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Historic US highway endpoints at Cumberland Gap, VA

Additional research and/or photo credits: Robert Brooks; Robert Droz; H.B. Elkins; Mike Roberson; Michael Summa

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 are the locations of two highway junctions that no longer exist. Originally US 25E traffic was directed right through the town of Cumberland Gap TN, before crossing into Virginia, and then ascending the mountain pass for which the town was named. Just on the Virginia side of the line was where the Old Wilderness Road came in from the east. In 1926 that road was designated as the original US 411, and this junction marked its western terminus. However, that route was retired just a few years later 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 immediate area, but the west end of US 58 remained there for the next several years. The image below is switching between two USGS maps; the earlier one (1955) shows US 25E going through the town, as well as the original terminus of US 411/421/58:

USGS, c. 1955 and 1974

The other map (1974) shows a US 25E bypass of Cumberland Gap, which opened to traffic in about 1970. When that happened, you can see how the west end of US 58 shifted slightly to the east.

In 1996, the Cumberland Gap Tunnel opened to US 25E traffic, and US 58 was rerouted slightly into Tennessee (mostly along the former US 25E bypass), in order to junction with the new alignment. Now US 25E no longer enters Virginia at all, and is no longer routed over Cumberland Gap (the pass). The National Park Service announced plans to take advantage of this situation by removing the highway through the Gap and restoring the road back to the condition of its 1800s precursor. As Robert Brooks put it:

"This is a unique spot: where a historic terminus was removed in order 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 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

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. But during the 1980s and 1990s, US 58 had an "interim" endpoint - an intersection 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.