Gap Cave

Cumberland Gap Saltpetre Cave - Cudjo's Cave - Soldiers Cave - King Solomon's Cave

Useful Information

Location: Virginia, Lee County. 250 m from Hwy 25E at Cumberland Gap, 5 km south of border to Kentucky. From Knoxville take 75 north to exit 134 at Caryville, then go north on 63 to Harrogate. Take 25E-N thru tunnel, first right out of tunnel.
Open: Memorial Day to Labour Day daily 10, 14. [2006]
Fee: Adults $8, Children (5-12) $4, Seniors with Golden Age Passport $4. [2006]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: hand held lanterns.
Dimension: L=11,104 m, D=145 m, A=459 m asl., T=17 °C.
Guided tours: L=507 m, VR=70 m, ST=183, D=120 min.
Bibliography: John Townsend Trowbridge (1864): Gap Cave. Boston: Tilton, 1864. online at google
Address: Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Cudjos Cavern, US 25E South, P.O. Box 1847, Middlesboro, KY 40965-1847, Tel: +1-606-248-2817 (Visitor Information), Fax: +1-606-248-7276. E-mail: contact
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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1750 first written account of the Gap Cave by Dr. Thomas Walker in his journal.
1888 opened to the public.
1959 Cumberland Gap National Historical Park established.
1992 purchased by Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Department of Interior, National Park Service).
2000 reopened to the public.


Gap Cave is located at the base of the Pinnacle Mountain in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, just beneath the Cumberland Gap, the first "doorway to the west". Several mountain ridges run along the borders of the three states Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Cumberland Gap is one of the lowest passes in the area and was the best possibility to cross the mountains for the trecks of the early settlers on their way west.

Throughout the years this cave had numerous names. First it was named Gap Cave by Dr. Thomas Walker, as it is located in Cumberland Gap. Later it was called Soldiers Cave and King Solomon's Cave. The name Cumberland Gap Saltpetre Cave recalls the time when salpetre for gun powder was mined in the cave. As the book by Trowbridge became popular it was dubbed Gap Cave. But the present owner, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, renamed the cave to Gap Cave, its original name. However, it seems most people still know it as Gap Cave.

Cudjo was a runaway slave, who is said to have hid in the cave during the Civil War. The point with the legend is, that Cudjo got killed by Confederate soldiers inside the cave. This is only 5 km from the border to Kentucky, which was a neutral state, and so would have been the rescue for Cudjo. So the legend tells about failure in looking distance of the goal.

There is a book by John Townsend Trowbridge (*1827-✝1916) called Gap Cave. It was first printed in Boston 1864 and is a historical novel about the Civil War, telling much of the story of this cave.

The cave is almost undeveloped, although it is a show cave for a long time. The former private owners cleaned the floors to allow a rather comfortable walk through the cave and built 183 steps for the steeper parts. But still the floor is uneven in many points and sturdy shoes are much recomended. The cave is not lighted, lamps for the visitors are provided by the guides.

A highlight of the trip is the Talking Stalactite or Gurgling Stalactite. It is a rather common stalactite with one specialty: it makes a strange sound like a tree frog or a chirping cricket. The sound is produced by water, probably a drop of water falling through