More than 850 feet long and as high as a 10-story building, Natural Tunnel was naturally carved through a limestone ridge over thousands of years. William Jennings Bryan called it the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Other scenic features include a wide chasm between steep stone walls surrounded by several pinnacles, or chimneys. Facilities include a campground, picnic areas, amphitheater, visitor center and gift shop, historical blockhouse, swimming pool and chair lift to the tunnel floor. The park also offers cave tours and canoe trips on the Clinch River, as well as the Cove Ridge Center, which offers environmental education, conference facilities and overnight dorm accommodations.
There are seven fairly short trails in the park but by interconnecting them, hikers can manage 4+ mile hike. Five of the trails are fairly level. The Purchase Ridge Trail climbs a little over a mile to an elevation of 2200 ft, the park’s highest point. The climb is strenuous to a scenic overlook of the tunnel from a distance. The less than half mile Tunnel Trail leads down into the gorge for a close up of the tunnel itself. It’s a steep hike back up.
Natural Tunnel State Park is in Scott County, about 13 miles north of Gate City and 20 miles north of Kingsport, TN. To get there, from I-81, take U.S. 23 North to Gate City (about 20 miles). The turn-off to the park is at mile marker 17.4 on Rt. 23. Take Natural Tunnel Parkway about one mile east to park entrance.