Lesson Plan

A Trip Down the Cumberland Trail

Cumberland Mountain
Cumberland Mountain as seen from the Pinnacle Overlook in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

photo by Scott Teodorski

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Grade Level:
Ninth Grade-Twelfth Grade
1 to 3 hours
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
ACT Quality Core Standards: 
Exploring the skills and strategies underlying US History: 1D)

Rebuilding a nation: 1A)


This lesson will focus on the Cumberland Trail which runs along the steep ridges of the southern mountains from Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in the north to Chickamauga Chattanooga National Millitary Park in the south.  The Cumberland Trail is also part of the Great Eastern Trail which encompasses numerous long range trails in the eastern United States.  Modern day explorers come from far and wide to experience the journey and to reflect on stories of past travelers.


Students will learn about the purpose of the Cumberland Trail.

Students will experience scenic views of the Cumberland Trail and will see the natural world associated with the Cumberland Plateau, high ridges, deep gorges, and experience the wilderness of two national parks: Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park.

Students will compare and contrast between historic travel and modern travel as well as difficulties one might encounter in each period.


The Cumberland Trail runs approximately 230 miles from Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in the north to Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park in the south. The trail runs along the Cumberland Mountain and the Cumberland Plateau and features numerous plants, animals, geologic formations, and scenery. The trail runs through several communities and provides a wide range of cultural experiences. The trail is part of the Tennessee State park system and is managed by multiple agencies including: Tennessee State Parks, the National Park Service, and the United States Forest Service.


For this lesson you will need access to the park website (www.nps.gov/cuga), and maps of area.



Formative: Teacher might collect the lists of items and the event plans and check for logical thinking and interesting ideas.

Teacher can read and score the written responses.

Park Connections

This lesson directly connects the students with the park stories through exploration and travel. Modern day hikers and explorers often encounter the same type of issues while planning and traveling. A visit to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park could reinforce and further connect students to the park stories. Specific activities at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park which could enhance the experience could be: a hike along the historic Wilderness Road followed by a hike up to the beginning of the Cumberland Trail, a visit to the park visitor center and museum, and a ranger led talk (scheduled as needed) focusing on the travels of the early pioneers and modern day explorers.


As an extension, students could investigate historic migration and travel in other parts of the United States and modern long distance trails (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, etc.)

Additional Resources

National Park Service websites



National Park Service, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park, Cumberland Plateau

Last updated: April 14, 2015