Cumberland Historic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2021)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
- Length200 miles
Visitors will discover the beautiful landscape and legendary history of the Northern Cumberland Plateau as they travel along the Northern Cumberland Plateau. The byway gives physical form to the legendary stories, people, traditions, and artifacts that are still embraced by those who live and visit the Upper Cumberland. Visitors will discover a one-of-a-kind British-American community in Rugby, the birthplace of Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and the landscape transformed by the new deal.
Clay County Partnership Chamber of Commerce
Morgan County Chamber of Commerce
Overton County Chamber of Commerce
Scott County Chamber of Commerce
Byrdstown-Pickett County Chamber of Commerce
Campbell County Chamber of Commerce
Fentress County Chamber of Commerce
Claiborne County Chamber of Commerce
Story of the Byway
Travelling along the Cumberland Historic Byway, visitors will become deeply acquainted with the landscape of the Northern Cumberland Plateau, which is full of paths, trails, sacred hunting grounds, and rich timberlands. They will discover the distinct characteristics of each area, which reveal themselves as the byway travels from east to west. Like visitors of the byway today, American pioneers were once drawn to the wildness of this unique land in their thirst of exploration and adventure moving westward. The rugged terrain and accompanying isolation gave way to the truly authentic way of life of the American Frontiersman. The Cumberland Historic Byway allows visitors to return to this hidden frontier and provides a glimpse that acknowledges the multitude of intrinsic qualities and resources that make the Upper Cumberland Region such a coveted gem. From this history, the byway becomes more than just a road that connects places within a shared landscape: it becomes a representation of the American spirit and Manifest Destiny, and it gives physical form to the legends, traditions, and artifacts still embraced by those who live within the region.
The byway begins at its most eastern point at Cumberland Gap, TN. Here, visitors can discover how the early migratory patterns of land animals paved the way for the legendary longhunters, Daniel Boone and Elisha Walden, to enter into folklore history. The Cumberland Gap would later serve as the point of crossing for hundreds of thousands of settlers moving west into the regions that would become the states of Kentucky and Tennessee. Today, visitors will enjoy spotting wildlife and Civil War ruins, hiking, guided tours, and camping.
The byway continues along one of the most scenic back roads in Tennessee, passing 38 farms that have been worked by the same family for over 100 years. Visitors will soon find themselves at Cove Lake State Park, a scenic gem created by the Civilian Conservation Corps whose intimate lake is nestled against the foot of the Plateau. The byway travels through Tennessee's Cumberland Mountains, which feature many unique rock formations such as the Devil’s Racetrack and have many opportunities for hiking. Visitors should be sure to make a detour to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area to take advantage of the many outdoor recreation activities.
Visitors will continue into the time capsule village of Historic Rugby, a fully restored Victorian settlement built in the 1880s by British immigrants in what was once the heart of the wilderness. Nearby, they will discover other historic sites such as the Alvin York Farm National Historic District, home of WWI’s most celebrated hero and Cordell Hull’s Birthplace, who is often called the “Father of the United Nations.”
Further along, visitors will head west through more rolling farms to the Standing Stone State Rustic Park. Here, visitors can watch the annual world championship of the rolley hole marble competition, a rare continuation of a traditional sport in the region played with hand-made flint marbles. The byway reaches its termination point in Celina, an old steamboat town where the Cumberland and Obey Rivers meet, which was once a transportation hub for the whole upper Cumberland Plateau.
The east end of the byway begins just south of the Cumberland Gap. Visitors will travel along scenic farmland and mountains. Along the way, they will pass through Historic Rugby, Allardt, and Jamestown. The byway continues westward, where visitors will encounter the Alvin York Farm National Historic District, Cordel Hull’s Birthplace State Park, and Standing Stone State Rustic Park. The byway reaches its termination point in Celina.
Points of Interest
The Cumberland Gap served as the point of crossing for hundreds of thousands of settlers moving west into the regions that would become the states of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Historic Rugby is a fully restored Victorian settlement that was built in the 1880s in the heart of what was then a wilderness.
Cordell Hull's Birthplace
This site is a humble log cabin that was the boyhood home to the Secretary of State under FDR, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and often called the “Father of the United Nations.”
Eastern Cumberland Historic Byway's Parks and Forests
Start at the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, home to the first gateway to Western expansion. Explore the many overlooks, waterfalls, and caves for recreation as well as historic sites that highlight the importance of the Gap to wildlife, Native Americans, early Pioneers, and Civil War fortifications.
Follow the byway through the town of Speedway, but before you reach LaFollette, about 36 miles from Cumberland Gap National Historical take a detour to the Chuck Swan State Forest and Wildlife Management Area. The state forest contains 1500 acres of wildlife plots that provide ample hunting, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and caving opportunities.
Speedway and LaFollette are both cozy mountain towns perfect to stop for lunch. Both towns have classic Main Streets and offer authentic opportunities to experience rural Tennessee life.
If water recreation is more your style, head about 8 miles south to Caryville for the Cove Lake State Park, which serves as a regional draw for boating and fishing enthusiasts. Adjacent to Cove Lake, the Northern Cumberland Wildlife Management Area comprises over 150,000 acres (second in size only to the Cherokee National Forest) of forestland that contains over 600 miles of off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails.
If you want to truly experience the Tennessee wilderness, try camping in one of the state parks for the night and enjoy a meal over the campfire. Otherwise, nearby Jacksboro is a great place to stop for the night, or continue along the byway to Historic Rugby.
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