NATURAL TUNNEL STATE PARK
The Commonwealth of Virginia acquired the tunnel and 100 surrounding acres in 1967 from the Natural Tunnel Chasm and Caverns Corp. to establish Natural Tunnel State Park. Approximately 750 additional acres were later acquired and the park opened in 1971.
Natural Tunnel, called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" by William Jennings Bryan, has been attracting sightseers to the mountains of southwestern Virginia for more than 100 years. Today it is the focal point of Natural Tunnel State Park, a park which offers visitors not only spectacular sights but also swimming, camping, picnicking, hiking, a visitor center, an amphitheater and interpretive programs.
The creation of Natural Tunnel began more than a million years ago in the early glacial period when groundwater bearing carbonic acid percolated through crevices and slowly dissolved surrounding limestone and dolomite bedrock. Then, what is now Stock Creek was probably diverted underground to continue carving the tunnel slowly over many centuries. The walls of the tunnel show evidence of prehistoric life, and many fossils can be found in the creek bed and on tunnel walls.
Daniel Boone was probably the first white man to see the tunnel. However, no one wrote of it until Lt. Col. Stephen H. Long explored the site in 1831 and published an article in a geology journal in 1832. The areas near the tunnel were mined for saltpeter during the Civil War. In 1890 the South Atlantic and Ohio Railroad arrived and, making use of the natural formation, laid tracks through the tunnel. In 1906 Southern Railway acquired the tracks and created a passenger line, the Natural Tunnel Line, that went through the tunnel. Large coal deposits were discovered in the area shortly thereafter, and although they no longer carry passengers, trains continue to this day to carry coal through Natural Tunnel.
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Complex includes a 5,400-square-foot pool, a large bathhouse, and a snack bar in the concession building. The pool opens daily Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. on weekends. In the summer, swimming is free for overnight guests in campsites, however it cannot be guaranteed should circumstances beyond the park's control require that swimming be closed. We do not give refunds for swimming to overnight guests under any circumstances.
Natural Tunnel State Park is located near Big Stone Gap, Church Hill and Kingsport
Natural Tunnel State Park has five picnic shelters - three small and two large - for rent. They can be rented from 8 a.m. - dusk (all day). The shelters are available from March 1 - Nov. 30. Parking and swimming fees are not included in shelter rental (see above for details). Click here for park fees.
Cancellation policy: No refund within 14 days before reserved date. Before then, there's a cancellation fee.
Shelter 1 (small): This shelter accommodates up to 40. It's about 225 feet from the parking area and 500 feet from the nearest restroom and is not well suited for handicapped customers. It includes eight 6-foot tables, a 36 by 36-inch grill, a water fountain and an electrical outlet.
Shelter 2 (small): This shelter accommodates up to 40 and is well suited for kids as it's just over 300 feet away from the playground. It's about 150 feet from the parking area and 275 feet from the nearest restroom. It includes eight 6-foot tables, a 36 by 36-inch grill, a water fountain and an electrical outlet.
Shelter 3 (large - 30 by 40 feet): This shelter, which overlooks the valley, accommodates up to 100. It features horseshoe pits, swings nearby, portable toilet units, a water fountain-spigot, electrical outlets, 16 six-foot picnic tables, a deck with another six tables and a 36 by 36-inch grill. People and supplies can be ferried to and from the parking lot, which is about 150 feet away, however cars must afterwards return to the parking lot.
Shelter 4 (small): This shelter, well suited for the handicapped and built by the Manville Ruritan Club, comfortably accommodates up to 30. It features fixed tables designed for wheelchair accessibility. It's about 160 feet from the playground, 50 feet from the parking lot and 20 feet from the restroom. It includes a 36 by 36-inch grill.
Shelter 5 (large - 30 by 60 feet): This shelter, the park's largest, was built by the Duffield Lions Club and accommodates up to 150. There are 20 six-foot picnic tables, two "Texas style" grills, horseshoe pits, a water fountain, electrical outlets, a sand volleyball court and a 230-foot paved walkway, easing accessibility. It's 280 feet from the parking area, 230 feet from the volleyball court, 180 feet from the restroom and 390 feet from the playground. Caterers may use the shelter's back entrance but must arrange for such access with park staff beforehand.
Natural Tunnel State Park offers seven walking trails, the longest one being 1.1 miles long. These trails lead to the unique features of the park: the tunnel floor, Lover?s Leap, Tunnel Hill and Gorge Ridge. A 500-foot boardwalk and observation deck provide accessibility to guests with disabilities. Most trails are open to mountain bikes with bike rentals available at the campground host campsite.
Natural Tunnel State Park is in Scott County, approximately 13 miles north of Gate City and 20 miles north of Kingsport, Tenn.. To get there, from I-81, take U.S. 23 North to Gate City (approximately 20 miles). Take State Route 871 and go one mile east to park entrance.