Long before the first white person came to the Holston, Watauga, Clinch, Powell and Cumberland Valleys a network of trails had been developed by the eastern Indians of the North American continent.

By following the buffalo, Indians had discovered three great gaps in the Appalachians and the trail that joined them. They called the trail system Athawominee. Two of the most important of the trails in the system were the Path from the upper Ohio Valley through Kentucky and the Cumberland Gap into Georgia and the Path from the Northeast Six Nation Confederacy through Virginia and the Holston Valley into Tennessee. 

A young indentured servant, Gabriel Arthur, was the first white man of record to travel through Cumberland Gap, having been sent along the trail in 1674 by the Shawnee Indians to secure a trade agreement with settlers.

In the early 1750’s, Dr. Thomas Walker led a scouting expedition into the area and gave the gap the name Cumberland in honor of the Duke of Cumberland.  In 1761, long hunter Elisha Wallen led a group of hunters into Southwest Virginia, and they roamed the area for 18 months, naming mountains and streams.  News of the adventure spread and other wandering long hunters, including Daniel Boone, followed.

Commissioned by a land speculator, on March 10, 1775, Daniel Boone led a band of trailblazers from Long Island of the Holston through 200 miles of wilderness to the Cumberland Gap of Virginia.  The trail he established was taken by an estimated 300,000 pioneers who settled on the American frontier. 

Today the network of trails used by early eastern Indians is a major eastern transportation network. Interstate 81 follows the eastern leg of The Great Warrior’s Path. Interstate 75 and US 25E follow the western leg of The Great Warrior’s Path. US 58, laid down on top of the Wilderness Trail portion of The Great Warrior’s Path from Moccasin Gap across Powell Mountain near Kane Gap to Cumberland Gap, is a major thoroughfare between the I-81 corridor and the I-75 corridor.