Sand Cave

Useful Information

Location: Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Civil Park Trailhead, north of Ewing. Sand Cave Trail, 7 km.
Open: no restrictions [2006]
Fee: free [2006]
Classification: Speleologyerosional cave Speleologysandstone cave SpeleologyWind Cave Pennsylvanian sandstone
Light: n/a
Guided tours:  
Address: Cumberland Gap National Park, P.O. Box 1848, Middlesboro, VA 40965, Tel: +1-606-248-2817, or +1-606-248-7276.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1959 Cumberland Gap National Historical Park established.


Sand Cave is named after its content, the floor of the cave is covered by a beautiful yellow and red sand. This sand is the residual of the cave erosion, and forms piles and dunes inside the huge cavern. Sand Cave is a wind cave, which means it is formed by winds destroying and sculpturing the sandstone.

There is a legend, that Sand Cave once contained sand in 21 different colours. True is, that the sand was collected and poured into glass vials in separate layers of red, pink and brown. This was before 1959, before the Cumberland Gap National Park was establieshed. But still a few of those vials are sold on flea markets. Today the amount of colors is said to be lower, and the amount of sand too. Visitors have tramped down the sand and blurred the different color to six different shades.

Although sand cave is just a rock shelter, there are various features of a true cave. On hot summer days the inner parts stay cool. The location has impressive accoustics, voices echo off the sandstone walls. Decades ago churches used to hold singings at the site. This was in pre-park days, when Sand Cave was accessible by road from the Kentucky side.

Sand Cave is located in the Cumberland Mountain Ridge, north of Ewing, VA. This is one of several mountain ridges running from the east to the west. What makes this ridge special is the fact that it is the border between Kentucky and Virginia, and probably it is a bit higher than the other ridges. The peaks are between 1,000 and 1,100 m asl high.

A trail called Ridge Trail runs allong the border and connects various outlooks. North of Ewing, Road 724 leads to the Civic Park, at the end of the road the Ewing Trail starts, which goes up to the Ridge Trail and across the border to Sand Cave on the Kentucky side. The whole trip is 7 km long to the cave and back, and includes the breathtaking landscape of the Cumberland Mountains. The trail ascends 650 m on the first two kilometers, so the trip is a little strenuous.