An historic US highway endpoint at Cumberland Gap, VA

Photo credits: Robert Droz; Michael Summa
Additional research: H.B. Elkins

Highway Approx. time period
US 411 [I] 1926-1933
US 421 1933-1950
US 58 1934-1996

Within the boundaries of Cumberland Gap National Historic Park is the site of a highway junction that no longer exists. The NPS map below shows the current road configurations, but I've highlighted the route of old US 25E in blue, and old US 58 in orange:

The old junction was right by the "e" in the label for "Iron Furnace". Originally this junction marked the west end of US 411 [I], but that route was retired in 1933 when an extension of US 421 swallowed it up. The following year, US 58 was also extended west to Cumberland Gap, so US 58 and US 421 shared a common terminus there for the next 16 years. In 1950, US 421 was rerouted such that it no longer serves this part of Virginia, but the west end of US 58 remained there for the next several years. The USGS map below was made when that was the case:

In 1996, the Cumberland Gap Tunnel opened to traffic (you can see it under construction on the map above: the purple lines at bottom center). This meant US 25E no longer entered Virginia at all, and was no longer routed through the actual Cumberland Gap (the physical mountain pass). The National Park Service announced plans to take advantage of this situation by restoring the road through the Gap back to the condition of its 1800s precursor. As Robert Brooks puts it:

"This is a unique spot: where a historic terminus was removed to open a gateway to an even more historic road. The old US 58 road cut has been restored to a hillside! When I visited in June 2005, the only way you could tell there had been a highway there was that there was a gap in the trees. The former terminus of US 58 is now the Daniel Boone Parking Lot, which provides access to a trailhead. It's the starting point for tours of the Gap Cave, a former commerical cave that was finally bought by the Park Service in the 1990s. In its tourist trap days, US 25E passed right by the cave entrance, and the building housing the gift shop was on the other side of the highway. The first challenge faced by prospective cavers was getting across the road alive! Today, if you take the trail toward the cave and look back, you get a great view of the former terminus, now part of a peaceful walk in the mountains."

Robert Droz was at the site in 1998, and had a chance to take several photos before the old highways had been completely erased. Here's one showing what was left of the old junction:

Droz, 1998

That's along what was once southbound US 25E. It connected with the road in the background, and continued off to the right. US 411 / 421 / 58 used to begin on the left side of the photo, right where the bare hill is. There was once a road cut there, but after US 58 had been relocated to its current alignment, the original hillside was "rebuilt". Robert has put together an interesting site with several more photos and lots more info here. The photo below was taken pre-Tunnel, and it shows what was the first confirming marker heading east from there:

Summa, 1992

As you can see on the first map, US 58 now ends at a trumpet interchange with US 25E just east of the tunnel, and just outside the town of Cumberland Gap TN. During the 1980s and 1990s, US 58 had an "interim" endpoint - on the map above, it's the intersection shown just south and east of the original endpoint. You can view photos of both the interim terminus and the modern terminus on my main US 58 page.