Area, and the chairlift area.

Natural Tunnel State Park has snack bars at the pool and by the chair lift seasonally, but visitors needing more extensive supplies can stock up at the nearest grocery store in Duffield, about five miles from the park.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Natural Tunnel State Park

Campsites in Natural Tunnel State Park

Reservations camping

Lover’s Leap Campground

Lover’s Leap Campground, the second campground at Natural Tunnel State Park, offers 18 RV sites with water and electric hookups, which can accommodate rigs up to 50 feet. These sites are all back-in and all have a picnic table, lantern post, campfire ring grill, and utility table. Since these sites do not have sewer hookups, guests will have to make use of the dump station located near the entrance of the campground access road. This campground features a bathhouse with showers, as well as a volleyball net and horseshoe pits. Visitors can purchase firewood and ice at the nearby campground host site. Unlike the Cove View campsites, sites here at Lover’s Leap can be reserved in advanced.

First-come first-served

Cove View Campground

Natural Tunnel State Park’s Cove View Campground offers 16 RV sites with water and electric hookups, and can accommodate rigs up to 38 feet. There are no sewer hookups, so guests will have to make use of the conveniently-located dump station near the entrance to the campground loop. Each campsite in this loop comes with a picnic table and a campfire ring grill, and a bathhouse with hot showers sits at the end of the campground loop. All sites are gravel pull-through with a grassy area, allowing for relatively easy access. Guests are allowed to park two vehicles per campsite, and additional parking is available near the bathhouse. These sites cannot be reserved ahead of time, and are instead reserved upon arrival.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Natural Tunnel State Park

In-Season

Swimming

In addition to the many natural attractions at Natural Tunnel State Park, the park also offers a 5,400-square-foot pool with a 100-foot slide—perfect for kids of all ages who need to cool off and unwind after a day full of exploring. The complex also includes a large bathhouse and a snack bar in the concession building. The pool is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, so visitors hoping to soak up the sun at the junior Olympic-size swimming pool should schedule their trip accordingly.

Chairlift

There is only one chairlift in the Virginia State Park system, and it resides in Natural Tunnel State Park. This unique mode of travel makes it easier for everyone to enjoy the full enormity of this natural tunnel, as the lift carries visitors all the way to the floor of the tunnel, and then takes you right back up. The chairlift runs from the first weekend in May through the last full weekend of October, so visitors hoping to be carried down to the tunnel floor in the lift should make sure to visit the park during peak season.

Cave Tours & Canoe Trips

From early April through late October, the park offers wild cave tours, which take visitors deep into the unique rock formations that lie below, allowing visitors to walk among stalactites, stalagmites, and the homes of cave dwellers such as salamanders, crickets, and snails. In season and with river conditions permitting, the park also offers guided canoe and kayak trips of the Clinch River, giving adventure-seekers a whole range of opportunities to explore the depths of this state park.

Off-Season

Biking

Many of Natural Tunnel State Park’s trails are available for mountain biking use as well, offering mountain bikers no shortage of opportunities for adventure in this Virginia gem year-round. Purchase Ridge Trail, Tunnel Hill Trail, Cabin Trail, and Gorge Ridge Trail are all open to mountain bikers. For anyone without a bike for their visit, mountain bike rentals are available at the campground host campsite—leaving you with no reason not to hop on a bike and cruise along the winding trails surrounding this natural wonder.

Hiking

This Virginia state park offers several miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy to difficult, and from 0.13 miles up to two miles. Any time of year, hikers can lace up their boots and follow trails to fascinating features all throughout the park: to the tunnel floor, Lover’s Leap, Tunnel Hill, Gorge Ridge, and more. Wildlife enthusiasts will especially enjoy soaking in the surroundings while hiking along the 1 mile Wildlife and Birding Trail located near the Cove Ridge Center.

Wilderness Road Historical Area

For the history buffs in your group, make sure to check out the Wilderness Road Blockhouse, which illustrates the significant role the area played in the 18th century during the country’s westward expansion. The original blockhouse was built in the late 1700s to protect European settlers from Indian attacks, and the park’s blockhouse replica and the adjoining Wilderness Road Blockhouse Visitor Center provide visitors with more information on life in this area during the 1700s and at the blockhouse.

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