Cumberland Plateau or Cumberland Mountains, southwestern division of the Appalachian Mt. system, extending northeast to southwest through parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee into N Alabama. Black Mt., Ky., is the highest point (4,145 ft/1,263 m). On the east the plateau rises sharply from the Great Valley of E Tennessee; on the west the slope is rough and broken. The plateau is the source of the Cumberland River and several tributaries of the Tennessee. The surrounding region, which is sparsely populated, yields various minerals, such as coal, limestone, and sandstones. The region is also laden with trees, and the forests make for an important resource. There are some agricultural subsistence settlements in the area. Cumberland Gap provides a natural passage through the Cumberland Mts., a ridge of the plateau.