White Rocks and Sand Cave

White Rocks and Sand Cave is located within Cumberland Gap National Historical Park along the border of Kentucky and Virginia. White Rocks offers southward views of the Virginia countryside atop limestone rocks embedded with quartz pebbles while the 250-foot-wide Sand Cave provides a unique view of a sand-filled rockhouse.

Cumberland Gap NHP encompasses mountainous terrain spread between Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, and includes countless overlooks with incredible vistas, unique caves, spring-fed lakes, and waterfalls. There are also dozens of miles of hiking and bridle trails with backcountry camping sites.

White Rocks has long been a landmark for the early pioneers and travelers along the Wilderness Road thanks to the embedded bright quartz pebbles left behind from oceans 290 million years ago. The upheaval that formed the Cumberland Mountains forced the rocks skyward to their present elevation at 3,500 feet. Because of the barren limestone cliffs, White Rocks affords panoramic scenes of Harlan County, Kentucky, and Lee County, Virginia.

Travelers along the Wilderness Road knew that when White Rocks came into view, reveling in the sunlight atop Cumberland Mountain, that they had only one more day in their trip to Gibson Station. At Gibson Station, the settlers would unite in large groups for security against the Cherokee and Shawnee as they made the perilous trek through Cumberland Gap.

While cave-like in appearance, Sand Cave is a massive sandstone rock that has been eroded into its current formation by wind and erosion. It has resulted in an acre of beach-like sand tucked into a rockhouse, next to a seasonal waterfall, and surrounded by thickets of Rhododendron and towering Hemlock pines.


White Rocks and Sand Cave can be accessed via an 8.6-mile loop using the Ewing TrailRidge Trail, and White Rocks Trail. It involves ascending 1,600 feet in 2½ miles.

  • From the trailhead at Civic Park in Ewing, Virginia, follow the double-track Ewing Trail north for 2½ miles. Continue along the double-track Ewing Trail north and west toward Sand Cave.
  • At 2.3 miles, continue straight along the Ewing Trail past the single-track White Rocks Trail.
  • At approximately 4 miles, bear right onto the Ridge Trail toward Sand Cave.
  • After approximately 5½ miles, turn left and descend down to Sand Cave and a seasonal waterfall and return up to the Ridge Trail.
  • Travel east along the Ridge Trail. Continue past the junction with the White Rocks Trail after 6½ miles and ascend via some light rock climbing to the top of White Rocks.
  • Descend White Rocks. Bear left onto the White Rocks Trail and follow for ½ mile.
  • Turn left and descend down Ewing Trail south towards Civic Park.

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