Virginia never ceases to amaze us with its beautiful vistas, rolling valleys, and downright unusual natural formations. Even so, most folks have never heard of the massive sand cave located in Ewing, Virginia. If you didn’t have any context, you might assume these photographs were taken somewhere out west. In reality, seeing the cave is as easy as making the trip to the Virginia entrance of Cumberland Gap National Park. These photographs will show you just how much of a natural gem this sand cave is.
Visitors can access the sand cave by means of Thomas Walker Civic Park. After roughly 3.9 miles, hikers will reach the opening of the magnificent sand cave. Continuing along to White Rocks (5.2 miles from the start) leads to a breathtaking viewpoint of 3 states: Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The area is horse-friendly, and the trail is well maintained with an ample parking lot. If you plan to visit both sites, the trip will add up to nearly 9 miles, so be sure to bring plenty of supplies and allow the entire day for your adventures.
Walking into the entrance of the cave will reveal a breathtaking ceiling of color. The eroded rock creates a spectacle of greens, golds, and reds as it towers above. Technically speaking, this is no cave, but rather a giant rock formation formed by gradual erosion caused by wind, rain, and ice. The cave stretches over 1.5 acres of sand, which has a fine and powder-like texture. It's also naturally cool inside, which makes for the perfect resting place after the hike.
Entering from the low end of the cave, explorers will notice a waterfall and crystal-clear stream. As you continue on to the tallest part of the sand cave, you'll be taken through beautiful rhododendron (during spring and summer) and hemlocks lining the stream.
These striking photographs still don't quite do justice to the unique coloring of the rock. Some speculate that the sand contains up to 21 different colors. Before Cumberland Gap was officially under protection of the National Park Service, visitors would collect layers of colorful sand as a souvenir.
Nearby, the sandstone cliffs known as White Rocks tower above the park. These rocks appear lighter due to the white quartzite pebbles they hold. During the days of early American exploration, the silver glow from the cliffs served as a guide post for tired travelers.
If you have time for it, the view from White Rocks is not to be missed. The vista overlooks the Powell River Valley and with good clarity, you can see past Clinch Mountain and all the way to the Smokies of Tennessee. It's the more difficult of the two hikes, with an elevation gain of nearly 2,000 feet. However, plenty of switchbacks cut back on the intensity.